"Wake-Up Light"

For the past month, my favorite piece of technology has been…my kid’s new alarm clock. It’s the best $40 I’ve spent in a long time. The manufacturer calls it a “Sleep-Enhancing” alarm clock, and that has turned out to be exactly correct, in that it gives the parents an extra hour of sleep every night. I can’t say enough good things about it.

The problem my wife and I were facing was that no matter what time we’d put our four-year-old to bed, he always woke up at (or before) the crack of dawn—which is to say at least an hour before either of us could be persuaded to get out of bed—and immediately came in our bedroom to wake me up too. (My wife can sleep through anything, but I’m a very light sleeper, so he goes right to me. And once I’m awake, I’m awake.)

We tried persuading him to play quietly in his room when he first got up, but it was pointless. Since he can’t tell time yet, he was unable to determine at what point it was “safe” to leave his room. And so, morning after morning, what should have been my last hour of sleep was unceremoniously deleted by what I must admit was a cheerful and sweet “Good morning, Daddy!” Ack.

Some friends of ours told us about an alarm clock with two lights—one means “stay in bed” and the other means “get up.” It had worked wonders with their kids. I was skeptical, but also desperate for more sleep, so I started looking for clocks like this on Amazon.

There are lots of them. I lobbied for a model with both analog and digital displays plus a speech function, on the grounds that it would help him learn to tell time. But my son would never stand for such an absurd decision when there was a model that had a car and traffic light, because he loves everything having to do with cars. Fine.

We set it up, programmed our desired wake time, and explained the rules. Red light means stay in bed. Green light means get up. Yellow is a night light you can turn on or off. We put him to bed and hoped for the best.

The next morning, and every morning since, I’ve been awakened to “The green light is on, Daddy!” It just worked. I get an extra hour of sleep every night, all thanks to a red light and a green light. Amazing. I couldn’t have hoped for better results. In my professional opinion, this is technology at its finest.

It’s certainly a lot better than a failed experiment with a “wake-up light” I performed in high school. My alarm clock’s buzzer sounded like a smoke alarm and scared me to death when it went off, so I rewired the clock to disable the buzzer and instead make a bright light blink in my face to wake me up. The light did start blinking at the appointed hour, but I hadn’t accounted for the fact that I might be sleeping with my face buried in my pillow. So I slept right through the “alarm” and was almost late for school.

Now I have an incredibly dependable human alarm clock. There’s just nothing like waking up—at the right time—to your child’s smiling face.