Combat SAD With Smart Bulbs (App-Controlled Wake-up Light)




Introduction: Combat SAD With Smart Bulbs (App-Controlled Wake-up Light)

About: I come from a long line of do-it-yourself-ers. Eagle Scout, Lifeguard, Artist, blah blah blah. Enough about me.

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a mood disorder that normally occurs during the winter and in gloomier climates (Portland, I'm looking at you). It presents itself with fatigue, screwey sleep patterns and even depression, in some cases (more info HERE). SAD's onset and severity are generally affected by one's environment, and since it is primarily a physiological response, treatments and DIY "fixes" like mine are often geared towards eliminating the gloom of winter. Since most of the gloominess is light related, the first step is usually to gain control over the lighting of your environment, and to try to synthesize "normal" lighting.

One of the most popular treatments is the wake-up light, a device designed to replicate a sunrise and trigger the wake-up stage of our circadian rhythm. Created and made popular by companies like GE and Phillips, all of the (numerous) available models cost too much for what they can do. There must be better options for regulating your lighting, right?

There are indeed! With the speed of technological advances, mobile apps and their connected devices are shaping the way we control our environments. In this Instructable, I will show you how I set up a Wink Hub and GE Link light bulb to ramp up to full brightness over the course of an hour to replicate a sunrise. At a price tag of $50, it's cheaper than all but one of the models that I found on Amazon (and that one was pure garbage). This way, you get a wake-up lamp that brightens an entire room, with the added benefit of controlling it from anywhere via your smart phone.

The only downside is that the app we are going to use is still in it's infancy, so it is still missing a few crucial features. Luckily for you, this Instructable is a workaround to fake the features we need to make the wake-up light function. So let's get this started!

Step 1: Materials

All the stuff you need for this can be found in one place; Home Depot. You'll need:

1 Wink Hub

1+ GE Link Light bulb

There are other, more sophisticated bulbs and hubs, but I chose the Wink/GE combo for two reasons. First, it's the cheapest initial investment to get a "smart" bulb up and running. Everything else costs at least $70-$100 to get started. At the time of writing, Home Depot is selling the hub and two bulbs for a total of $50.

The second reason is flexibility. You can run a whole bunch of other automation products via the Wink App, like other brands and styles of bulbs, door locks, AC units, and even garage door openers. Cool. Not to mention that the DIY home automation market is still in it's infancy, so why spend $100 on something that could possibly be obsolete very soon? Wink solves the problem very nicely, by supporting pretty much all the current wireless technologies. If a groundbreaking new automated toilet comes out tomorrow, chances are it will be supported by Wink in the next update.

This is probably a good place to note that you can use as many bulbs as you want in this setup. If your fixture needs 3 bulbs, add another. They're only $15 each at HD, and the app can handle as many as you can throw at it.

Step 2: Set Up the Wink Hub

Follow the instructions that come with the hub. It's pretty simple, and although I had to make two calls to customer service the first time I set it up, their firmware updates are making it less buggy all the time. It's always painful to be an early adopter, but Wink offsets this pain by having a wonderful, 24/7 help line.

Download the app, plug in the router, and the app will walk you through the rest.

You can set it up anywhere in the house, as long as you have a good wifi signal from your router in the spot you choose. Avoid placing it within 10 feet of the router, though, cause the wifi signals will compete with each other and things will get a little buggy. Essentially, you can set it up pretty much anywhere else in your house where you can plug it in.

Protip - Test wifi strength by activating the wifi setting on your phone, and use the signal strength in your notification bar as a guide.

Step 3: Install and Connect to Bulb

This is the bulb you are looking for. Just screw it in. Yeah, it's a little heavier than it looks.

Now boot up the Wink app, which you should already have installed from setting up the Wink Hub.

Tap "Add a Product," scroll down to "Lights" and select "GE Light Bulb."

Again, you'll be walked through a setup wizard. Do this once for each individual bulb in your setup.

Step 4: Program Dim-On Ramping

Now, I think I mentioned that this product is still in it's infancy. The app isn't nearly where it needs to be, i.e. there aren't any widgets yet. There also isn't any option to say, have your bulbs gradually ramp up to full brightness over the course of an hour or so.

I completely expect Wink to add such widgets and custom timers soon, but for now we kinda have to hack around this. Luckily, it's a pretty simple work-around.

Start out by selecting the "Lights" category. In the top right corner, there's a little menu button. Open it up. Scrolling down, you'll see a section labeled "Schedule." Click on "Today."

Basically, in order to ramp up over the course of an hour, we have to set several individual timers at different times and at increasing brightness over the course of said hour. So for your first event, set it at about 10% brightness at whatever time you want your hour to start. I also set mine to go off every day of the week. Even weekends, you sloths.

Repeat this process several times to fill up your hour. I just did a total of 5 increments over the course of an hour, since I sleep like a rock and won't notice much finer increments than that. You could do as many steps as you want, this is where you tailor it to your own individual needs.

Step 5: Done!

And that's it! Now you have an affordable wake-up light that can grow with the new technology that is coming down the pipe, and can be re-purposed at any time.


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    3 years ago

    It an interesting concept. BTW it would NOT be recommended probably for Bipolar or people very sensitive to sleep. It because lack of sleep can trigger Mania and other symptoms like Psychosis in Bipolar.

    I could see this if done properly treat mild to moderate depression and it may reduce symptoms of severe depression but that ALWAYS requires antidepressant as a treatment too.

    I know a friend with Bi and if he overexposed to blue screen at the TV, videogames or computer it makes his Mania worse.

    It not for everbody tho.


    6 years ago

    EXCELLENT idea...
    This is a great example of thinking outside the box IMO...making something function other than originally designed.

    I just got a Wink Hub and a handful of devices to pair with it. I will definitely do this with winter around the corner. I'll likely also do something similar to bring my lights on gradually at sunSET. Something I've wanted to do for years....since I heard about Bill Gates' smart home in the early 90s having the light increase gradually around sunset. I can now do this!!! :)

    I've got a couple of the Cree Connected bulbs myself. For those who want lighting / bulb options other than the GE, Cree. There are many switches, dimmers (wall or lamp/plug-in) that work with Wink. I don't see why I couldn't use the Lutron Caseta lamp dimmer I have, put whatever bulb I want in my lamp, and bring it on gradually just as outlined here. There are other in-wall and plug-in dimmers available too. This really has me thinking of new ideas for my lighting!

    Granted, the dimmer I speak of is around $50, but I'm a huge fan of Lutron controls. So my above suggestion may be most appropriate for someone who already HAS the Wink hub and wants to do this project with their own lighting/ bulbs where you'd just need the appropriate dimmer.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Seems like bulbs like the Hue could be the perfect solution since they have the dimmer control like the GE Link but can also be tuned for color. I this regard they could be used all day if need be, since the color can be shifted to work even with the pre-bedtime circadian rhythm. The bulbs are not as affordable as the Link, but they work with regular lamps so your bedroom won't look like an illicit greenhouse. All of the specs of the various bulb types are here:


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I chose the link bulbs primarily for their cost, because my goal was to produce a proof of concept for myself. So far, it seems to have worked really well. Used as a preventative measure to keep yourself on a "summer" schedule, even the cheapest smart bulbs show value. You're right, though. I'm sure those bulbs can be used to greater effect than the Link bulbs (it was actually the LiFx bulb that got me started on this project). And you might even be able to compensate for wall color differences (one reason why I didn't care that they aren't full spectrum, my walls have a weird tint to them). This actually dovetails with bo88y's comment (below). I use my bedroom light fixture all day long, so I need a light that isn't too warm in the morning or cool in the evening. Combine that with my strangely colored walls, and light temperatures kinda become subjective hahaha. With a bulb that allows you to tune colors, you could really fine-tune a good, clinical wake-up light.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    My only concern is that these bulbs come only in warm white (2700 degreesK color temperature), with a CRI of 80 (Color Rendering Index). Most SAD light-therapy products specify a daylight or bright white color (5000-6000 degreesK) with a CRI over 90 (some up to 96).

    In other words, a bluer light with a fuller spectrum. This project may be a wake up light, not a SAD light-therapy fixture, but some of the expensive wake up lights use the same light as the SAD light-therapy fixtures. Still, one might argue that morning light is often a little on the reddish-orange side anyway.

    One can rig a poor-man's version with some cheap fluorescent fixtures, some full spectrum fluorescent tubes, and some appliance timers. The first fixture is aimed at the wall and reflected, the second a little less oblique, and the third one aimed directly at the person. Of course, this poor-man's arrangement is large, ugly (unless you like the industrial look), and overkill in terms of the amount of light emitted.

    One caution regarding the use of full spectrum lights-- they wake you up, and are not suitable for pre-sleeptime lighting. This wake-up light can be used before bedtime.