The 6 best alarm clocks we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • An alarm clock should be loud enough to wake you up but not so abrupt that it’ll shock you out of bed.
  • These alarm clocks can help avoid morning grogginess so you can start your day in a better mood.
  • The Loftie features a two-phase alarm system for a gentler and healthier wake up experience.

Keeping a consistent sleep-wake schedule is an important factor in maintaining healthy sleep habits. A reliable alarm clock can help us wake up at the same time regularly. Traditional alarm clocks are intended to jolt us out of sleep with irritating noise, but waking up abruptly is unnatural and can even cause health issues; a recent study found a link between harsh alarm tones and increased levels of morning grogginess. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from a quality alarm clock; in fact, the same study found that melodic alarms could improve alertness in the morning.

There are many options when it comes to alarm clocks, from the obnoxiously loud and dangerous to gentler and more practical options. Choosing an alarm clock depends on each individual’s sleep habits and needs. For this guide, we spoke with Alex Dimitriu, MD, founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine who I also interviewed for our best sunrise alarm clocks guide. “Light sleepers may want as few distractions and artificial light as possible” said Dimitriu. “Deep sleepers may want an alarm that is loud, or gradually loud, possibly with light or a sunrise simulator to facilitate waking up from a deep slumber.”

As a certified sleep science consultant and sleep researcher, I always test products critically to see if they can improve sleep quality. For this guide, I tested eight alarm clocks for three days each. We evaluated them on how easy to use and reliable they were, and noted each alarms’ volume, quality, and any additional useful features. We learned that with the right alarm clock you can actually look forward to waking up.

Here are the best alarm clocks of 2021

Our testing methodology

Six alarm clocks sit in semi-darkness on a bedside table as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

I spoke with sleep expert Dr. Alex Dimitriu, founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine, and also relied on my own experience as a sleep researcher and certified sleep science consultant to write this guide. Prior to writing this guide, I authored our guide to the best sunrise alarm clocks. I’ve learned an alarm clock should be reliable in waking us up, but also gentle in doing so. For this guide, I tested eight different alarm clocks and evaluated them on the following criteria: 

Setup: For each alarm clock I noted how easy or difficult it was to set up the time and alarms, and also how helpful the instructions were. 

Performance: I used each alarm clock for a minimum of three consecutive days to get used to the routine and noted how effective they were in waking me up on time with the features I selected. 

Alarm sound: I carefully assessed each alarm’s volume and sound selection, and noted whether the alarm was a gradual melodic tune and loud enough to wake up heavy sleepers. 

Extra features: I tested out any additional features of each alarm clock including Bluetooth integration, sleep timers, accompanying mobile apps, projectors, and voice control features.

Durability: I tested and noted how durable and resistant each was by knocking them off my nightstand to see if they were easily damaged.

The best alarm clock overall

A hand touching the Loftie alarm clock on a bedside table in front of a lamp and a plant as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

The Loftie is constantly updating its firmware to provide a unique and healthy wake-up experience with a growing library of pleasant melodies. 

Pros: A two-phase alarm system, multiple alarms, an ever-growing library of content, Bluetooth speaker that can play music from your device

Cons: Relies on Wi-Fi for continuous system updates

The Loftie was engineered to break the bad habit of scrolling through our phones up until bedtime or as soon as we wake up. It’s easy to use with only three buttons at the top of the device and features a built-in dimmable amber nightlight. It works as a white noise machine, Bluetooth speaker, and sleep timer.

The alarm clock is set up in two simple steps: plug into a power outlet and download the Loftie app (available for iOS or Android). Configuring the device took longer than expected — approximately 15 minutes — as it needs time to sync to reliable Wi-Fi and to catch up on the latest system updates. Loftie is constantly making updates to its device with a growing library of sounds, alarms, and new features. The time sets automatically, and multiple alarms can be set through the app or directly from the device.

What’s unique about the Loftie is the two-phase alarm system, something I haven’t seen in any other alarm clock. The first alarm is a gentle tone that helped my body and mind to slowly awaken, the second is a louder melody that gets me out of bed. This method is effective in reducing sleep inertia (morning grogginess). The Loftie did a fantastic job at waking me up on time every single day to pleasant, gradually loud tunes.

I also like that the display dims automatically as the night progresses. The warm amber glow serves as a gentle nightlight that is easily adjustable with the larger button on top. Scrolling through social media right before bed can be replaced with the wellness content that the Loftie offers. I enjoyed the breathing techniques, sound baths, and bedtime stories to fall asleep.  

Even though everything is adjustable through the device itself, downloading the Loftie app is necessary to launch the alarm clock. It’s the only way to keep up with the latest updates. Overall, the Loftie exceeded my expectations, and I can’t wait to see what other updates it comes up with next.

The best alarm clock for a gentle wake up

Philips Smartsleep Connected alarm clock on a bedside table - Philips Smartsleep Connected Review

The Philips Smartsleep Connected creates a pleasant morning experience with a stunning sunrise simulation and melodic nature sounds.  

Pros: Fully customizable, uses light and sound to wake you up or help you fall asleep, built-in sensor that calculates bedroom conditions, AUX cable

Cons: Larger than most alarm clocks, not a Bluetooth speaker

The Philips Smartsleep Connected is a relatively large sunrise alarm clock that is controlled almost entirely from the SleepMapper app (available for iOS or Android). Instead of relying on harsh alarms, sunrise alarm clocks like the Philips Smartsleep use increasing light intensity and natural sounds to wake you up gradually. It features customizable “wind-down” and “wake-up” profiles, a USB port to charge your phone, and an AUX cord to play music from your device. Up to 16 alarms can be set and it has a backup battery to ensure you still wake up on time in case of power outages. 

The Philips Smartsleep was the top pick in our guide to the best sunrise alarm clocks because of its quality and unique functions. The alarm is a combination of a beautiful sunrise simulation and gradual melodic sounds that can reduce sleep inertia. The device calculates bedroom temperature, humidity, and brightness and makes recommendations for a better sleep environment. 

This alarm clock is built with many useful features but one thing it lacks is the ability to play music via Bluetooth. Although this device can’t wake you up to your favorite song, it will improve your morning routine. I’ve continued using this alarm clock since writing our sunrise alarm clock guide, and after months of waking up to its gradual sunrise and melodies, I’ve noticed a significant improvement in how I wake up. This sunrise alarm clock helps me wake up in a better mood, feeling productive and ready for the day.

Read our full review of the Philips Smartsleep Connected.

The best alarm clock for heavy sleepers

A hand touches the Emerson SmartSet alarm clock as it sits on a bedside table as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

The Emerson SmartSet has the best digital LED time display with easy-to-read large numbers and a beautiful cyan nightlight.   

Pros: Large easy-to-read time display, Bluetooth capabilities, convenient USB port

Cons: Time display cannot be completely shut off

The Emerson SmartSet clock radio is designed with a lovely cyan LED time display that is large, clear, and easy to read. Two alarms can be programmed to operate on weekdays only, weekends only, or all seven days of the week. A soft, cyan nightlight is conveniently turned on and off at the touch of a button on top of the device. Other features include a USB charging port, Bluetooth speaker, and FM radio. 

The time and date are set automatically after selecting the correct time zone. The buzzer is a gradual beeping alarm sound that gets loud enough to wake up even heavy sleepers. You can also wake up to your favorite FM radio station that gradually increases in volume. While it includes a Bluetooth speaker, it unfortunately doesn’t have the option to wake up to your own music. 

The cyan nightlight glow is a nice addition to this alarm clock, and it looks great in the dark. I find that it sets a very relaxing mood in the bedroom. The device is easy to navigate with the buttons located at the top of the device and the sound quality is decent for an alarm clock. 

One issue that I had with this alarm clock is not being able to change the alarm settings while listening to music via Bluetooth. To set the alarms or adjust other settings users have to stop the radio or music first. Additionally, even though the nightlight can be fully turned on or off, the time display can only be dimmed and it doesn’t shut off completely. It’s recommended that light sleepers and people with insomnia maintain a dark bedroom throughout the night. 

Overall, the Emerson Smartset is still a great device for people who like a big-time display, a beautiful cyan glow, and reliable alarm clock.

The best projector alarm clock

The Magasonic projection alarm clock sits on a bedside table and projects the time onto a white wall as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

The Magnasonic Projection-Temp-Connection alarm clock is a reliable time projector that will ensure you wake up promptly every morning. 

Pros: Easy to use, convenient time and temperature projector, AUX audio input

Cons: No Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity, only three brightness levels and one alarm sound option

The Magnasonic alarm clock is a sleek and easy to set up alarm clock with a projector for convenient viewing. It features a blue LCD display with a clear view of the time and indoor temperature. These stats can also be viewed via an adjustable projector that displays on wall or ceiling. When total darkness is needed, an auto dimmer feature turns off both the display and light projector. Two alarms can be set to wake to your favorite AM/FM radio station or the built-in buzzer. Other features include the sleep and nap functions, a backup battery, and AUX audio input to listen to your music (but you can’t wake up to AUX audio).

The time and date automatically set after the device is connected to a power outlet and the correct time zone is selected. You have the option to activate the alarms on Monday through Friday, the weekend only, or just one day. The sound is a gradual loud beeping tone that woke me up gently as the time projected on the ceiling. Looking at the time immediately after opening your eyes can be a good reminder to avoid hitting that snooze button. It encouraged me to get out of bed. 

I like that this alarm clock displays the time, indoor temperature, and day of the week; keeping track of bedroom conditions and adjusting accordingly can really impact the way we sleep. I also like that for a traditional alarm clock the sound is not abrupt and obnoxious. Instead, it’s a gradual sound that gets loud enough to wake up even heavy sleepers. For light sleepers like me, this alarm clock offers reliability without being too jarring.   

The Magnasonic alarm clock lacks some nice-to-have features compared to other alarm clocks, including more alarm sound options and Bluetooth connectivity. It would be nice if the display dimmer had more than three brightness levels. Overall, the Magnasonic is a reliable, easy to use and convenient device.

The best minimalist alarm clock

A close up of the JALL alarm clock as it sits on a bedside table as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

This alarm clock’s minimalist design won’t take up much space on your nightstand, and even though it’s small, it’s loud enough to wake up heavy sleepers. 

Pros: Simple, elegant design; displays bedroom temperature and humidity levels

Cons: Alarm sound is not gradual

The Jall Digital alarm clock is modern piece that looks great on any bedside table. Its triangular wooden design and small size are perfect for individuals who want a simple yet effective alarm clock. In addition to its stylish design, this alarm clock also features a dimmable time display with humidity and temperature indicators. Up to three alarms can be set for different times of the day or week. The brightness of the display can be adjusted by turning the scroll wheel. 

Setup is fairly simple with the easy-to-follow instructions — besides setting the time, date, and alarms, there’s not much else to do. It’s always a bonus when an alarm clock can calculate bedroom conditions — this device detects humidity levels and temperature through an integrated sensor. Having that information at hand can encourage people to strive for the best bedroom conditions for optimal sleep.

I like the elegance and simplicity of this alarm clock. The sound sensitive mode is a unique function that makes the screen display disappear and reappear by tapping it or making noise, like clapping. This is a great feature for people with sleep anxiety or insomnia who should avoid looking at the time throughout the night. It also keeps the bedroom dark. 

That said, the alarm sound on this device is not gradual like most of the others I tested. It wasn’t a jarring, unpleasant alarm, but individuals who are looking for a more natural wake up experience might want to check out something different. Overall, the Jall digital alarm clock is a great option for minimalists — you can also purchase it in brown, black, white, or yellow to match your decor. It won’t take much space on your nightstand but it’s still loud enough to wake up heavy sleepers.

The best alarm clock for waking up to music

A hand touches the iHome iBT29BC alarm clock as it sits on a bedside table as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

Wake up to your favorite song and a light show with the iHome iBT29BC Bluetooth Color Changing Dual Alarm Clock.

Pros: Wake up to a fun light show and favorite sounds or music, Bluetooth speaker, USB charging port 

Cons: Buttons are not easy to navigate in the dark 

The iHome BT is designed as an LED color changing sphere equipped with all the functions of an alarm clock and more. Up to two alarms can be set, it plays FM radio, and works as a Bluetooth speaker. Other features include an adjustable clock display that can be shut off for total darkness, a USB charging port, and voice control functions when paired to a smartphone. This is a great device for individuals who like to wake up to a light show and their favorite music. 

Setting up the unit was easy with the included instructions. I set the alarm to wake me up to a combination of the “sky” light mode (this mode matches the color of the sky at the current time of day) and my morning Spotify playlist. I also tested out the four different wake tones and the volume. The alarms are melodic tunes that are loud, but won’t shock you out of bed. The sleep timer feature is a nice-to-have for people who prefer to fall asleep to soothing sounds or relaxing music.

I enjoyed waking up to my favorite songs with this device; it makes getting up in the morning an easier transition. Being able to dim and completely shut off the time display is another great feature for light sleepers like me who prefer total darkness at night. The volume on this device gets loud, so it’s also a good option for heavy sleepers. 

That said, this alarm clock failed to wake me up to my music a couple times when my Wi-Fi got disconnected during the night. Fortunately, the backup battery still worked even when the device was unplugged; I just got the standard alarm sound instead of my playlist. Second, the control buttons are not easily visible in the dark and it’s hard to differentiate them. 

What else we tested

Two alarm clocks sit on a bedside table as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

In addition to our top picks, we also tested several other alarm clocks that didn’t quite make the cut. 

What else we recommend and why:

iLuv Time Shaker: This alarm clock has many useful features including Bluetooth, a wireless charging platform, dual alarms, and more. The vibration shaker is supposed to be placed under the pillow to wake users without disturbing their partner (or for folks with hearing impairments who won’t wake up to an audio alarm). The shaker’s vibration level is very powerful and cannot be adjusted. It’s a very abrupt awakening when placed under the pillow. A gradual adjustable vibration option could make this device better. However, if you need an alarm that will physically alert you when it’s time to wake up, this is a decent option. 

What we don’t recommend and why:

Smartro: The Smartro alarm clock features an outdoor wireless remote sensor to calculate outdoor temperature and humidity, and a built-in sensor for indoor conditions. However, the device lacks some key features such as FM radio and Bluetooth connectivity. It’s lightweight and gets knocked over very easily when trying to hit the snooze button. The display is low quality, and the projection is only visible when directed to the ceiling (it appears upside down when directed to the wall). Overall, it was just not a practical device.

FAQs

What type of alarm clock is best for light sleepers?

One important aspect to consider when choosing an alarm clock is what type of sleeper you are. If you’re a light sleeper you might not need something very loud, and you’ll also want something with lights that can be dimmed and turned off during the night — light sleepers are typically very sensitive to ambient light in the bedroom. You may find the most benefit from a gentle alarm like a sunrise alarm clock.


What type of alarm clock is best for heavy sleepers?

Dr. Dimitriu recommends loud alarm clocks for heavy sleepers “which can be placed far from the bed stand — so they would require getting up and walking over to turn it off.” Like light sleepers, heavy sleepers can also benefit from an alarm clock that integrates light to help with the wake-up process.


Why can’t I just use my phone as an alarm?

If you’re trying to break the habit of being on your phone from the second you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, you should consider using a dedicated alarm clock. “Keeping a phone on a nightstand is a bit of a distraction and can negatively impact sleep,” said Dimitriu. “It can create too much excitement.” Similarly, if you experience sleep anxiety or insomnia, many modern alarm clocks like the Loftie or Philips Smartsleep offer meditation and slowly dimming lights to help you fall asleep faster.

Lastly, no matter what kind of sleeper you are, it’s better to wake up gently. Waking up to the blasting sound of a phone alarm is unnatural and unhealthy. “It’s important to wake up gradually, not to the sound of a four-alarm fire,” said Dimitriu. A good bedside alarm clock has an array of gentle, gradual sounds.

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Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best alarm clocks in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Although waking up early for work or school might never be a joy, a good alarm clock makes it easier.
  • We checked out dozens of alarm clocks; the Magnasonic Projection Alarm Clock will wake you up firmly but gently.

Let’s face it: The ring, blare, buzz, or chirp of your alarm clock is probably never going to be your favorite sound. But then again, the angry rumble of your boss when you show up late after oversleeping, is even worse.

A good alarm clock can make mornings a little easier so you wake up feeling refreshed. That’s why we’ve researched and tested top alarm clocks ourselves to find the six best options for every type of person.

And if you’re outfitting your home or apartment, check out more of our buying guides like the best mattresses and best mattress toppers.

Here are the best alarm clocks in 2021

The best overall

magnasonic projection alarm clock

The Magnasonic Projection Alarm Clock goes way beyond just waking you up: it also projects the time onto the ceiling, gives you the temperature, automatically sets itself, and much more. 

Pros: Projected time, large display, ability to stream music, dual alarms, low price

Cons: Display is too bright for some

Waking up might be a little bit more pleasant when you can choose between a buzzer, the radio, or your favorite songs streaming from your smartphone or MP3 player to nudge you out of dreamland.

Add to that the fun of seeing the time of day (or night) projected in large, red numerals onto your ceiling  — you don’t even have to turn your head to figure out how much more sleep you’ll get if you could just fall back into slumber  — and the large LCD display on the clock’s face, and you have just some of the features that make the Magnasonic Projection Alarm Clock our top pick.

The versatile clock also shows you the indoor temperature, automatically adjusts itself to daylight savings time changes, resets itself after a power outage with a built-in lithium battery, and has dual alarms, so both you and your partner can use the same clock to set different wake-up times. The ability to set one alarm time for Monday through Friday and a separate time for the weekend is another popular feature.

The brightness of the blue LCD display can be adjusted; for some owners, the clock’s light is just a little too intense. 

The best for deep sleepers

Sonic_Bomb

Even if you sleep like the dead, you’ll spring back to life at the first blast of the crazy-loud alarm, vibrations, flashing lights, and bright red display of the Sonic Alert Sonic Bomb Alarm Clock.

Pros: Multiple features to wake up the heaviest sleeper, good for those with hearing impairments, available in several different colors

Cons: A bit cheesy looking, overkill if you’re not a deep sleeper

If you’re the type who sleeps through anything — thunderstorms, loud neighbors, earthquakes, the zombie apocalypse — you’ve finally met your match. Sonic Alert’s Sonic Bomb Alarm Clock doesn’t just rely on its 113-decibel alarm to pry eyelids open (for comparison, that’s about the same decibel level as a car horn or snow blower going off in your ear), it also has a shaker device that slips underneath your mattress or pillow to jiggle you awake, and red flashing lights that trigger with the alarm.

You don’t have to use all of those features, however. You can set them in a variety of combinations, or even turn all of them off except for the flashing red lights. You can also set the length of the alarm’s ring from one to 60 minutes, and choose a snooze option from one to 30 minutes. Plus, the clock has dual alarms, so both you and your partner can have different wake-up times.

The best smart alarm

lenovo smart clock

With the ability to pull content from the internet and control your home, Lenovo’s Smart Clock with Google Assistant changes the way an alarm clock wakes you up. 

Pros: A variety of wake-up options, display mimics a light therapy clock, supports most Google services and Google Assistant, play from Spotify, Pandora, podcasts, and other online services, control your smart home devices, compact size, elegant design, easy to set up, affordable, USB port for charging

Cons: Can’t make calls, play videos or photos, can’t stream music from phone, audio quality could be better, Google Home platform required, phone is needed for set-up

The Lenovo Smart Clock is more of a bedside assistant than simply an alarm clock. Yes, it will show you the time on the 4-inch touch-capable display, and you can set multiple alarms. But because it’s connected to the internet, you can use this gadget to check weather and traffic before you start the commute; catch up on info like news, sports, and stocks; play music from Spotify, podcasts, or NPR; check your Google Calendar; and, with support for Google Home and Google Assistant, you can control the smart home devices in your home, from Philips Hue lights to Nest Thermostat — all by using your voice.

As an alarm clock, the device doesn’t simply blare at you with a buzzer (although that’s available too). The screen slowly brightens — like a light therapy clock — and you can customize the sound for each alarm, or wake up to music or news. Even smarter (hence its name), you can automate a specific wake-up routine that turns on lights, sets the temperature, and regulates whatever else is connected to your smart home setup. At night, the screen goes dark to help you sleep, while the USB port lets you connect a phone for charging.

There are a few things that the Smart Clock can’t do. It can’t play videos, nor can it make calls. Even though the Smart Clock has Bluetooth, you can’t use it to play music from your phone, but you can use Google Chromecast to stream audio to another connected speaker or TV. If you desire some of these other “smarter” functions, you may want to look at larger smart displays, like the Google Nest Hub.

As an alarm clock, we like the design, lower price, and tight integration into Google’s services of the Smart Clock over Amazon’s Echo Spot. If the price was even lower, we wouldn’t hesitate to call this our best overall, because, for the first time, you can actually do more with an alarm clock than just wake you up. — Les Shu

The best analog clock

Marathon_analog

If you prefer the old-school simplicity of an analog alarm clock, you can’t go wrong with the travel-friendly Marathon Analog Desk Alarm Clock

Pros: Silent performance, several color choices, easy to use

Cons: Batteries will eventually require changing

Perfect for those who prefer a small and simple bedside clock, or need something easy to slip into a suitcase, the Marathon Analog Alarm Clock comes in several colors, is completely silent, has an auto-on soft nightlight that triggers in low light, and a big, spring-loaded button on top to simplify setting or turn off the alarm. It reminds us of the beautiful and iconic Braun Classic Analog Quartz Alarm Clock, but has a few more useful features.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and want to see the time, a simple push of the snooze button on top of the clock gives you just enough light to easily read the large numbers. The clock’s nonslip bottom is another handy feature. 

At roughly 4 inches by 4 inches, the clock is just large enough for easy visibility, won’t take up much room on your nightstand, and is small enough for travel. It runs on two AA batteries, which are included.

The best for kids

ok to wake

With OK to Wake! Alarm Clock on the nightstand, your toddler will know when it’s time to get up, and when it’s time to stay in bed. 

Pros: A great way to help young children learn to use a clock and determine when it’s okay to get out of bed

Cons: Wears out batteries quickly, does not include electrical plug, best for kids that are kindergarten-age and younger

This cute alarm clock shows the time like a regular clock, and can also function as a nightlight for up to two hours. It has a regular beeping alarm, which can be set for any time you would like, and a nap alarm, which functions as a timer to gently wake your child after your desired nap length.

But where OK to Wake! really shines (pun intended) is in its unique feature that parents love: the clock will glow green and show a cute face when it’s an acceptable time for your little one to get out of bed. That means even very young children can learn when it’s okay to go looking for mommy or daddy with no need to be able to actually read the time. As your child grows, you can stop using the glow feature and simply use the device as a regular, albeit cuter than average, alarm clock.

It’s not perfect, however. The clock runs through AA batteries very quickly if you don’t have it plugged in (USB adapter sold separately). Still, if you have a youngster who wakes up before dawn, this may be your solution.

OK to Wake! comes with two faces: a purple flower and a green bug. It’s easy for kids to use; they simply touch one foot to silence the alarm, the other foot to turn the nightlight on and off. The controls for changing the time and setting the alarm are concealed in the back so your toddler’s little fingers can’t reset them accidentally.

Why you should use an actual alarm clock, not your smartphone alarm

You might be wondering, “Why bother with an alarm clock when I have a phone?” It’s A fair question and many people do wake up to their cell phone’s prompting. The problem with this, however, is it makes it far more difficult to put some space between your technology and your sleep, and those are two areas of your life best kept separate.

If the last thing you do before closing your eyes for the night is pick up your cell phone to set the alarm, how likely is it that you’re just going to do that one thing, then set the phone down on the nightstand? Admit it, you’re probably going to check Instagram, send a text or two, play just one more round of your favorite game, or surf the web. 

By the time that phone hits the nightstand, you’ve lost precious sleep time and tricked your brain into thinking it’s wake-up time instead of dream time because the glow of the blue light emitted by your phone reduces your body’s release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle.

Instead of relaxing, you’ve stimulated your mind. All of that adds up to poor quality sleep followed by a groggy, foggy, “I don’t know why I’m so tired,” kind of morning.

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The best bed frames

Buying a bed frame may seem simple — just match frame size with mattress size — but there are more buying options than you might realize, which can make the shopping process seem overwhelming. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide to the best bed frames.


The best mattresses 

A high-quality mattress will last for more than a decade, provide the right balance of comfort and support for your body type and sleeping style, and offer superb motion transfer isolation. Our guide features beds that performed well in our tests, have long trial periods, and are designed to suit a broad range of sleepers. Here are the best mattresses.


The best wake-up light alarm clocks

Wake-up light alarm clocks can be seriously helpful in ensuring you wake up in the best way possible, so you can be productive from minute one. Here are the best wake-up light alarm clocks.

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The 5 best sunrise alarm clocks for waking up gently in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Sunrise alarm clocks use light and natural sounds to help you fall asleep and wake up more gently.
  • I tested seven sunrise alarm clocks, consulted two doctors, and used my background in sleep research to find the best.
  • Our favorite is the Philips Smartsleep Connected because it’s very customizable and analyzes bedroom conditions.

If you’ve ever woken up to a traditional alarm clock, you know that a blaring alarm early in the morning can be quite jarring. Sunrise alarm clocks (sometimes called wake-up lamps) simulate a natural and gradual sunrise with a range of soft orange and yellow LED lights for a gentler wake up experience. The simulated natural light from these devices can purportedly help with your mental health, too. Many wake-up lamps combine light therapy with sound meditation and breathing techniques to create a more calming sleep environment and help regulate circadian rhythms – the natural ebb and flow of hormones that tell us when to go to sleep and when to wake up.

Dr. Alex Dimitriu, founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine, told us that the gentle stimulus from sunrise alarm clocks starts getting the body out of deeper sleep stages, and closer to wakefulness. “Whether it’s a gradual sound or light alarm, wake-up lamps can help better prepare the body to wake up more gently, with less startle,” Dimitriu said.

Sunrise alarm clocks can also help reduce the effects of sleep inertia, that drowsy, disorienting feeling that a lot of us experience after abruptly waking up. “Sudden awakenings can lead to sudden changes in cortisol and other neurotransmitters that could cause problems,” said Dr. William Winter of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine. “Waking up with a gradual increase in wake-promoting light makes a lot of sense,” Winter said, which is why sunrise alarm clocks might be a better option than regular alarm clocks.

In addition to consulting two experts, I leaned on my own experience in sleep science for this guide. I previously managed a sleep laboratory for two years and continue to contribute to sleep research. I’ve presented some of my research at Eastern Psychological Association and have tested products for SleepScore Labs. Given my research background, I think it’s important that any new product you bring into your sleep routine be backed by research. That’s why I tested seven sunrise alarm clocks, using each for three consecutive days and nights to evaluate how effective, easy use, and durable they are. You can read more about how we tested here.

Here are the best sunrise alarm clocks in 2021

The best sunrise alarm clock overall

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 philips smartsleep connected

The Philips Smartsleep Connected can help you fall asleep gently and wake up on time with stunning sunset and sunrise simulations. It monitors your sleep environment and makes recommendations to improve it.

Pros: Smartphone connected; allows you to customize duration, color, sound, and intensity of wake-up and wind-down programs; makes recommendations for improving sleep environment; can set up to 16 alarms

Cons: Occupies a lot of space on nightstand, does not play music via Bluetooth, not a good option for those who prefer manual controls 

The Philips Smartsleep Connected is a relatively large sunrise lamp that sort of resembles a glowing donut. Its controlled almost entirely from your phone an app (available for iOS or Android).

The app allows you to customize “wind-down” and “wake-up” profiles with your preferred sound, light intensity, and duration, and I found it very easy and intuitive to use. The stunning sunset simulation was my favorite feature: the brightness gradually decreases from beautiful hues of bright yellows to soft reds, and is accompanied by natural relaxing sounds that fade away with the sunset. Your personal sunset can last anywhere from five minutes to an hour and you can choose from four color schemes with inviting names such as “Caribbean red” and “Nordic white,” and four nighttime ambient sounds like “soft rain,” “summer lake,” or even your preferred FM radio station. 

I woke up to “summer birds” and an “island red” sunrise with warm red and orange lights that distributed nicely throughout the bedroom. The combination made me feel like I was on vacation. You can also set up to 16 alarms; a useful option for people who tend to hit the snooze button. 

The device also tracks your sleep habits and and lets you know if your bedroom is too hot, humid, bright, or loud for optimal sleep. Other features guided meditations, a night light, back-up battery in case of power failures, USB charging dock for your devices, an AUX cord to play music from your phone, and a bright reading light. Unfortunately, you can’t wake up to music from your phone or anything else connected through the AUX cord, and it does not play music via Bluetooth. 

The technology has been backed by research: in a 2010 study, participants reported easier rising; better mood, productivity, and quality of social interaction; and reduced sleep inertia after using Philips sunrise lamps.

I’ve now used the device for many months. I still love falling asleep and waking up with this sunrise alarm clock, and in the winter months I’ve noticed that it’s light therapy has helped lessen the effects of my seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In all, its customization and user friendly app make it the best choice if you’re investing in one of these wake-up devices. 

Read our full review of the Philips Smartsleep Connected

The best mid-priced sunrise alarm clock

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 Hatch restore

The Hatch Restore has the most light options and sleep sounds of any model we tried and they’re all fully controlled through its multifunctional Hatch Sleep app.

Pros: More than 30 sound options and 20 light options to choose from, guided meditations, fully personalized sleep and wake-up routines through the app

Cons: Not a good option if you don’t like to rely on an app, doesn’t play music, guided meditations only available with subscription, must be connected to Wi-Fi to use

The Hatch Restore sunrise alarm clock connects via Bluetooth to your phone and, with the free smartphone app (available on the Apple App Store and on Google Play), you can set your personalized bedtime routine and more than 18 alarms. Setting up the Hatch is easy even though it doesn’t come with traditional instructions. Instead, the box contains a small card with a link to the instructions online. There are so many features to choose from, including a bedside reading light, guided meditations, sleep stories, wind-down profiles, and sleep routines; all of which are fully customizable. It has more than 30 soothing sleep sounds and many more light therapy options than any of the products we tried, including nighttime shades, warm oranges, and soft relaxing pastels, which I loved while listening to meditations. What’s great about the Hatch is that users can fully personalize every part of their sleep schedule according to their preferences; you can add up to 10 steps to create a routine to fall asleep. 

My routine consisted of three simple steps. First, I got into bed and read my book using the coral nighttime light for 30 minutes while listening to the “sea wind” sound. Then I wound down with a soft pink light and the “meeting sleep with ease” meditation. Finally, I fell asleep to an orange light and the sound of rain. You can also set how long each step is. I was concerned about the digital clock display being too bright during the night, but you’re able to turn it off completely or set it so that it will turn off by itself at your preferred time — a great feature for total darkness that also contributes to a good sleep environment. I also really enjoyed the variety of the guided meditations, which include breathing techniques, body scans, and relaxing sleep affirmations. The Hatch is well-designed with a nice half-moon shape that simulates a natural sunrise and, at 7.5 inches long, it didn’t take up too much of my nightstand. It’s a good device with a lot of light and sound options to create your own sleep routines. 

Unlike some sunrise alarm clocks, the Hatch does require users to download the app and to have a stable Wi-Fi connection in order to use the device; without either, it’s basically useless. All its features are controlled through the Hatch Sleep app, but the device itself includes a few soft-touch buttons for volume and brightness. Unfortunately, many of the guided sleep meditations can only be accessed by subscribing for $49.99 a year or $4.99 a month (though the first six months are free). Another thing to note is that the device doesn’t immediately connect to your smartphone every time you open its companion app; it usually takes a few seconds to connect. I personally did not have an issue waiting five seconds for the app to open but other users might find it annoying. It also does not play music or radio.

The best sunrise alarm clock on a budget

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 iHome

The iHome Zenergy Dream Mini produces a soft sunrise and will gradually wake you up with your favorite song. For the price, it’s packed with a lot of features that will help you wake up in a better mood. 

Pros: Lots of customizable options, pairs with Bluetooth to play music from your phone, won’t take up too much space on your nightstand

Cons: The light intensity might be too low for some, most functions cannot be controlled through a smartphone, only two alarms

The iHome Zenergy Dream Mini is a tiny sleep therapy machine packed with tons of features and customizable options. The instructions include really useful tips on how to properly meditate with the device and a brief section on the importance of maintaining good circadian rhythms.

What I love about the Zenergy Dream Mini is the option to wake up to my own Spotify playlist; a feature that other wake-up lamps I tested lack. The mini device paired up quickly and smoothly with my iPhone every single time with no issues, and I was able to wake up to a gentle simulated sunrise and my favorite song. The sound quality is honestly pretty good for such a small device. However, even though you can choose and play your music through Bluetooth, this device does not have an accompanying app, so you can’t control any other features with your smartphone.

Instead, you control most of its functionality through 15 buttons on the top of the device. It has a lot of options that have to be set up manually but the instructions are helpful and the settings are fairly easy to navigate. The time also has to be set up manually but will purportedly adjust during daylight saving time automatically, and the built-in battery maintains the time and alarm settings in the event of a power outage. One of its key features is the “ZENERGY” button, which activates calming sounds accompanied by gentle, colorful lights. It is customizable with the “fall asleep” and “stay asleep” buttons, which let you choose from a nice selection of sound and light options including a guided breathing meditation, 13 relaxing sounds, and nine calming light therapy cycles. My favorite is the “heart” sound because it promotes steady breathing patterns and pairs well with the “breath” light color therapy.

The snooze button is large and strategically placed in front of all the buttons, so I didn’t have to struggle to hit snooze in the morning. However, you can only set two alarms and snooze only lasts up to nine minutes. The light from this mini device might also be too soft for some individuals who need brighter hues in order to wake up. Still, this sunrise alarm clock is priced much lower than other options and offers great functionality if you’re just starting to dabble in light therapy.

The best portable sunrise alarm clock

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 Casper Glow LIght

The Casper Glow Light is uniquely designed as a wireless, portable night light, and uses intuitive gestures and a streamlined design to create a beautiful and simple experience.

Pros: Beautiful warm lights, portable, pairs with multiple Glow Lights for a bedroom light show, intuitive and easy to operate with simple gestures

Cons: Lacks sound, requires smartphone app for expanded features like setting sleep and wake times

Casper Glow Light is a small portable cylinder that can be easily controlled with just a few gestures: flip to turn on, rotate to increase and decrease the amount of light, and wiggle to turn on the night light. The device is small, softly lit, and smartly designed with gentle, warm hues of light for better sleep.

The light charges wirelessly and pairs with an app that is also very simple to use. While you can operate the light without it, the app (available on the Apple App Store and on Google Play) is a must if you want to set wake-up and wind-down times, which cue a sunset or sunrise that can last from 15 to 90 minutes.

One of the unique features of the Glow Light is that it synchronizes with other Glow Lights to make pretty light shows. Once you have more than one, you can name each and “group” or “ungroup” them through the app. I used two lights together and found they set a very tranquil mood.

The night light feature is very useful for when you wake up and want to avoid turning on bright lights that could disrupt your ability to fall back to sleep. The light was easy and fun to carry around during the night when I went on a mission downstairs to get a glass of water. It’s made with polycarbonate to resist bumps and endure falls, so is great for kids to use as well. 

Falling asleep with my pair of Glow Lights was such a treat. The soft, warm lights create a tranquil sleep environment, gradually dim to slowly relax you, and then turn completely off for total darkness. The Casper Glow Lights are made with high-quality warm LEDs that were effective in waking me up gently. However, the device focuses solely on effective light therapy and, unlike other models we tested, it completely excludes sound. It might not be the best option for heavy sleepers who require some noise to wake up; you’ll still need to set a phone alarm if you really need a rise out of bed. That said, it’s a beautiful device that makes for a very tranquil bedroom environment.

Read our full review of the Casper Glow Light

The best sunrise alarm clock with all manual controls

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 Phillips wake up

The Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light has a unique spherical design that creates a beautiful sunrise simulation, and features many of the same premium settings as the more expensive Philips Smartsleep Connected. 

Pros: Creates the best sunrise simulation, very user-friendly and simple, fully manual

Cons: Very limited sound options, doesn’t have an app if you’re someone who prefers a connected device

A less expensive option from Philips, the Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light has fewer customizable options and features than the Philips Smartsleep Connected and is completely manual; no app needed. I recommend this one if you’re looking for something simple, but still high-quality and efficient. It’s one of Philips’ best selling sunrise alarm clocks because of its impressive colored sunrise simulations and relaxing sunsets.

I had no problem setting the time and alarms with the easy-to-follow instructions. Falling asleep to this lamp was very relaxing; the sunset simulation therapy works just as well as the Philips Smartsleep Connected and the display automatically dims as the room gets darker, great for cocooning yourself in total darkness. Waking up with this lamp was such a pleasant experience; the gradual and natural sunrise simulation increased in the span of 30 minutes until it completely flooded my bedroom with beautiful, rich, orange and yellow lights and the gentle sounds of “Nepal bowls.” You can choose from five different natural wake-up sounds including beautiful “birds” and “ocean waves,” or your preferred FM radio station. The snooze feature is unique: a single slight tap anywhere on the device snoozes the lamp for nine minutes.  

It’s also one of Philips’ sunrise alarm clocks that is clinically proven to help you feel more ready for the day, and I have to admit that it did a great job at waking me up feeling refreshed in the morning. I personally prefer this Philips model’s smooth, spherical shape and smaller size over the Philips Smartsleep Connected, although I wish it connected to the app for more customization. I missed the extra features in the Philips Sleepmapper app when I used this model, like the sleep environment monitoring and extended customization. I hope Philips comes out with a new sunrise alarm clock that features all of the Philips Smartsleep Connected options but is shaped like this model to simulate that beautiful, natural sunrise.

What else we tested

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 What else we considered

I tested seven sunrise alarm clocks as part of this guide and unfortunately, some didn’t make the cut. 

What we don’t recommend and why

Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 ($159.00): The Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 doesn’t connect to an app and setting it up manually took me multiple tries and many minutes, as it comes with a set of lengthy, non-intuitive instructions that involve a lot of clicking around on the device. The daily alarm has to be turned on manually every single night before going to bed; if you fall asleep before you do, you’re out of luck for your morning alarm. The sound options are interesting, to say the least. I chose to wake up to “kittens purring” because the other options were not exactly what I would prefer waking up to; for example, there was “ping-pong,” “steam train,” “goats,” and “café,” among the 15 odd sounds. Made by a British company, the device only provides a 24-hour clock, which is somewhat inconvenient if you’re used to a 12-hour clock. That being said, the device and its lights do simulate a nice sunset and sunrise. The light progression is smooth and it has gentle levels of brightness. Although it has a lot of customizable options, they can be quite frustrating to set up.

AMTOK Smart Wake Up Light ($45.99): I was excited to try this smart sunrise alarm clock because of its voice control function. However, setting it up was so complicated and time-consuming that I quickly got discouraged. First, it comes with two sets of instructions with different information on how to connect the device to your phone, but neither appeared to be up-to-date to the model I was testing. Second, it only supports 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi networks, which transmit data at lower speeds and are prone to interference; likely why it failed to wake me up in the morning on multiple occasions. While the device has features that you can control through the app, they’re very limited; just a few sound and light options. The color loop option is nice but I found its light intensity somewhat dull and not very relaxing. It’s a device that you have to learn to get used to — if you have the patience. 

Methodology

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 Our methodology

In addition to interviewing sleep experts Dr. Alex Dimitriu, founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine, and Dr. William Winter of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, I did hands-on testing with seven different sunrise alarm clocks. As a sleep researcher who managed a sleep lab for two years, part of my research involved investigating strategies to reduce sleep inertia (like using sunrise alarm clocks), so I also relied on my own background in sleep research and product testing to evaluate each product over several nights. I tested each sunrise alarm clock according to the following criteria: 

Setup: For each of the lamps, I paid close attention to how difficult or easy it was to set up on my nightstand. I noted how accurate and helpful their instructions were and what it was like to set the time and alarms. I also evaluated how heavy they were and how much space they occupied on my bedside table. 

Performance: I used each wake-up lamp for a minimum of three consecutive days and nights to get used to the routine and noted whether or not they woke me up on time and with the features (such as sound and light color) I chose. I took notes on what it was like to fall asleep with their wind-down features, and paid particular attention to the wake up experience. I woke up at the same time every morning with each alarm clock to keep my experiences consistent, and noted how I felt and how much sleep inertia I experienced. I also evaluated the sound and light quality of each, and how easy or difficult it was to snooze the back-up alarm (if it had one).

Special features: I tested out any additional and unique features of each sunrise alarm clock, such as speakers, Bluetooth integration, guided meditations, and accompanying mobile apps. I noted whether or not these extra features were actually helpful and easy to use. 

Durability: In order to test how durable and resistant each alarm clock was, I knocked every one off my nightstand and checked to see if any parts came loose or broke. Fortunately, all of them passed this test. I also took note of each product’s materials and their warranty. 

Long-term use: Since original testing, I’ve continued to regularly use our top picks and will report back about their durability over time.

What we’re testing next

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 What we look forward to testing

We’re continuing to research and test the best wake up lamp alarm clocks; here are some models on our horizon.

  • Hatch Rest+ ($89.99): Hatch recently came out with a new Hatch Rest+ smart lamp. Its features include a sound machine, night light, and a “time-to-rise” feature that cues your child when it’s time to sleep and when it’s okay to get up. It also has an audio monitor, backup battery, and you can control it with Amazon Alexa (but not Google Home). You can even “dress it up” with cute coverlets to make it fun for babies and children. It’s received a ton of great reviews from parents and I’m excited to test its integration with Alexa. 
  • Lexon Miami Sunrise Wake Up Lamp  ($79.90): I really want to try this sunrise alarm clock because it’s shaped just like the Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light HF3520/60 and costs a fraction of the price. It’s very sleek and modern looking and comes in three color options. 
  • TITIROBA Wake Up Simulation ($35.99): This wake-up lamp, which is the least expensive I’ve seen, has received a lot of really great reviews. Some of its features include five natural sounds, a backup battery, “eye-care” adjustable lights, digital LED clock, and touch control. It’s simple and equipped with only a few features but it might be worth a try if you’re on a budget. 
  • LittleHippo Children’s Trainer Sounds Machine ($49.99): This one might be a great option for kids. It’s a cute design that uses colors and digital “facial expressions” to teach children when it’s okay to get out of bed and when it’s time to go to sleep. Its “wake” feature works just like a sunrise alarm clock, glowing to indicate the start of the day. It also has child-friendly alarms, nap timers, and a night light. It has great reviews and I’d love to compare this one to the Hatch Rest+.  
  • Bodyclock Luxe 750DAB (£199.00): I really want to give Lumie another shot. To be fair, the Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 that I tested was designed years ago, but is one of the few models currently available in the United States. There is a newer version with more sound options, Bluetooth for streaming music from smartphones, higher-quality sound, and a glass lamp cover — a feature that I imagine produces a beautiful sunrise simulation. Currently, this Lumie model is only available in the UK. 

FAQs

best sunrise alarm clock 2021 FAQs for Wake Up Lights

What are the benefits of sunrise alarm clocks?

The light therapy implemented in these wake-up lamps helps regulate cortisol and melatonin production, two important hormones that are essential in controlling sleep/wake cycles. It can be difficult for some of us to adapt to season changes, especially in the winter when days get shorter and nights get longer. The shift from bright summer days to long, dark winter months can have an impact on circadian rhythms, sometimes resulting in seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

New technology has also affected our circadian rhythms by restraining the natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin as a result of constant exposure to artificial blue lights from our phones, TVs, and computers.

Regular daily alternation of light and darkness is essential in order to maintain good quality sleep. Sunrise alarm clocks have “wind-down” features that encourage a healthy production of melatonin at night by mimicking a gradual sunset, while the “wake-up” cycles encourage the production of cortisol in the morning by simulating a natural and gradual sunrise that prepares you for wakefulness. The wake-up and wind-down features can be equally important in helping maintain a healthy sleep cycle.

How does a sunrise alarm-clock compare to a traditional alarm?

Many sunrise alarm clocks are equipped with all the features we all like in traditional alarm clocks — a radio or music player, custom or multiple alarms, and yes, even a sound alarm if you need it. The key difference is that sunrise alarm clocks use gentle light and sound to help you wake up before resorting to the louder noises that are typical of a standard alarm clock.

Waking up to the loud, obnoxious sound of a traditional alarm clock is not only unpleasant and irritating, but it’s also quite unhealthy. “If we train ourselves to wake up suddenly, with a jolt, this can become a problem for any other time we wake up in the night, making it hard to fall back asleep,” said Dimitriu.

That abrupt wake-up experience can also cause stress levels to suddenly increase, often aggravating long-term issues like chronic anxiety. Winter also advises waking up gently because sudden awakenings can cause sudden blood pressure surges, possibly leading to heart issues.

Your chances of waking up with sleep inertia — that debilitating groggy, drowsy feeling that occurs as a result of a sudden, often startling transition between sleep and wakefulness — also increase if you wake up to a traditional alarm clock. Sleep inertia makes it very difficult for some people to get out of bed, and often puts people in a bad mood for the rest of their day. “Gradual alarms (sound or light) are excellent solutions to wake people gradually,” said Dimitriu, since these softer alarms offer a gentler, more gradual and natural wake-up experience.

What features should I look for when choosing a sunrise alarm clock?

There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing a sunrise alarm clock. One very important aspect to consider is the brightness level of the lamp. If you’re a heavy sleeper you might need a sunrise alarm clock that has bright lights to effectively wake you up in the morning.

Another important factor is alarm sounds: most sunrise alarm clocks have several sound options and some (like the Casper Glow light) lack this feature completely. If you’re a heavy sleeper you may want to opt for a device with many sounds. Or, if you are a “snoozer,” you might want to consider a sunrise alarm clock that allows you to set multiple alarms like the Philips Smartsleep Connected, which offers up to 16 alarms just in case you like to hit snooze more than once.

Finally, consider your personal needs; if you’re uncomfortable operating smartphone-enabled technology, you may prefer a sunrise alarm clock with manual functions right on the machine. On the flip side, if you want a very custom experience, you may like a lamp that offers many different colors and sounds that are controlled through a phone app.

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