Waking up to the sound of a blaring alarm can be jarring, especially if you have to do so in pitch black. That’s why some people have turned to devices that mimic the arrival of daylight as a gentler way to stir from slumber. So-called sunrise or wake-up-light clocks typically start out with a dim light and then gradually brighten to full brightness in order to match your body’s circadian rhythms. If you have a particularly tough time waking up, you probably do still need an alarm, but the sunrise light should at least make it easier.
There are several products on the market that have this feature; some are alarm clocks, some are smart displays, while others are simply programmable lights. Some only have sunrise features, while others have sunset features too (where the lights gradually dim and go dark), which could help you get to sleep in the first place.
Sunrise and wake-up clocks
Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-up Light
Philips sells a whole range of sunrise alarm clocks, and the one with the most bells and whistles is the SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light. You can use a companion app to program your sunrise and sunset times as well as set different alarms for different days of the week. You can do that manually too, but the app makes it a lot easier. You can use the app for logging your sleep and wake times. The SmartSleep also offers several alarm sounds, customizable sunrise themes and a red-tinted light setting that’s more soothing than the default white light.
In addition, you’ll find specialized sunset features that can help you wind down before bed. The light can be set to gradually dim over time, and it comes with relaxation cues like breathing exercises and calming sounds, like rainfall and ocean waves. As a bonus, the SmartSleep HF3670 also has sensors for humidity, light and noise levels, and the app will let you know if you need to adjust them to achieve ideal sleeping conditions.
For a cheaper and more stripped-down option, consider Philips’ $100 Wake-Up Light HF3520. It lacks WiFi capabilities so there’s no companion app and it doesn’t have the extra relaxation settings of the SmartSleep, but it still includes that red-tinted light setting, along with similar sunrise and sunset features and a decent array of alarm sounds.
If getting to sleep is just as challenging as waking up, if not more so, you might want to consider the Hatch Restore, which brings a bunch of sleep-friendly features. It has Bluetooth and WiFi, which you can use to connect to a companion app. That app in turn lets you customize your sunrise and sunset routines as well as set different alarms for different days. On top of that, the Hatch Restore has several color lighting options that range from Warm White to Peach and Raspberry.
True to its name, the Restore has various wind-down features that could help you fall asleep more easily. It has over 31 sleep sounds to block unwanted noise, plus a library of over 50 meditations and eight sleep stories. The caveat here is that the meditations and stories aren’t free. Hatch will offer owners a free trial of the full library for six months, but it costs $5 a month or $50 a year thereafter. That said, if you wanted an all-in-one machine to help address your sleep and wake issues, the Hatch Restore might be worth a look.
Smart display clocks
Lenovo Smart Clock
Almost all smart displays have some kind of sunrise alarm feature, especially the ones that are designed to sit on your nightstand. The Lenovo Smart Clock is one of our favorites, even if it lacks many of the usual smart display features like the ability to play videos. That’s because it’s adorable, won’t take up a lot of space and it’s affordable, to boot. Plus, it comes with eight different clock faces, six alarm tones and you can smack the top of it to either snooze or dismiss the alarm. When enabled, the sunrise alarm will gradually brighten the display for 30 minutes before the set time.
Since it’s a Google-powered device, it also works with all the usual Google Assistant features like telling you the five-day weather forecast or your upcoming appointments. It surfaces reminders of future events plus offers to set alarms so you don’t miss them. You can use it to display your Google Photos and it works with other smart home devices you might own, like Philips Hue lights or a Nest Hello video doorbell.
Google Nest Hub
As mentioned, the Lenovo Smart Clock is really more of , well, a clock than a smart display. If you do want more of a typical smart display, the Google Nest Hub is a much better bet. It has all of the features of the Lenovo Smart Clock and then some. The screen is sharp and colorful, making it great for displaying photographs and for watching videos. The on-screen controls are also a lot more intuitive, with shortcuts to your smart home devices and your favorite YouTube videos.
The sunrise alarm on the Nest Hub is also more customizable. You can have the screen gradually brighten just like the Smart Clock, but you can also have it so that a soothing “pre-alarm” sound plays as the sunrise alarm begins. If you have smart lights installed, you can have those lights gradually brighten as well. Last but not least, you can adjust the sunrise alarm window anywhere from five to 30 minutes.
Amazon Echo Show 5
If you happen to use other Amazon products like Ring cameras or Alexa-powered microwave ovens, the Echo Show 5 might be a better choice. The screen is bright and colorful, it has a stylish streamlined design, and it can display photographs just like the Nest Hub. It can also play videos from sources such as Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, and it has a built-in browser for surfing the web. Unlike the Nest Hub, the Echo Show 5 does have a camera, which might be disconcerting if you don’t want a camera by your bedside. At the same time, this does mean the Echo Show 5 is capable of video calls, which the Nest Hub is not.
The Echo Show 5 works nicely as an alarm clock, with several clock faces and the ability to tap the top of it to hit snooze. There’s a sunrise alarm feature as well, which slowly brightens the display 15 minutes before the set time. Unfortunately, the sunrise feature on the Echo Show is a bit more limited than its rivals, as it only works when the alarm is set between 4am and 9 am. But if that works for you and you’re an Alexa fan, the Echo Show 5 is worth considering.
Other smart light choices
The Casper Glow is a unique lighting device that can be programmed via a companion app to brighten at specific times just like a sunrise clock, except, well, there’s no clock at all. Plus, there aren’t any speakers, so it can’t play alarm sounds either. Instead, it’s really more of a portable smart lamp. It can also be used as a late-night reading light before bed. (It’ll gradually dim over 30 minutes.)
Yet, the Glow does have several innovative features that make it stand out. The Glow is highly portable, and can be held easily in one hand. Turning it on or off is a matter of flipping it over. You can twist it clockwise or counterclockwise to adjust its brightness. At night you can lift it, give it a shake, and it’ll emit a soft glow that’s bright enough to guide you through a dark hallway. If you have two Casper Glow lights, you can have them synchronized to turn on or off at the same time. And, since it runs on rechargeable batteries, you can use it as emergency lights in the event of a blackout.
The Glow is probably not a good choice if you need more than just a bright light to wake you up. But If you already have an existing alarm clock, or you just prefer using your phone for the alarm, the Glow could be a nice addition to your nightstand.
Philips Hue smart lights
Programmable smart lights like the Philips Hue bulbs are another way to help you sleep and wake up a little more easily. Plus, certain white and color ambiance lights offer color temperatures that mimic natural light, which help you sleep more naturally. You can then set up routines within the companion app that will either slowly turn on the lights in the morning or gradually turn them off at night. Of course, the Philips Hue lights can be used in other lighting scenarios too; you can have them automatically come on at night or when you’re out of the house. Plus, Hue bulbs are compatible with nearly every smart assistant out there, so turning on or off the lights is as easy as telling Google, Alexa or Siri to do so.