Four Must-Have Features in a Sunrise Alarm Clock or Dawn Simulator

I'm not usually the one beating down the door for the newest hot gadget, but dawn simulators... these I love. Ever since I made the connection that bright sunlight made it easier to wake up, and that an alarm clock with a light could be an adequate substitute during the pre-dawn hours... I've been hooked.

And, while they rarely approach the blinding brilliance of an east-facing window, these sunrise alarm clocks are still a great idea, and an excellent aid to shaking off morning grogginess and getting up and out the door on time.

The differences between types and brands of sunlight clocks may not be immediately obvious. To make sure you get your money's worth, here are some of the best features out there (that you'll kick yourself if you miss out on.)

1. Replaceable Light Bulb.
Most clocks allow you to easily replace the lightbulb yourself. A few don't. Do you really want to have to toss out a $100 gadget (that you depend on for waking up!) because a light bulb burned out? It makes no sense. So, make sure the clock you pick allows you to change the light bulb.

2. Back up audio alarm.
As much as I love slowly waking up as the light brightens, let's face it - some mornings you could be lying on the beach, at high noon in the middle of summer, and not wake up. Light alone isn't always enough, especially if you're completely sleep-deprived. In this case, a back up alarm in necessary to make sure you're awake on time. You don't need anything fancy, though some clocks include an impressive array of sound-scenes. A plain old annoying "beep" will do the trick just fine.

3. Back up POWER.
In this day and age, why anyone in their right mind would manufacture an alarm clock that doesn't include a backup battery for power outages is beyond me. You need a clock that you can depend on to maintain its chronological integrity, even if the electricity flickers after the midnight oil has long run dry. So, put backup power on your must-have list.

4. Dimmable clockface.
In the same way that light in the morning gets your body energized and ready to wake up, bright clock numbers can interfere with your sleep, by giving your body subtle cues that it should be awake.

On top of that, do you really want to watch the minutes tick by as you wait for sleep? No? Me neither. Look for clocks that advertise a "dimmable clock face" - meaning when the alarm is set, the numbers go dark, and you get some high quality sleep!