5 min.

27 April 2022

Product Review: Philips Smart Lightbulb

It is now well-known: light is one of the essential elements in our sleep-wake cycle.

Indeed, the type of light present in the environment is connected to producing different kinds of chemical compounds.

To understand this, we can take a look at the diurnal variation of light. While there is more bluish light, we are more inclined to produce excitatory hormones (first and foremost cortisol). On the other hand, during the late afternoon, when the light is reddish - hormones are linked to more relaxing effects (i.e., melatonin). Notably, the production of hormones affects our sleep-wake cycle and interacts with our mood, emotions, and feelings. In other words, the type of light surrounding us, and therefore the type and quantity of hormones produced, influence our mental life.

The reasons listed above make it clear why many sleep experts recommend meticulous care in setting home lightings, particularly in the bedroom.

Filippo Calderaro

Not all countries can enjoy extended periods when the sun shines long into the sky, and natural light can be enjoyed constantly. Indeed, it is often the case that we live in places where the sun hides behind clouds for months at a time and enjoying an intense day of sunshine can be a challenging goal to achieve.

The problem is that several studies have shown that lack of exposure to the sun’s rays can cause a desynchronisation of our biological clock, leading to issues with the duration and quality of sleep [1]. Furthermore, for sleep-deprived subjects, light can be an essential weapon against their problem. Prolonged exposure to artificial light can result in a modification of the inner clock. In this way, you can change your sleep-wake cycle through periodic exposure to artificial light[2].

For all those who cannot enjoy waking up with the natural rays of the sun, and for those who do not have a productive sleep-wake cycle, technology tries to come to their rescue. Indeed, the lights we review today allow the user to set the on/off time and the intensity and colour of the light itself. Specifically, we are talking about the latest version of Philips Hue White and Colour Ambient Lightstrip Plus and Philips Hue White & Colour Ambiance B22 LED Light Bulb. The new Philips technology allows the user to control the set-up of both products via Bluetooth, using the user-friendly Hue BT app.

Therefore, with this review, we will answer the question: can the Philips Hue technology help improve sleep? What functions can help us create the perfect environment for falling asleep peacefully and waking up feeling energised?

Both the products are ready-to-use, and the packages are compact and friendly.

Inside the box, you will find:

  • a power supply,
  • a connector,
  • the light stripe,
  • a power cable,
  • and then some instructions.

The stripe will automatically light up after connecting the power supply to the light (using the connector and the power cable).

The content of the light bulb package is way more straightforward. You will find:

  • the light bulb
  • some instruction about the product.

Once you have plugged the light bulb inside the lamp-holder and turned the switch on, the light will automatically turn on.

As explained above, preparing the two products for use is very simple and using them is even simpler in this new version. Indeed, thanks to the presence of the in-built Bluetooth, it is no longer necessary to buy a bridge to connect the different intelligent lamps and control them all together. All you need to do is to install the official Philips application called “Hue BT”. Afterwards, you can use your mobile phone to control all your lights. Notably, the application is available on both the Apple Store and Google Play Store.

Far from being just a marginal detail, the application appears essential for an immersive product experience. It has a genuinely remarkable user experience. It’s very intuitive, and even the less tech-savvy will be able to use it without much difficulty.

The application provides access to several useful commands.

  • Firstly, you can control the colour of the lights separately or together. In other words, you can change the colour of the lights either one at a time or all at the same time.
  • Moreover, it is possible to select the desired intensity and your favourite colour through a palette of RBG colours that will allow you to select even the most delicate shades.
  • Another great option that can be of great value for everyone suffering from disturbed sleep is the Wake-up and Go-to-sleep functions. This last function can satisfy those who can follow a reasonably precise sleep schedule and those whose sleep habits are not very fixed. For the former, it is possible to enter the time the light will start to dim and the length of time the light must go out entirely. Those who do not have very fixed sleeping habits can click on the icon before getting into bed. This option will ensure that the light will gradually decrease in brightness until it turns off completely. As a sleep expert, I can say that this function can help many people with sleep problems. In particular, many people find it difficult to fall asleep with the lights completely off. Other people, fewer in number but experiencing significant discomfort, suffer from real phobias linked to the absence of light in their room – such as nyctophobia. Philipp's solution can ensure that theses subjects fall asleep with the light on and sleep with the light off without having their rest disrupted.
  • Finally, you can also choose from a range of pre-set Philips themes. I think this is where the smart lamps from Philips come into their own. For instance, there are numerous fancy shades of colours that you can select. Remarkably, some of these options have been developed to improve our waking up and help us fall asleep more easily. The four pre-set sleep-related light styles are Energize, Concentrate, Read and Relax. The idea of these light frequencies is to create an environment in which, through light, we are able to activate our nervous system and stimulate it when we have just woken up and relaxed it when it is time to go to sleep. It is not by chance that Philipps positioned these light shapes on the curve representing the human daily cortisol production. Cortisol is a so-called stress hormone. It is produced as soon as we wake up, and its concentration in our bodies regularly decrease during the day.

To let you understand the purpose of buying these two products, let me explain a little about myself. I was born and raised in a Mediterranean country with a typical mild and sunny climate. I have been living in northern Europe for years now. I will now say a banality: here, the days in which clouds hide the sun are more numerous than when the sky is clear. Even if I appreciate the dark greyness of the northern landscapes, I miss being gently woken up by the rays of the sun that come through the shutters and, slowly, colour and envelop the entire room. This is the best way of waking up: gradually and without any shock.

The normal alarm clocks that use sound to wake are called sound-based alarm clocks. When using these devices, we may suffer sleep inertia, we can feel sluggish, odd, and not at our best. On the other hand, using light to wake up may make us feel more awake, improve our mood, and improve our memory and focus throughout the day.

The first idea to test these products was precisely this. My bedroom is constituted in such a way that the windows are in front of the bed. So, the sun’s rays (when there are) rise slowly and, at about 8 o’clock in the summer, hit the bed in the top part, where the pillows are. So, I have located the LED strip behind the bedpost and set the alarm for 7:30 am. Afterwards, I placed the light bulb on the bedside table. The idea was to mimic something the sun rays. I knew that the next day would be cloudy. The experience on the following day left me happily surprised. The pre-set light tone I chose mimicked that of the warm, enveloping spring sun very well. The light gradually increases in intensity until it reaches its peak. Being a Sunday, I had no alarm clock set, and the mere presence of this light in the room through the window was able to gently and smoothly wake me up.

Afterwards, I used the Philips bulb and stripe with another purpose. This time I wanted to try out the effects of the more bluish light (energise and concentrate function). If you still don’t know the importance of blue light concerning sleep, visit our dedicated page (link:).

Theoretically, being exposed to a bright and bluish light shortly after waking up increases energy and helps us get out of bed faster. It should also avoid the typical feeling of discomfort that characterises many mornings. This time I tried it during a home-office working day.The colour tone of this light is less white and bluer than the previous one. (add experiences and personal considerations regarding these two modes). The set-up was similar to the previous one. The only difference is that I placed the bulb near the bed so that it would also light up my face when it started to light up. Honestly, the feeling of being woken up by white light is much less comfortable than being woken up by a warmer one. Nevertheless, I was able to perceive the effects promised by the shades preselected by Philipps. I used this shade of light while eating breakfast and rearranging the bed. Once I finished my morning routine, I sat down at my desk and changed the light shade from energising to focusing. The difference between the two isn’t much, but it’s still noticeable. I can’t say that I felt a greater sense of concentration. Still, indeed, this tone of light is more pleasant than standard lights for reading, studying and working.

In this review I have tried to describe whether these intelligent lights from Philipps can be used as a light-based alarm clock, as focus lights and if they exert a relaxing effect.

Ultimately, I consider the two products reliable. Their use is intuitive. It is further simplified by using the application directly without the need for a connection bridge. The preselected light’s tones are carefully chosen and can generate the promised sensations. The light shapes are adaptable to the most different environments and necessities: indeed, you can use them to wake you up, to feel more focused or energised, to create a party feeling or a relaxed one.

Filippo is passionate neuroscientist. He explores the various topics around sleep of sleep developing a varied and multidisciplinary knowledge around it.

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