- 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
- Best alarm clock overall: The Loftie
- Best alarm clock for a gentle wake up: Philips Smartsleep Connected
- Best alarm clock for heavy sleepers: Emerson SmartSet
- Best projector alarm clock: Magnasonic Projection-Temp-Connection
- Best minimalist alarm clock: Jall Wood Alarm Clock
- Best alarm clock for waking up to music: iHome iBT29BC Bluetooth Color Changing Dual Alarm Clock
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
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
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.
The best alarm clock for heavy sleepers
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 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
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
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
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.
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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