This light claims to help you wake up—but does it work?
The Hatch Restore beats the Phillips Wake-up Alarm in features and price, but isn't perfect.
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The Hatch Restore is brimming with promise and potential: It’s a bedside lamp, a sound machine, and a sunrise alarm all in one compact device. I was beyond excited to receive it, and after a couple weeks of using it, I feel it’s a great option for people looking to purchase a sunrise alarm—if you like its features and think they’re worth the premium price.
What is the Hatch Restore and how do you set it up?
Hatch is a company whose aim is to make everyone’s night better, from infants to adults, through the use of technology. The Hatch Restore is Hatch’s newest sleep technology. Its main selling points for its $130 price tag are the nightly routine function, which is supposed to help you structure your evening to wind down before sleep, and its sunrise wake up light alarm, which aims to ease you awake without the abrupt blaring of an audio alert by a mimicking a natural sunrise.
The Hatch Restore comes in a box that cradles the light while it’s in transit. When you open it, you don’t find instructions—just the light, a cable, and card that directs you to the online user manual. Online manuals are a great way to limit paper waste, but as a consumer I found this one irksome. I had to download the Hatch Restore app in order to set up the device, then toggle between the instructions on my phone web browser and the Hatch app, which dragged everything out unnecessarily. Switching to Safari to read instructions severed the bluetooth connection, and the device was slow to reconnect each time. It felt like a lot of time for something as simple as setting up a clock.
How does the Hatch Restore work?
The Hatch Restore has just five “buttons,” if you can call them that. They’re more like small indents that are sensitive to touch: a "routine" button on the top of the device, and two on either side that increase or decrease the volume and brightness, respectively. Though the divots look suspiciously simple, they are surprisingly responsive. Aside from these controls, everything else happens on the app.
The Hatch Restore is preloaded with a default routine that provides users a good sampler of what it offers and can be adjusted via the app to fit their needs. The routine begins when users tap the top "button," which turns on a reading light for as long as the user wants. It progresses as you tap the top, next to a 10-minute guided meditation session, and finally to your selected white noise track. Users can choose from a variety of more traditional staticky sounds (i.e. white noise), and nature audio, like the crickets and rain. The sound plays until your alarm goes off, you tap the device to quiet it, or after a duration of time you select the app.
To set an alarm on the clock, you open the app, choose a time, decide whether it’s recurring (you have the option to select from every weekday, so you could even set an alarm for just Wednesday and Saturday, for example). You can select an alarm sound from 36 options and, if you opt for the sunrise mode, choose from 10 color schemes that use an ombre effect to transition between different hues of light, or from an intense orange to lighter shade. You can’t change anything about the alarm using the buttons on the clock itself, which may prove frustrating for people who prefer to keep phones out of their bedrooms.
In the app, you can customize the nightly routine with up to 10 unique steps, from meditations to sleep stories, white noise, and light colors (to accompany audio or on their own) in whatever order you prefer. Segments, like the white noise and reading light, can automatically turn off after a set window of time, or run until you tap the top button on top of the Restore.
The length of the meditation is determined by the recording, but you can skip all or part of the meditation—or any piece of your routine, for that matter—by tapping the top of the Restore. You can also adjust the preset volume of the meditation and white noise or change the brightness of the light associated using the corresponding side buttons on the device itself.
What are the Hatch Restore’s meditation offerings?
The selection of sleep audio (including meditations and sleep stories) is broad at approximately 50 meditations, and eight sleep stories—plus Hatch gives new Restore owners free access to the full library of meditations for six months. After the trial period, users must pay $4.99 per month or $49.99 for a year to access the full library. The price is comparable to other meditation apps, like our favorite Headspace and Calm, which come in at $69.99 and $47.99 respectively, annually. Of course, those apps can be used anywhere and with headphones, whereas the meditations on the Restore can’t be severed from the device.
How did I test the Hatch Restore?
I tested the Restore how any person would: I used it, and the accompanying app, for just over a month. I tried the alarm clock features, including the sunrise alarm and various sounds, a handful of the meditations, used various light colors, and played around with the white noise library. I also considered the sound quality at different volumes, and most importantly, the light’s overall functionality and how it fit into my day-to-day life and routine.
What’s good about the Hatch Restore?
At about the size of a small dinner plate or salad plate, the Hatch Restore is low-profile and follows the minimalist, sleek, white, and clean aesthetic. It’s well designed and I enjoyed how well it fit in with my bedroom furniture. The light’s brightness surprised me, given how small and unobtrusive the Restore seems.
The light is customizable, and I mean really customizable. It can shed light in a plethora of 22 colors, from turquoise to peach to purple. In the app, you can view colors by theme and usage, such as “daytime,” “nighttime,” and even “pastel,” which makes it easy to find something that suits you.
Users can have up to 10 unique steps in their nightly routine. This provides a lot of flexibility and customizability, so if you want to have five different shades of light which sequentially dim for 30 minutes, that’s an option. You can also add multiple meditation sessions, or a sleep story and meditation if you use both to help you doze off. When I first tested the Restore, users were limited to just three steps in their nightly routine. The updated version provides far more flexibility and improves the device’s practicality and function tremendously.
The option to have 10 steps also makes it easy for you to add three or four meditations you like, and cycle through them throughout the week by tapping the top of the device to progress their routine until they reach the session they prefer on any given night. (Then again, it will queue up the meditations in the order that you programmed them, so if you’re feeling extra lazy and don’t want to reach over and tap to get to the next one or the one after that, and so on, this could feel tedious.) But, in my opinion, it’s better than listening to the same session again and again, which was an issue with the first iteration of the app.
New users have unlimited access to the meditations for the first six months, and the breadth and quality of the offerings is solid. The app has an array of meditation types—from body scans, wherein you sequentially assess and relax different parts of the body, to breathing exercises to visualizations, which transport listeners to a different place. The selection of sleep stories is smaller than other heavy-hitting apps, like Calm and Headspace, but the library of sleep-specific meditations far outpaces what’s available on Headspace (though Calm has more in this category, too). The cost to maintain full access following the trial subscription is not insignificant (especially after paying for the device itself), but may be worth it for some.
The Restore also has a library of 36 white-noise sounds. These include light rain, sea wind, bird song, and wind chimes. I didn’t enjoy a number of the sounds, but the breadth of the selection compensated, and eventually I found a sound with chirping crickets, titled “Night’s Tranquility,” which I grew to really enjoy.
One of my favorite features of the Restore was the ability to fine-tune the digital clock display. You can control the type of clock (military or 12-hour), the display brightness, and even the times of day that it’s visible. I set the Restore to turn the digital clock off every night between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. That way, if I woke up at night, I couldn’t see the time and feel stressed or as though it wasn’t worth going back to sleep.
What’s bad about the Hatch Restore?
I tested two Restores in writing this review. The first, unfortunately, was a lemon with several mechanical glitches, but the second worked beautifully. Still, I have some issues with the overall functionality and device’s design.
I found one of the most significant features, the alarm, frustrating at times. My sleep schedule tends to fluctuate here and there, so some days I want to sleep an extra 10 to 20 minutes. Invariably, I forgot to change the alarm on the Hatch Restore app, and would set my phone alarm accordingly (which I use as a backup) only to be woken up by the Hatch earlier than I’d hoped. I hated this at first but it actually proved nice in the long term because it made me wake up at the same time each day, simply because I was too lazy to edit the morning alarm. Also, for some reason, the sunrise alarm didn’t do it for me. In just over a month of using the Restore daily, I was never woken by the “sunrise” alone, instead it was the alarm noise—I chose chimes—that ultimately made me stir each morning. That said, when winter rolls around and I’m waking up in the dark, the sunrise alarm could be a different story.
It was sometimes difficult to find the small sensor button that stops and starts routines (and turns off the morning alarm), so in the morning I regularly pawed at the nightstand and light trying to turn the thing off. If you’re one of those people who springs up and out of bed everyday then this might not be a bother, but I like to read the news in bed for a few minutes before I get up, so fumbling to turn the light off wasn’t a daily highlight.
The Restore’s overall sound quality when playing sleep sounds, as well as meditations and stories wasn’t great or terrible. I initially used the rain sound, which I cranked up quite loudly to block out other noises (like my backyard neighbors whose voices carry outside my bedroom window) and help me sleep. But I found that when I dialed up the volume, the sound quality diminished and it took on an eyebrow-raising artificiality. The cricket sound, which became my favorite, is similar to the rain noise in that it needs to be quite loud to even come close to drowning out external noises. And I found some of the sounds just unpleasant—“calm ocean,” for example, didn’t sound “calm" at all, as the water was loud and grainy and really more "rough."
With a light-up device taking up prime real estate on your nightstand, you’d think you could just use it as a nightstand lamp. Unfortunately, the Restore light doesn’t have a simple on-off button, which I found annoying. To turn it on, you have two choices: Hold down the brightness-up button until it comes up to your desired illumination (and hold the opposite one to turn it off), or tap the top, which triggers your nighttime routine to begin. If you do that (which feels more intuitive to me), you have three less-than-smooth options to turn it off: Tap the top button through the entire routine until the light goes out, hold down the dimmer until it’s off, or hold down the button, which shuts off the routine (and the light). Maybe I’m just lazy, but I just wanted a single button to turn the light on and off, like a normal, basic light. (Perhaps I am too accustomed to my $15 pull-cord lamp from Target that the Restore temporarily replaced on my nightstand.)
It’s also a slow-ish process to open the app, wait for it to connect to the device—you can’t edit your routine or access anything in the app without a connection to the Restore—and choose a meditation. This is especially true when compared to meditation apps, but it’s a tough comparison when the Hatch and apps are trying to accomplish such different things.
Is the Hatch Restore worth it?
In short: It’s great for a select few. I think the concept is nifty, and for people with the budget and the desire for a structured routine and especially a light-up alarm clock, it might be amazing, especially as winter months approach and outdoor light decreases. After all, it costs roughly the same as the Philips Wake-up alarm clock that one of my colleagues can’t live without and that has fewer features, with no programmable bedtime routine function at all.
But for me, the feature I’ll miss most is crickets. And no, I don’t mean “crickets” as in nothing, I mean the white noise track that made my Boston apartment sound more like a remote cabin where those woodland insects chirp through the night. That said, I can find chirping cricket tracks elsewhere, like on white noise apps.
The other feature I’ll miss is the meditations. Once I was able to add more steps to my nightly routine and vary the meditations from night to night, I enjoyed using the device significantly more. Of course, this is only free for your first six months, and for me, those features don’t warrant the cost of the Restore.
Interestingly, the Hatch Baby Rest+, which is marketed as a smart clock very similar to the Restore but geared towards kids, seems to have more features and at a cheaper price. Sure, the app interface isn’t as “adult-y,” offering toddler lullabies, but it would be great to have a smart clock I could control with Alexa, a feature on the Hatch Rest+ but not on the Restore. According to the Rest+ website, the Alexa feature can be used to change “lights, sounds, and more,” without touching the device or using your phone. Our writer who tried the Rest+ said adults could use it, though it would likely be too childish for most. But she adored it for her seven-year-old daughter, who has used it for about a year.
Incorporating Alexa into the Hatch Restore, which seems possible given it’s on the baby version, would solve the issue of not being able to quickly and easily switch the light on and off, and make it easier to turn off the alarm each morning. I’m hopeful that future versions will include Alexa integration, as it would have improved my experience.
For me, I’d hold out for future versions of the Hatch Restore, which I anticipate will be even more practical and easier to use. But if you have the money to spend and the current features appeal to you, you may fall in love … or at least fall asleep faster.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.