My Day-by-Day Philips HF3520 Wake Up Light Review

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After I received my Philips HF3520 wake up light I kept a journal with my experiences. Since it became long and tedious read I wrapped it up. (I was still a scatterbrain on these first mornings woken with artificial sunlight) Here are my experiences with the first 7 days of using a wake up light as well as my evaluation a few months later.


Day 1 – Seeing the dawn

I did not sleep well and I was already awake when the wake up light’s red hue started to illuminate the room. All I can say is that the increasing brightness was pleasant. (I didn’t sleep well the two days before so this doesn’t have to do anything with the new device in my bedroom. Thought pointing this out is relevant since previous models are known to produce a buzzing sound.)

Day 2 – A little inception

I went to bed too late and forgot (was too lazy*) to change the alarm time. Six hours later I was still asleep and dreaming.

In my dream I was making compost (shut up, we all dream boring things) when suddenly I was stuffing oystercatchers in the compostbins.

When the sound of seagulls became louder I realized it was the wake-up light that emited the bird sounds and I found myself in my fully lit bedroom. This was pretty cool actually.

I experienced what it’s like when real life stimuli enter and influence your dream world. It wasn’t all that spectacular as in Inception where Cobb (Leonardo di Caprio) is shoved a filled bath and he starts dreaming of water flooding the building through the windows. But just as Cobb, I did wake up after it.
According to dream researchers you are likely to wake up after real life stimuli are incorporated in your dream.

I like how I was woken up more gently since I was guided from my dream to my fully lit bedroom. It was kind of pleasant and that it wasn’t in my lightest sleep phase probably has to do with going to sleep too late. Let’s see how the day will follow through.

* Regarding not setting the alarm time properly, I think the controls on the device could be improved upon. You have to find them by touch or really have to look from a close distance.

Day 3 – Awakenings

I woke up 10 minutes after the wake-up light started to shine. I think, this time, it was during my lightest sleep phase because it felt like I was already awake. This could also be because I slept very lightly this night. Upon the first awakening I tried to doze off but couldn’t. My eyelids started to feel lighter, as if they were lifted due to the light.

I noticed that, yesterday I felt creative again (I had some pretty neat breaktroughs workwise) and motivated.  An attitude that’s scarce these dark days. Could be the wake up light. Could be psychological. Too early to draw conclusions.

Day 4 – Pothead

I woke up when I felt the light shine through my eyelids. I however still feel tired, maybe I need some additional light therapy.

This morning the lethargy is back. It’s like gravity is twice as strong today, it wants to pull me down. I feel like I need more sleep and my thoughts have to wade through a dense fog. Short term memory seems non existent. The lack of overview and making quick connections is back. If you have ever smoked pot know what I mean. It’s the lethargy the day after when you are still in that haze.

Day 5 – A good start, a less run

I woke up two minutes before the alarm started to softly play. I remember dreaming but when I saw the light through my eyelids I wasn’t dreaming anymore. I was thinking while still half asleep. It’s hard to describe the difference but you may know it.

It’s nice to experience that you really are guided gently to lighter sleep until gently waking up. It’s hard to fall back into sleep (even if you want to, I tried) with the light on. I am in a less comateuze state which is another benefit of the wake up light.

The bad is that I still feel tired. Normally (read, in spring, summer, fall, beginning of winter) I am so motivated. My bursts, takes over now and then. Which is a really nice feeling. But now I have to look for it. Especially in the morning. It’s there, but it’s like it’s buried under a layer of snow. And even when I am started my brain functions only partially. Like it’s on a power saving setting. It feels like me accessing my brain is the difference of being in a city I know like my backyard or being in a city for the second time in my life. I still have to look up everything, where did I store that document again?

Day 6 – Contrast

I slept like a baby tonight. Contrary to the past nights I was far away. I did however wake up from the light but fell asleep again. A few minutes later I woke up from fireworks in the street. This reminded me of how I previously woke up with a noisy alarm ringing which is a much less pleasant experience.

Day 7 – Uhhh

Can’t say I feel rested. Really had to crowbar myself out.


A few weeks later – My conclusion

The main question. Does the Philips 3520 wake-up light with colored sunrise simulation really work?

You bet it does!

For some users a wake up light makes a difference over night. At first it didn’t for me. I was glad I bought it because it did have some perks but I didn’t really experience how it could change my life.

This has changed by using it for a longer period of time. Now I’m really happy with it and don’t want to do without it anymore. This thing is a life saver. No more heart attacks making me want to crush my alarm clock or feeling braindead until way past noon. Some of its other benefits:

  • After a few months of using it I found that it sure helps me wake up as well as feel more energetic during the day. The battle against drowsiness has become a whole lot easier. I’m just not so heavy-eyed anymore. Life before wake-up light implied mornings feeling like an intravenously sedated psych ward patient tethered to bed. That state of being has vanished.
  • I feel less foggy and am better able to concentrate.
  • I notice that, in many instances, I’m woken up when still dreaming. This is likely during REM sleep. This is thought to be one of the best sleep stages to wake up from because it is a lighter phase of sleep. Sleep has five stages, NREM 1 to 4 of which 3 and 4 are the deepest and the REM stage. Especially rousing from these deepest sleep stages is particularly difficult.
  • The gradually intensifying light is nice but the sound that starts softly and builds up in loudness is a godsent too. Most of the times I’m awake before the birds start chirping but now and then the sound is required to bring me back from the Land of Nod.
  • Looking back after using it for a while I know realize it improves my mornings. I’m better able to concentrate, get out of bed more easily, have less urge to sleep some more after the light has reached its maximum output. (I almost always wake up before the seaguls start to make their sounds)
  • The light also prevents me from falling asleep again. Sometimes I want to but I just can’t because the room is lit. Obviously you can snooze but probably because of the gradual awakening I am less inclined to do so. Even when I try, I recently did, I just wasn’t sleepy enough to drift off right away. Not even after a few minutes actually. Which is great.
  • Some of its features are great too. You can adjust the sound to almost zero so you won’t risk waking others up. I like the dusk simulation feature too. Great for drifting off when taking naps during the day with the blinds closed.


  • The controls are not as intuitive as I would like. I still have to search for buttons and setting it also isn’t as easy as it could be. On the other hand, snoozing is very easy. Just touch it anywhere on the front and you are set to snooze for nine minutes.

Wrapping it up

I tend to become slightly depressed in the winter. Not really, but I do feel myself becoming less energized and optimistic with the disappearance of sunlight towards the end of the year.

To combat this, every little bit helps. The wake up light sure is a big help although for me to entirely combat my winter “depression”, additional measures such as SAD light theraphy may be necessary.

I wrote earlier that the device didn’t turn out to be the literal difference of day and night as described by some users. Now that I’m using it longer I think this may have to do with the fact that I started using it in the middle of winter.

Now that I’m using it right off the bat when fall starts it’s working way better for me. That’s why I’m changing my opinion and want to add that I am as lyrical as many users.

If you need help waking up and or feel more energetic and fresh during the first part of the day I think you won’t regret purchasing this device.


Update,  adjusting to a polyphasic sleeping schedule

It’s fall and the mornings are darker and colder and I have just started with polyphasic sleeping. In other words, I now sleep a multiple of 1,5 hours at night and take one or two naps during the day.

As I learned a few days ago, segmented sleeping was commonplace until the late 17th century. It is a practice that seems to work really well for some people nowadays allowing them to sleep less while feeling more energetic so I thought, lets give it a shot.

The first days or weeks it’s hard to get used to the new rhytm and sleeping less. Also, for me with my winter morning blues, getting up is even harder now.

This saturday morning for instance the wake up light woke me at 6 am. It was still dark outside and it wasn’t until the sounds started that I was awake. Considering my normal early morning lethargy and lack of motivation it’s just short of a miracle I got out of bed instead of making excuses why I should stay under the wool.

I really notice that the gradual awakening is totally different compared to being jolted by a conventional alarm clock. To be honest, I wanted to go back to sleep this morning. I had already pulled my blankets over my head but drifting off didn’t happen as it normally does. I little voice in my head said, ‘you are sort of awake. Why not get out?’ And so I did.

This may not sound like a big deal but to me, breaking loose from the narcosis-like state I’m familiar to during winter mornings is. Let alone being able to do so while adjusting to a new sleeping schedule.




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  • I bought one and all the display contrast settings look the same once I get out of the menu. I can see a difference when choosing a setting but even when choosing 1, it goes brighter when I get out of the menu. I think it might be defective. Does yours have a very obvious difference between brightness settings?

    • Did you try these settings when there’s ambient light or when it’s a dark in the room? I just checked and when I closed the shades the display stays less bright after leaving the menu but when the room is lighter it does intensify afterwards. Like you described. Suppose this is a feature to adjust to ambient light not a defect. Let me know if still in doubt, I’ll make some photos to demonstrate the difference.

  • I tried it in a dark room. I thought it was the auto adjustment but I tested with a flash light and it does go brighter when there is light so that works. I think it might default to 4 no matter what setting I choose because I can’t see a difference between 1 and 4 in a dark room. Thank you for your reply!

  • I agree with you Marie. The display contrast is too high, even in a dark room. That and the non-intuitive menu are the cons I’ve noticed.

  • Does the time display always stay somewhat illuminated? I’m wondering because I find I need total darkness to sleep at night, so am looking for a sunrise alarm that doesn’t have a display that glows (or that has one that can be easily covered up. Thanks!

    • It does. This morning I set it to 01 which is the lowest setting and it does stay illuminated. So if that bothers you this device may not be for you. You could put some duct tape on it or put something in front of it blocking the glow (i.e. a mug) but it’s a downside the wake up light doesn’t just have a display setting 00.

  • Thank you for the informative review! You’re the only person who seems to have reviewed this clock over a long period of time.

    • A difference in 50Hz or 60Hz grid could be the cause of this. Clocks can noticeably respond to this. Maybe Philips doesn’t know this or your device is made for the other system. Hope this helps.

      • Not true.
        I have a 20 years old small GE wake up radio that I paid $25 and which keeps the exact time since I bought it.

  • I’ve had the clock for almost two years. yes, I do like to wake up to light, but the controls are rubbish. They are so bad that I’m shopping for a replacement. Perhpas I should just buy a timer for my room light.

  • Philips Wake-up light HF3520, purchases in oct 2015.
    The device does not keep accurate time! Slow of 1-2 seconds a day.
    It is a lamp, but also an alarm clock, for which I paid $200can!
    I returned it and the replacement unit does the same.
    This is frustrating!