Anyone who dislikes being jolted from sleep by the blare of a traditional alarm clock or smartphone may dream of an easier, more natural way to start the day. To make that dream come true, consider a sunrise alarm clock. These simple bedside devices use a common light bulb to mimic the dawn, prompting you to awaken gently. This more organic manner of arising may better suit your circadian rhythm—the biological sleep-wake cycle—to help you function more efficiently during the day and be geared to relax in the evening.
Consider another possible perk; a sunrise alarm clock could lead to becoming less dependent on your smartphone. If you currently use its alarm to wake up, you may tend to focus on it before bed, and research shows that too much screen scrolling at night can disturb sleep.
To understand how these morning marvels work, read on. You can also learn why the models listed below are among the best sunrise alarm clocks on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Philips SmartSleep HF3520/60 Wake-Up Light
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: hOmeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock
- UPGRADE PICK: Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light
- BEST SMART TECH: heimvision Sunrise Alarm Clock
- BEST FOR SOUNDS: Hatch Restore Sunrise Alarm Clock for Gentle Wake Up
- BEST MULTIFUNCTIONAL: Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Sunrise Simulation
- BEST FOR KIDS: LittleHippo Mella Ready To Rise Children’s Trainer
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Sunrise Alarm Clock
To use a sunrise alarm clock, you simply set it for the time you wish to awaken, and then it will begin to radiate progressive light, simulating the dawn, typically between 15 to 60 minutes prior to that time. Beyond this functionality, such features as brightness, color temperature, light source, and alarm tones should be considered as you shop for the sunrise alarm clock that will suit you best.
Some people want to wake up with a bright light, while others may desire a softer level of light that more accurately simulates the sunrise. Fortunately, the best sunrise alarm clocks have a host of brightness settings so you can tailor your morning experience, while models with less customization still usually offer two or three setting choices.
Color temperature refers to the pigmented shade of light the clock emits, measured by a metric known as Kelvins (K). In attempting to mimic sunrise, some alarms cast yellow-orange tints and can even change to a reddish hue; others are more akin to the white shade of a common light bulb. It’s a matter of personal preference, but the spectrum of shades available is worth taking into account as you search for the best dawn simulator for you.
The two most common light bulbs used for sunrise alarm clocks are light emitting diode (LED) and halogen. Most employ LED bulbs because they can change color, emit less heat, and last longer. Halogen bulbs tend to release a brighter light and cast a more traditional yellow tint. Those who prefer the warm light quality and color temperature of halogen bulbs will have to shop around a bit to find a sunrise alarm clock that uses them.
In addition to simulating dawn, sunrise alarm clocks also display the correct time, with different manufacturers doing this in various ways. On some alarms, the time display does not dim; the numbers shine brightly throughout the night. Although some may appreciate the constant visible time display, this might bother others. A time display that acclimates to the changing levels of light in the room may enhance the overnight experience and provide a more natural sunrise simulation in the morning. Keep your personal comfort in mind when evaluating time display.
Sounds and Alarm Tones
Sunrise alarm clocks do not rely solely on light to awaken sleepers, and also offer an array of sounds and alarm tones. Most of the best sunrise alarm clocks offer between five and seven sound selections, typically including birds, beach waves, and white noise. Many models also have FM radio compatibility, and some double as a sound machine and a sunrise alarm clock.
Each sunrise alarm has a different length of time that the sunrise (and sunset, if applicable) will last, typically between 15 and 30 minutes. Some people may prefer an even longer time to relax in bed with their simulated sunrise. Fortunately, this aspect is adjustable in some of the best sunrise alarm clocks.
A clock that imitates not just the sunrise, but also the sunset, could further regulate your circadian rhythm, helping your body revert to a biologically-natural state and possibly promote a more regular sleep pattern. Some sunrise alarm clocks offer a sunset feature to aid your nighttime regimen with calming sounds and slowly decreasing light.
Our Top Picks
The sunrise alarm clocks listed below are considered among the best on the market. Models were chosen for quality in regard to the features and functions detailed above to help you choose the right product and wake up your way.
If you hope to truly tailor the way you rise and shine, consider all the features you can control with this model from Philips. It allows you to modify maximum brightness and choose the color temperature, which can turn from a red glow to a yellowish tint. There’s also a sunset simulation feature that helps guide your body to sleep at the end of the day.
You can also pick from five soothing alarm sounds that gradually rise in volume, as well as FM radio. When you need some extra shuteye, a tap-to-snooze feature quiets the sounds. One potential drawback to the SmartSleep is that, while the display dims and brightens in response to the light level in the room, the time digits are not entirely dimmable. These constantly glowing numbers may disturb sleepers who prefer total darkness, but those who don’t mind the numbers may enjoy fine-tuning their simulated sunrise with this quality clock.
For an easy way to greet the day that won’t break the bank, check out the affordably priced hOmeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock. It offers three different brightness settings, three snooze options, and a collection of nature-inspired sounds, including birdsong and ocean waves, plus FM radio. The clock’s LED light can also double as a bedside lamp, and as a unique decorative aspect, the housing can glow in eight different vibrant shades, making for a more colorful bedtime for kids and adults, alike.
If you hope to bring both high-tech and spa-inspired qualities to your bedside, you might be impressed with the Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-up Light Therapy Lamp. This model features a SleepMapper App to customize alarm themes and a choice of four different colored sunrises—a range from yellow to red—to personalize your morning. There’s also the AmbiTrack sensor, which detects the temperature, humidity, noise, and light in your room, and then suggests adjustments for a better experience.
Those who have trouble falling asleep may appreciate the sunset feature, as well as RelaxBreathe, a unique light-guided breathing exercise designed to aid relaxation. There’s a power backup that will kick in should your home have a power outage; a USB charging port to juice your devices while you sleep; and an AUX dock speaker, so that you can also play music from your smartphone.
Tech-savvy types who hope to extend smart-home functionality to their wake-up and bedtime routines may want to check out the HeimVision Sunrise Alarm Clock. It works with Amazon Echo and is compatible with Google Assistant so you can simply dictate the light and sound levels you want; the Smart Lift app allows you to modify your alarm through your phone as well.
Choose from 20 brightness settings and 7 different sounds, including white noise and Hawaiian waves, to tailor your faux sunrise, hands-free. There’s also a calming sunset simulation. And you can even set multiple alarms throughout the day to remind you when to take a break and power down for the night.
Those who find loud alarms with unnatural noises the worst part of waking up may make peace with morning via Hatch Restore. This sunrise alarm offers more than 30 naturally rousing sounds, with titles like “Hiking in the Dawn” and “Tropical Morning” through the free Companion Hatch app. There are also sleep meditations and bedtime stories to aid unwinding before bed.
You can also design the color features of your sunrise alarm, choosing from 22 tones, such as raspberry and peach. For ultimate customization, pair light with sounds for each activity of your routine. Once you tailor everything just so, simply tap the unit to initiate your options. Hatch Restore offers an innovative way to personalize your sleep and waking style with color, light, and sound.
If you want more from your alarm clock than sunrise simulation, look into this model from Morning Ray. Sure, it’s got solid wake-up features, including six natural alarm sounds such as falling rain and pink noise, and a 30-minute sunrise prior to your alarm. But it also offers wireless bluetooth connectivity to hook up to your phone and turn into a speaker, allowing you to listen to music and podcasts as you greet the day. In addition, the alarm clock doubles as a bedside reading lamp, and boasts a convenient USB port for your charging necessities.
Establishing healthy sleep habits in young children is an important part of parenting, and the MELLA Ready to Rise Children’s Sleep Trainer is designed to make this undertaking easier. It has a gradual yellow sunrise half an hour before the set alarm, then glows green (for go!) when it is time to wake. No worries, there are three kid-friendly, wake-up sounds that can be set as an aural alarm as well.
Six nighttime colors, including red, blue-green, and purple, help ease little ones into bedtime mode and also function as a nightlight. Corresponding wind-down sounds include white noise, ocean waves, and lullabies. There’s even a timer that could be used for time-outs, activities, and naptime. Even the face on the front of the clock is designed to appeal to youngsters.
The Advantages of Owning a Sunrise Alarm Clock
The goal of sunrise alarm clocks is to restore a natural way to wake up, via the soft gradual rise of light at dawn. Sunrise alarm clocks can help improve your circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle. Benefits of these bedside boons may include:
- Normalizing your sleep schedule. A sunrise alarm can help your sleep/wake cycle get back on track by reverting to the basic biological way of waking at sunrise. When you rectify your circadian rhythm you may sleep more soundly, rely less on caffeine to stay awake during the day, and even possibly experience less stress, which boosts your immune system.
- Becoming less smartphone dependent. Many people don’t put down their phone until they close their eyes to go to sleep, and then reach for it the second they wake up—in fact, often setting the alarm on their phone. A sunrise alarm can help those who hope to reduce dependency on potentially-stimulating devices.
- Waking up more relaxed. Scrambling out of bed to the sound of incessant beeping can be annoying, even upsetting. When light gradually fills your bedroom, and natural sounds accompany the illumination, waking up can be a more serene experience to give you a calmer start on your day.
FAQs About Sunrise Alarm Clocks
Sunrise alarm clocks may be a new concept to many people, so if you want more information, see below for the answers to commonly asked questions about these helpful devices.
Q. What is a sunrise alarm clock?
A sunrise alarm clock is a bedside device that provides an alternative to a traditional alarm, using gradually increasing light rather than abrupt sound.
Q. How does a sunrise alarm clock work?
Sunrise alarms typically plug into an outlet and come with a light bulb. Set the clock for your wake-up time, and it will begin to emit a dim light anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes beforehand, increasing in intensity to mimic the natural light of the sun. This gradual increase of light will ease your body into the morning in a more organic way, and wake you up feeling refreshed rather than jolted by a buzzing alarm.
Q. How do I set my sunrise alarm clock?
For most brands, setting a sunrise alarm clock is akin to setting a traditional alarm: ticking plus (+) and minus (-) buttons until you arrive at your wake-up time. Some models let you control these settings on downloadable apps or smart assistant features.