That’s where sunrise alarms come in. These clocks aim to recreate natural dawns and purport to help ease you into the morning. We spent several months testing seven models, measuring each one’s quality of light and assessing the usefulness of its features. Our favorite is the Philips SmartSleep HF3520 Wake-Up Light(available at Amazon for $169.99) for its realistic sunrise light, high-quality speakers, and easy-to-learn interface. If you’re looking for a state-of-the-art sleep routine or a budget model sans bells and whistles, we have picks for you as well.
These are the best sunrise alarm clocks we tested, ranked in order:
Philips SmartSleep HF3520 Wake-Up Light
Philips SmartSleep HF3670/60 Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light
Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300
Jall Sunrise Alarm Clock
Homelabs Sunrise Alarm Clock
iHome Zenergy Dream Mini iZBT7
Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
The Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light is one of the pricier sunrise alarm clocks that we tested, and you can tell where most of the investment is: the light itself. This is what sold me and pushed this clock to the top of our list. Its frosted matte plastic produced one of the most realistic sunrises (and, likewise, sunsets), growing from a deep red into a bright, warm white over 30 minutes. It eased me into my mornings, always waking me up before the alarm chimed, and I felt noticeably more awake throughout the day.
The name, “SmartSleep,” is somewhat misleading, as this device lacks special features such as colorful lighting, breathing or meditation exercises, a plethora of soundscapes, and the ability to connect with other smart home gadgets. It’s on the minimalist side, with five nature-inspired sounds (that were pretty realistic, in my opinion) and a few small buttons around the top of the clock to set the alarm, get ready for bed, or listen to a built-in FM radio.
However, some of the fancy features that this device lacks aren’t necessarily helpful for sleep, nor are they always useful in general. The alarm excels in what it’s designed to do: simulate sunrise with a high quality light. That’s the real focus here, with 20 gorgeous brightness settings to personalize the intensity of your sunrise. As far as a bedtime routine, it offers a realistic, soothing sunset function (in essence, the sunrise in reverse) that can work as a reading light before your room fully darkens. You can control the settings with the device's simple, intuitive LED screen.
Our sleep writer, Lindsey Vickers, is cognizant about using electronics before bedtime, and liked that there was no need to fiddle with a mobile app. On the other hand, I can’t quite break the phone-before-bed habit, so I was fine with or without a connected app.
Something to note: The first alarm I received was a lemon. Fortunately, Philips’ support was able to quickly send a replacement.
Overall, for those who want a realistic sunrise and sunset, the Philips SmartSleep is our top choice. The light engulfed my room in a saturated glow that still felt extremely natural and woke me up feeling ready for the day.
When shopping on Amazon, there’s a decent chance you’ll come across the same exact sunrise alarm that's wrapped in different branding. When we selected a few affordable options, that’s what happened to us: The Jall Wake Up Light and the Titiroba Wake Up Light were identical. If a budget device appeals to you, buy the one you can find more easily.
I thoroughly enjoyed the sunset and sunrise simulation on both. Despite feeling on the cheap side, the light itself worked beautifully and had a range of light intensity choices; the product description says it's designed "especially for heavy sleepers." As with the Philips products, I found myself waking up slightly before the alarm tone. Besides the sun simulation, the light has seven colorful glows that I thought were a nice touch for creating ambiance.
During setup, I found that the buttons weren’t the most straightforward—you’ll definitely want to read the provided instructions. Additionally, the inexpensive price became evident when I played the alarm sound or FM radio. All three alarm tones—forest insect, wave sound, and creek sound—seemed pretty muffled and low quality. Not exactly the relaxing experience I was hoping for.
This model costs about the same amount regardless of the “brand” you choose. For the price, we think it’s a decent choice. Just know you get what you pay for in terms of quality—I’m not sure this would be a long-lasting piece for your bedroom.
Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light
For an even more all-encompassing bedside device, the Philips Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light offers some cool “smart” features that may entice you to spend additional cash. You’ll get a similar sunrise and sunset experience to our Best Overall pick, plus an intuitive touchscreen interface, a light-guided breathing exercise for mindfully winding down or starting your day, and a free, in-depth app, the Philips SleepMapper, that offers real-time data about your sleeping environment.
One major drawback: You won’t get the same light intensity that you’ll get with the SmartSleep Wake-Up Light. The doughnut design doesn’t produce as sun-drenched an experience as the Best Overall pick's dome shape. Still, the quality of the light itself was just as stunning. The simulated sunrise gradually shifted from a deep red into an orange, then a bright, warm white (and in reverse for the sunset function)—just not as brightly.
With the SmartSleep Connected, you can also choose among several sunrise color schemes (including "sunny day,” “Caribbean red,” and “Nordic white”), which emit different hues and tones. The SmartSleep Wake-Up Light only has one. It boils down to preference: one high-quality light mode, or several nearly-as-great modes. The alarm’s touchscreen controls are intuitive and the app is easy to navigate, both of which give you access to all of the alarm’s features.
What stands out most is that the device monitors the bedroom’s ambient environment—room temperature, humidity level, light level, and decibel level—and the app provides analysis and advice on changes that may improve sleep quality. This could be a helpful tool if you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep due to a potential environmental factor, such as a room that’s too warm for optimal sleep.
One small downside is that the setup process was more involved than others. I paired the alarm to my home’s Wi-Fi and the SleepMapper iPhone app, and it took a moment for the alarm to reconnect with both every night. Despite this minor flaw, I’d recommend the SmartSleep Connected to anyone who wants to learn more about their sleep and ways to potentially improve it. It’s well worth it if you’re looking for lofty features—as long as you’ll make good use of them.
I’m Felicity Warner, a senior staff writer for audience development at Reviewed, and a notorious night owl. I feel my most creative, most productive, and most energized in the evening hours—but that doesn’t translate well as someone with a 9-to-5 job. So, when the sleep team approached me with this project, I was beyond excited to give sunrise alarm clocks a whirl. I’ve always been intrigued by the beauty of morning routines, but once the alarm—er, alarms—sounds, I can’t get over my groggy, sluggish mood until my daily coffee hits.
As someone who is morning-averse and has never tried a sunrise alarm, I started with a blank slate. I was able to consider whether the alarms helped to improve my sleep cycle and energy levels throughout the day. Of course, there were plenty of folks on the Reviewed team to walk me through what to expect. Our sleep writer, Lindsey Vickers (who doesn’t wake up to light from this type of alarm at all), and lifestyle managing editor, Amy Roberts (who swears by her older-model Philips sunrise alarm), shared what makes for a good faux sunrise.
I conducted all sunrise alarm testing in my childhood bedroom, as I was visiting my parents in Florida. Thankfully, the room was pre-equipped with blackout curtains that block out virtually all sunlight (and Florida heat). These curtains helped to maintain an equal and fair testing setting, allowing the sunrise alarms to literally shine.
I explored all the features each device had to offer, including meditation or breathing exercises, sunset light therapy to lull me to sleep, and nature sounds to soothe me throughout the day. I then used each product for at least two nights—and mornings—to experience the wake-up light and accompanying alarm, trying out a new sound or light setting each time.
We wouldn’t go as far to suggest these sunrise alarms are light therapy devices, and we aren’t medical experts, but we still think that many people who use them stand to see great benefits. Even for those without certain medical conditions, these alarms can make waking up easier. The simulations work by emitting a light that gradually grows brighter—the light penetrates your eyelids and triggers the body’s natural wake-up response, making the process less jarring and easier than when you use something like an alarm tone.
Most average consumers can use and may benefit from dawn simulation. Studies show that dawn simulation can help to improve well-being, mood, and cognitive performance, all of which attribute to how we feel throughout the day.
There are plenty of options out there to choose from, many of which go beyond just a dawn simulation light—from colorful sunset modes to meditation exercises and bedtime sunset simulations.
Can Sunrise Alarm Clocks Improve Your Sleep?
As diurnal (a.k.a. not nocturnal) creatures, human beings operate on what’s known as a “circadian rhythm”—a set of physical, mental, and behavioral changes that occur in a 24-hour cycle. It’s largely based on the light and dark patterns of the sun that govern our natural biological clock.
When this natural rhythm is thrown off by external factors, such as jet lag or blue light-emitting electronics, functions in the body like hormone release, digestion, and body temperature can all be affected. Noticeable external signs of a disrupted circadian rhythm may include difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, and, in serious cases, depression or anxiety.
In the modern world, working hours often dictate sleep schedules and constant access to electronics makes it difficult to avoid blue light. It’s never been easier to stray from your body’s biological clock, which is where sunrise alarms can come in. We wouldn’t go as far as to say these will fix your circadian rhythm even if you continue to use phones at night, but morning sunlight exposure is key to maintaining the natural cycle—and these devices might help.
Who Are Sunrise Alarms Best For?
Because sunrise alarm clocks gradually wake you up to light, they should be far less jarring than the blare of a sound alarm (though these are often punctuated with a sound alarm, in case the light doesn’t stir you). If you sleep in a curtain-darkened room or you have to get up before the actual sunrise, a sunrise alarm clock is worth a try.
A sunset simulation function may also help you fall asleep and wind down for the night. This may be useful if you spend the hours after actual sunset in front of screens or in bright rooms (so, most of us) and especially for those who live in more northern areas of the U.S.—like Reviewed staffers near our Cambridge, Massachusetts, headquarters—where the sun sets as early as 4:30 p.m. during the winter.
Many brands may independently test their products—Philips, for example, claims its SmartSleep Sleep and Wake-Up Light are “clinically proven to work.” But this claim is complicated, given it’s likely based on tests the company commissioned. If you’re seeking a sunrise alarm product to treat a sleep health problem or mood disorder, it’s important to first talk to your healthcare provider.
Other Sunrise Alarm Clocks We Tested
I’d contend that the Hatch Restore is the most aesthetically pleasing of the lot we tested, all the way down to the sleek packaging it arrives in. This alarm clock is much smaller than some of the others, which may be a great option for someone with limited bedside real estate.
The Hatch offers an incredibly customizable experience for waking up and falling asleep, all of which is controlled via its smartphone app. The first time I used the alarm, I was overwhelmed by the number of choices and combinations available. In addition to working as a sunrise alarm, the Hatch Restore can also help users implement a nightly routine. It comes loaded with a variety of nature and white noise soundscapes, bedtime stories, guided meditations, 22 sunrise and sunset color gradients, customizable brightness and hue intensity, and more.
Despite having plenty of colorways, the light bulb itself didn’t seem to totally mimic the sunrise or sunset—rather it was just a pretty light to fall asleep or wake up to. Other brands like Philips seemed to better replicate natural sunlight and the effects of rising and setting, which is worth considering if you want to buy a sunrise alarm.
When our sleep writer, Lindsey Vickers, reviewed the Hatch Restore, she complained that in her month of testing the sunrise never woke her up—it was always the alarm chime. I had no problem waking up to the light before the alarm tone. Perhaps I’m a lighter sleeper, or my bedroom is so dark that I was extra sensitive to light. But if you’re a deep sleeper with a semi-lit room, it may not be the best bet.
One caveat: There's a $49.99 yearly subscription to access to the majority of Hatch’s meditation and soundscape options. However, you can enjoy a free trial of the subscription for six months.
Despite not ranking as our top pick, the Hatch Restore was one of my favorite sunrise alarms to use. I loved its sleek design, convenience, and customization. But, all that personalization could come with an extra cost and its light bulb wasn’t the best in its class.
UK-based brand Lumie specializes in SAD light therapy products, wake-up lights, and skincare lights with an emphasis on scientific research.
I thoroughly enjoyed using its Bodyclock Shine, despite limited lighting options. As the “sun” began to rise, I pleasantly awoke before the alarm sounded, and found the quality of the bulb almost as good as Philips. While the Lumie only has one color scheme, you can adjust the brightness, and when you run it in reverse, the light mimics a sunset, shifting from a bright white to a pink and a deep red. While the light woke me up with no problem, I’m not certain it's as realistic as the Philips SmartSleep. The Lumie lacks some of those more natural yellow and orange hues, though its dome shape efficiently diffused light across my room.
Similar to the Hatch Restore, this alarm clock ranks high in aesthetics with its bright LED display and a decorative cloth base covering the speakers. The clock itself felt lightweight—almost cheap—but nothing I’d be afraid of breaking anytime soon. The Bodyclock Shine 300 features 15 sounds—including some unique ones, like “Kitten Purring” (yes, just calm, purring noise) and “Café” (which sounds like a bustling coffee shop).
I had difficulty with the snooze button the first few mornings. I gingerly tapped the device's bulb, but the alarm didn’t stop. It wasn’t until I tapped it with more force that the snooze function finally kicked in. If you’re anything like me, the idea of slapping an expensive device too hard comes with some anxiety—maybe it’s part of the learning curve.
As another inexpensive choice, the Homelabs alarm clock offers a sleek appearance with a circular LED touch-screen and surrounding light. It looks much more expensive than it is. The setup was among the easiest, with only a few physical, back-lit buttons that took no time to learn.
The alarm clock’s bulb features seven color schemes you can assign to sunrise mode, sunset mode, or both. The default is a soft yellow, and the other options are fluorescent neons like green and pink. These are great for setting a lighthearted mood, and I could see the feature being loved by teens.
The device also has six sounds—some nature noises, a loud alarm tone, and a few nondescript music clips. The seventh “sound” is no sound at all, so you can choose to let the clock wake you up with just the light itself (which I wouldn’t recommend if you need to wake up at a specific time).
For about $25, this is a decent option—just be aware that you get what you pay for. You can tell the light bulb quality is poor. It doesn’t mimic any sort of sunrise or sunset, as the brightening and dimming effects are not gradual or smooth. A few of the color settings also produced a bothersome high-pitched ringing noise when the light was illuminated.
The sound quality was perhaps the worst of the bunch—each tone sounded muffled and distorted. I’m also not sure how long the device would last based on both the bulb quality and speaker build. But as far as budget devices go, it will do the job of waking you up and creating fun light effects, if not a realistic sunrise.
For its virtual sunrises and sunsets, the iHome device has several color combinations, including a rainbow blend and a blue, red, and orange gradient. The device also offers some fun features, such as a guided meditation with a soothing light display. Additionally, you can use the device as a Bluetooth speaker, so I was able to play my music from my phone when I was winding down at night—definitely a plus in my book.
The actual sunrise and sunset lights, however, didn’t stack up against the others in this list. At its brightest, the light had the dimmest glow of the bunch, as it shines through the mesh that covers the speaker. This created a lovely glow, but I’m not sure the light helped wake in the morning—rather, it was the alarm sound that roused me.
If you want an alarm clock with some cool bonus features, the iHome is a solid choice. However, if you’re looking solely for the sunrise function, we think you’re better off opting for one with a higher-quality lamp.
Felicity Warner is a Boston-based writer, covering all things timely and trending with Reviewed's Audience Development team. In her spare time, Felicity enjoys thrift and vintage shopping and perfecting the art of latte-making at home.
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