The problem

As far as I'm concerned, the worst part of winter by far is the darkness in the mornings. My alarm goes off to wake me for work, making its ghastly insistent bleeping, and it is not so much 'a bit dark' outside as it is NIGHT. My body says "Bollocks to you, bleeping alarm, for it is night, which is for sleeping," and so I ignore the alarm until it shuts up, only to begin its wretched bleeping again five minutes later. This goes on for a while until finally I struggle out of bed, late, and struggle to get ready for work in time. Then I spend most of the day half-asleep, and in fact spend most of December and January feeling like I haven't really woken up at all at any point.

The solution

Does this sound like your winter? Well, thanks to modern technology, you need suffer no longer! You need a 'dawn simulator'. A dawn simulator is an alarm clock that wakes you up with light rather than a horrible grating nasty bleeping noise.

Now, you have two options here - you can spend approximately £60 (110 USD) on a fancy-schmancy alarm clock with a built-in lamp. Or, if you're cheap like me, you can build your very own E2 dawn simulator from things lying around in your house, as invented by me and ascorbic right here on E2 in the chatterbox.

Building your dawn simulator

You will need:

  • One ordinary study lamp.
  • One mains plug timer switch.
  • One fluorescent 'energy saver' type light bulb, the brightest you can find, with appropriate fitting for your study lamp.


If the instructions seem patronising, gentle noder, it's because I don't want you to make any mistakes in your SAD-addled state, and not, I assure you, because I hold your feeble intellect in contempt.

  1. Fit the light bulb to the study lamp.
  2. Plug the study lamp into the mains and switch it on.
  3. Mark the switch on the lamp so you know which position is 'on'. (Usually they are unmarked on the fair assumption that you'll be able to tell when it's switched on, but our timer switch complicates matters.)
  4. Set the timer switch so that the lamp will be switched on about half an hour (or earlier if you like) before your evil bleepy conventional alarm and switched off at some point when you're sure you'll either be out of bed or so irrecoverably late that it makes no difference.
  5. Plug the timer into the mains socket and set the correct time on it.
  6. Plug the lamp into the timer and make sure it is switched to the 'on' position.

Lo! You will now be woken up by the gentle caress of electro-magnetic waves, rather than interminable electronic caterwauling from hell.

It's a cliché, but my dawn simulator really has changed my life. I get up in a good mood, and more importantly I am awake rather than being semi-stunned for most of winter.

Credit to ascorbic for the suggestion of a fluorescent bulb, which will be initially dim and then brighten over time, not unlike the more traditional arrival of our beloved Sol. Another nice quality of the fluorescent bulb is that it doesn't blast out heat like an ordinary bulb would - I haven't tried it, but I suspect a 'roasted alive' simulator would be unpopular.

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