Hate getting jolted awake by the blare of a panic-inducing alarm sound every morning? A sunrise alarm clock could be the alternative wake-up call you’ve been looking for. These devices use a warm-tinted light that slowly brightens like a sunrise to wake you up at a specific time. There’s also some science that suggests you may feel more refreshed and alert after starting your morning with a gradual glow rather than a metallic clamor. (In retrospect, this probably isn’t all that shocking.)
To figure out which sunrise alarm clock deserves a space on your nightstand, I tested five of the most popular options for a few days and nights. The Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-up Light HF3650 proved to be the best one of the bunch. Its realistic sunrise simulation and light-guided breathing exercises led to better mornings and bedtimes. Plus, its ultramodern design made me feel like I had stepped into the future.
A sunrise alarm clock this good comes at a pretty steep price. The good news is that several less expensive options also scored well in our tests.
The best sunrise alarm clocks, ranked:
- Philips SmartSleep Sleep and Wake-up Light HF3650
- Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light HF3520
- Casper Glow Light
- Hatch Restore
- hOmeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock
The Best Sunrise Alarm Clock
Philips SmartSleep Sleep and Wake-up Light HF3650
- Sunrise alarm clock with personalized wake-up and wind-down routine
- 2-year warranty
- Cool, futuristic design
- Realistic sunrise simulation
- Extra battery in case of power outage
- Might be too large on some nightstands
At nearly $180, this sunrise alarm clock immediately brought out the skeptic in me. I could never imagine spending that amount of money on something to get me out of bed in the morning—until I had the chance to try it myself. Between the ultra-easy setup, futuristic design, refined speaker, and downright gorgeous sunrise simulation, this sunrise alarm clock converted me into a fan after just a couple of days. I get it now—and I can see myself not only using this clock daily, but also gifting one to all my favorite people.
The size of the alarm clock (its only major drawback after its high price tag) was noticeable right off the bat. It came in a much larger box than other sunrise alarm clocks I tried and is about the size of a desk fan, so it took up a lot of real estate on my small nightstand. But I’m a sucker for good design—both aesthetic and technical—and this baby is cool. The glossy white device has a distinctive doughnut shape that feels like it was plucked from the set of Star Trek. The rubber feet on the base keep the 2-pound clock stable (even if you get a little aggressive when turning off the alarm). And I loved how the display lights were instantly responsive to the ambient brightness level in my room, automatically dimming and brightening when I turned my bedside lamp on and off.
I barely used the instruction booklet to set up this clock. Once I plugged it in, it lit up and displayed “Hello” in several languages (cute!). I was then able to set the time and my “wake-up profile” (or the light and sound that would get me going in the morning) by tapping intuitive icons on the display (the bell shape clearly indicated an alarm, and so on).
The clock allows you to choose the maximum brightness level for your alarm’s sunrise, ranging from a barely perceptible orangey hint of a glow at level 1 to a white-gold radiance that reminded me of a tanning bed (sans the skin damage) at level 25. I chose level 17, which felt bright enough to wake me up without making me wish I had a pair of sunglasses on. I decided to leave the duration of the sunrise to the standard 30 minutes (meaning it begins 30 minutes before you’re supposed to wake up and peaks at your chosen time), but the clock gives you the option for sunrises between 5 and 40 minutes long, adjustable in five-minute increments.
You can also choose a sound to accompany your alarm. I was impressed with the quality of the audio as I sampled the seven meditative choices (think: birds chirping in the forest or singing bowls). Each track felt really clear, full, and dynamic. If you’re not into those tunes, you can opt for the FM radio for a more old-school wake-up call, or turn off the sounds completely.
As much as I enjoyed the sounds, they ultimately played no role in my morning routine with this clock. The light alone gave me a mild wake-up about midway through the sunrise cycle, so I was able to turn it off before the sound was scheduled to play. I tend to be super groggy in the early a.m., but much of that fatigue dissolved before I was fully aware I was awake. The egg yolk-colored glow felt gentle on my eyes. And while I didn’t immediately jump out of bed, I didn’t linger under the covers as long as usual. It was the closest thing I ever experienced to feeling like a morning person.
For comparison purposes, I watched the sunrise simulation while I was fully awake later in the day, with my window shades drawn. The warm tones and smooth-as-butter automatic adjustment from dim to bright on this clock felt like the closest thing you could get to a real sunrise from an artificial light.
In addition to a superb sunrise simulation, this clock has a few other features that won me over. I loved that you can touch the top of the device to activate the “midnight light” (a dim orange light, akin to a nightlight), which is just enough light to help you get around in the dark. The clock can help you wind down at bedtime with its RelaxBreathe feature. It uses your choice of light or relaxing sounds to guide you through a belly breathing breathwork technique for relaxation, and hopefully lull you into sleep. It was also the only clock I tested that has a built-in USB input to charge your phone and an aux input to listen to music or guided meditations from another device.
The bells and whistles of this device, combined with its sleek design and gorgeous sunrise, earned it the top spot in our rankings of sunrise alarm clocks. It has a 4.3-star rating on Amazon, and I think it would be even higher if the price dropped a bit. (Pro tip: Keep your eyes peeled for sales—we saw this clock dip below $150 on Cyber Monday.) Even though it’s worth a splurge, this alarm clock may still be out of budget for some folks. The good news is that Philips has incorporated many of the same core features in a less expensive SmartSleep clock (HF3520), so consider that option if you can’t stomach spending quite this much on a wake-up call.
Are Sunrise Alarm Clocks Healthy?
Based on our research, we’ve concluded that sunrise alarm clocks can be healthy. A variety of research conducted over the last 20 years shows that these devices may help reduce grogginess in the morning and help us feel like we got a better night’s sleep.
Light plays a big role in our NIH—National Institute of General Medical Sciences “Circadian Rhythms” View Source , or the body’s natural processes to keep us awake and help us sleep at the right times over a 24-hour cycle. It’s especially sensitive to light in the morning. Getting a blast of morning sunshine on your face tells the body that it’s time to wake up and become alert. It also starts an CDC “Effects of Light” View Source , helping you fall asleep earlier in the evening.
But it’s not just UV-laden sunlight that can influence our sleep-wake cycle. Research from 2003 found that “dawn simulation” (which is provided by sunrise alarm clocks) PubMed Central “Effect of simulated dawn on quality of sleep – a community-based trial” View Source through the night and reduce sleep disturbance. Its findings were echoed in research from 2010, which found that PubMed.gov “Effects of artificial dawn on subjective ratings of sleep inertia and dim light melatonin onset” View Source (those feelings of grogginess, fatigue, and disorientation we tend to feel just after waking up) after using an alarm clock with artificial dawn for two weeks.
Another study published that same year also found that people who experienced artificial dawn in the last 30 minutes of sleep experienced a PubMed.gov “Effects of artificial dawn on sleep inertia, skin temperature, and the awakening cortisol response” View Source than those who had simply flicked on the lights after waking up. And a small, yet more recent study from 2014 found that exposure to light from a dawn simulation device during the last 30 minutes of sleep can Springer “Effects of dawn simulation on markers of sleep inertia and post-waking performance in humans” View Source , as well as cognitive and physical performance after waking up.
The gentle wake-up you experience from a sunrise alarm clock may offer health benefits, too. A small study from 2015 found that men who used a dawn simulation light both 30 minutes before and after waking up experienced ScienceDirect “Dawn simulation light: a potential cardiac events protector” View Source than those who had an abrupt shift from dark to light in the morning.
Still, even though artificial light can play a positive role in sleep, some early research on animals shows that PubMed.gov “Colour as a signal for entraining the mammalian circadian clock” View Source . So it’s possible that those cheap, gimmicky sunrise alarm clocks with lurid colors might not work quite as well as the more sophisticated options out there, but nothing’s conclusive yet.
The Nessie Rating: Healthy
We can’t say for sure whether they’ll be everyone’s magic bullet for better mornings. But because a growing body of research is showing promising results and the devices don’t pose major risks (other than a higher credit card balance), we think a sunrise alarm clock could be a welcome addition to the nightstand of anyone who needs a more refreshing wake-up call.
Are Sunrise Alarm Clocks Worth It?
A sunrise alarm clock is definitely a worthwhile addition to your nightstand. These devices have a light that gradually brightens in a way that simulates the sunrise, typically starting about a half hour before your desired wake-up time and peaking the moment you’re supposed to get out of bed. A growing body of research shows that exposure to a simulated sunrise before waking up can help you feel less groggy, more alert, and generally more rested in the morning. And in the dark of winter, who couldn’t use an extra dose of sunlight (simulated or otherwise)?
If you’re worried about whether a light can actually wake you up from a deep sleep, the backup audio alarm on most of these clocks should quell your fears. Every sunrise alarm clock woke me up solely with light about halfway through its 30-minute cycle, though. It was a noticeably more pleasant experience—even when I needed to get going at 4:30 a.m. for a flight.
The only downside is that the best alarm clocks can be pricey ($100+). With that said, significantly cheaper options are out there. While they’re not as polished, they’ll get the job done.
How We Found the Best Sunrise Alarm Clocks
Meet Your Guinea Pig
I’m Joni Sweet. I’ve been covering health and wellness as a writer and editor for major publications for more than 10 years. My work is in SELF, Health, Prevention, Forbes, Healthline, mindbodygreen, Greatist, and dozens of other publications. “Morning person” is the last phrase I’d ever use to describe myself, so I’m always looking for ways to make waking up in the a.m. a little less jarring.
Our Testing Process
I read around a half-dozen reviews in mainstream publications to see which sunrise alarm clocks may be worth testing. After making sure there were options at a variety of price points, I noticed six stood out—three of which were from Philips. That felt like too many to test from one brand, so after eliminating the one that seemed to be the least popular among the bunch, I was left with five finalists. The Nessie ordered the two Philips options, Casper, and hOmelabs, and Hatch sent us one to test.
Testing was pretty straightforward. For each one, I went through the setup process, noting any difficulties that popped up, then left it on my nightstand for two to three days. I used the sunrise alarm and sound function (when available) on the clocks to wake up in the morning and paid particular attention to how I felt. Since I usually woke up midway through the sunrise cycle, I also ran the simulated sunrises again in a dark room later in the day so I could get the full experience.
If the clocks came with other features (like sunsets, relaxation tools, and night lights), I tested those, too, but they were a secondary focus of the testing process. I primarily focused on whether each clock could reliably wake me up in a pleasant way and if I enjoyed having them on my nightstand day after day.
Finally, I took a close look at the instruction manuals and online product listings for each clock. I noted tech specs and any other important information, like whether the clock came with a backup battery. My power goes out every once in a while, so if that happened, I wanted to ensure I could depend on each clock.
For more on how we found the best sunrise alarm clocks, read the test notes.
The Sunrise Alarm Clock Buying Guide
A sunrise alarm clock is for anyone who wants a gentle alternative to a traditional alarm sound to wake up on time. Many of these devices come with additional features, like sunsets and relaxing music to wind down before bed, that can help promote healthier sleep and overall wellness. They’re particularly nice to use if you don’t have much natural light in your home or when it’s dark and cloudy outside. Plus, a sunrise alarm clock can be a thoughtful gift for the holidays.
Which Features Matter Most in a Sunrise Alarm Clock?
- Light quality: Clocks that mimic the sunrise authentically make for a more pleasant to wake-up. Unnatural light colors may also have unintended effects on your circadian rhythm, but more research is needed in this area.
- Audio alarm: Many sunrise alarm clocks include a conventional audio alarm. This offers peace of mind that you’ll have something else to wake you up, if for some reason you’re still snoozing at the end of the sunrise simulation.
- Size and style: The clock will take up a prominent space on your nightstand, so you’ll want to find a size that makes sense and a style you enjoy looking at every day.
- Backup battery: Regardless of whether it has a simulated sunrise, every alarm clock should have a built-in battery to provide backup power in case of an electricity outage.
- Price: Expect to spend $100-$150 for a great sunrise alarm clock. Cheaper options are out there, but they’re not usually very good.
Do Sunrise Alarm Clocks Work?
Take it from me, sunrise alarm clocks absolutely work! I often found I was fully awake at the halfway point of the 30-minute sunrise simulation. It’s a lot more pleasant than just hearing a shrill alarm ring, too.
Do Sunrise Alarm Clocks Work for Heavy Sleepers?
Heavy, deep sleepers may want to set the sunrise to its maximum brightness level to boost the chances that they’ll wake up, at least for the first week or so as you’re getting used to it. Many of these clocks include the option to set a traditional alarm sound as well, just in case you sleep through the sunrise.
Should I Read the Instructions for My Sunrise Alarm Clock?
Some sunrise alarm clocks can be intuitive to set up without reading the manual, but I think it’s worth perusing the instructions. You may learn about a few useful features you didn’t realize were available on your device. And you’ll likely come across some chuckle-inducing warnings, like this gem from page 4 of the hOmeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock manual: “For your own sanity, plug this clock in somewhere accessible.”
Other Sunrise Alarm Clocks To Consider
Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light HF3520
- Simulated sunrise alarm clock with sunset for winding down
- Realistic sunrise and sunset
- Great audio
- No backup battery
- Confusing to set up
If you’re looking for a high-end sunrise alarm clock that’s almost as awesome as our top pick, but don’t want to spend three figures, the Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light HF3520 is the one to get.
The quality of its core features—the sunrise, sunset, and audio sounds—is just as good in the HF3650, even though they’re slightly less adjustable. The brightness of the display automatically adjusts in response to the light in your bedroom, which makes the clock feel high-end. You can press a button to turn on the light at your desired brightness—perfect if you need a nightlight to help you get around in the dark. And like the other similar clocks from Philips, this one has been shown to help the vast majority of people get out of bed more easily, according to independent research. I genuinely felt refreshed in the morning! Considering the mid-range price, it’s no wonder this is the brand’s best-selling sunrise alarm clock.
This sunrise alarm clock fell short in a few key areas, though. Its oblong megaphone shape felt too bulky, even though it’s slightly smaller than the more expensive Philips option. It took up a lot of space on my nightstand and made things feel cluttered. It was less smooth to set up than the HF3650. I frequently needed to flip through the instruction manual and go back through menu options several times to set it up the way I wanted to.
The clock comes with the option to see a 90-second demonstration of the sunrise brightness and sound you chose for your alarm, but for some reason, it would only play static from the FM radio, not the meditative bell track I selected. The clock does not come with the RelaxBreathe feature—I missed it, but it certainly wasn’t a major drawback. (If I’d never gotten to try it out, I probably wouldn’t have missed it.) What was a big disappointment, though, was a lack of backup battery for the alarm. I felt I wouldn’t be able to rely on this clock if I needed to wake up early for something important.
Even though this sunrise alarm clock isn’t perfect, it’s a budget-friendly way to get the high-quality sunrise simulation and audio of our top spot at a significantly lower cost. And considering this clock has earned an impressive 4- or 5-star rating from more than 10,000 reviewers on Amazon—garnering an average of 4.4 stars—it’s something you’ll probably love, too. But be mindful of the lack of a backup battery and set an additional alarm on another device if you absolutely must wake up at a specific time for a can’t-miss appointment.
Casper Glow Light
- Portable wireless lamp that brights and dims
- Can be used as sunrise alarm clock through an app
- Sleek, compact design
- Light dims or brightens when you twist the device
- Can be moved from room to room
- Not very customizable
- No sound option
- Setup wasn’t smooth
I like the Casper Glow Light, but whether or not it’s a true alarm clock is up for debate. The pill-shaped device’s primary function seems to be to provide a pleasant, ambient glow that’s either stagnant, or mimics a sunrise or sunset. Its dreamy radiance almost resembles the warm light from a candle flame or a jar filled with fairy lights, setting the right atmosphere for a calm evening or morning. No need to fumble around with tons of menus (there are none on the device itself). You can turn the sunset feature on or off by flipping the device over, adjust how bright it is by placing your hand on the top and twisting the lamp, wiggle it to turn on a low light, and press the button on the top or bottom base to pause the sunset. It’s intuitive and fun to play with.
If you do want to use the lamp’s sunrise feature to wake you up, you’ll need to connect the device to the free Casper Glow app via Bluetooth. From there, you can program the sunrise to occur in the 30 minutes leading up to a chosen time. It made for an easy, gentle wake-up for me, although I wish the app would have allowed me to adjust the duration of the sunrise and the peak brightness for a more customized experience. I preferred using the Casper Glow Light as a reading light I could easily carry from the couch to the bedroom, a mood light, and a night light—these features alone make it worth having in your home. But I wasn’t confident that the sunrise would always wake me up, so I would have liked an audio component just in case.
As much as I ended up appreciating the Casper Glow Light, it made a bad first impression on me. The brand’s promise of an easy set-up was not my experience whatsoever. The light did not turn on right out of the box, so I placed it on the wireless charging base, as per the instructions, and downloaded the app in the meantime.
After 15 minutes (the charging time listed in the instructions), the light briefly emitted a faint glow before going completely dark, and it would not respond when I pressed its buttons or tried the gestures, like flipping it over. I repeated this process several times over the next hour with no success. It felt maddening and wondered if I got a faulty device. I decided to leave it on the charger overnight. The next day, it worked as expected and easily paired with the app, but I wish the process to get to that point hadn’t been so frustrating.
If you’re looking for a portable, dimmable lamp to use to wind down in the evening, or wake up to a pretty sunrise, you might find you love the Casper Glow Light. Despite its limitations, it’s a quirky, lovable device that’s pleasant to have around. If you do want to use it to wake you up in the morning, I recommend setting a backup audio alarm for the first week or so until you’re sure the sunrise will reliably end your slumber at the right time.
Sunrise Alarm Clocks You Can Skip
- Light-up alarm clock with a variety of sunrises and sunsets
- Works with Hatch Sleep app
- Cozy design
- Great speaker
- Highly customizable wake-up and wind-down routines
- Recurring membership fee required for many features
- Clock display stays lit throughout the night
- No backup battery
The Hatch Restore wins points for its slim design and cozy feel, thanks to its fuzzy base and back. Its speaker offers beautiful sound quality—great for playing the soothing bedtime stories, alarm sounds, and distraction-drowning white noise tracks available in the accompanying app, Hatch Sleep. It also functions as a regular bedside lamp, with 22 colors and reduced blue light to make falling asleep easier. And some of the 10 sunrise options available in the app were very pleasant (although not nearly as realistic as the Philips sunrise).
But this clock comes with so many downsides that make it hard for me to recommend it for anyone. The biggest problem is the cost. Not only do you need to pay three figures for a clock that’s inferior to similarly priced competitors, you also need to shell out another $50 a year (or $4.99 a month) to get access the full library of content (like sleep-inducing stories and mindfulness exercises) to build out your personalized wake-up and wind-down routines that play through the clock.
While you can use some features for free—and you get a free month up front if you buy the annual membership—charging a monthly membership fee for the rest feels like a money grab, especially since there were very few updates to the library during the time we tested it. I think you’d be better off using a dedicated meditation app (paid or free!) with similar features.
Setting up the clock wasn’t seamless—it took me several tries to get it to pair with the app. Many of the sunrise options had unnatural colors and gradients that felt almost nightclubby. I found it impossible to get the clock display to turn off completely. Light-sensitive people will be left dealing with a potential sleep disruptor all night long. I turned the clock away from my face to keep the display light out of my eyes, but that also compromised the sunrise experience, which was a bummer. And there is no backup battery in this clock, so there’s a chance your alarm might not run if the power goes out.
hOmeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock
- Alarm clock with light that brightens and dims
- 8 LED colors to choose from
The Evidence Test Score: Healthy-ish
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- Least expensive option we tested
- Easy to set up
- Backup battery in case of power outage
- Chintzy design
- Tinny speakers
- Most colors are garish
I’m glad the hOmeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock exists, even though I wouldn’t recommend it for most people. Its sub-$25 price tag gives people on any budget the chance to experience how much better it can be to wake up to a light, rather than an obnoxious beep that causes your heart rate to spike before you even open your eyes in the morning. The duration can be customized in 10-minute increments up to an hour in total. The clock offers the option to set a nature-inspired sound to accompany your sunrise in the morning and includes a backup battery, so it feels like a device you could depend on to wake you up every day. With the help of the instruction manual, it was easy to set up the clock. It also has basic instructions printed on the back of the device—ugly, but convenient.
This chintzy alarm clock proves that you get what you pay for, though. Its stiff buttons release a loud “click” upon every press, which was annoying, and the ultra-shiny plastic made the device feel like something I bought at a discount store. I would get tired of looking at this on my nightstand pretty quickly.
Out of the device’s eight color options for the light, only one (warm white) felt like something I’d actually use. The rest, like dark blue, red, fuchsia, and green, were too lurid to use as a stagnant light and too artificial to ever mimic a sunrise. Speaking of which, the sunrise was fine, but didn’t brighten as smoothly as the ones of more expensive clocks. Sometimes the transitions from one brightness level to the next felt abrupt. I’m glad the light from this clock was enough to end my sleep before my scheduled wake-up time—when I tested the speakers, the tinny quality bummed me out. It was grating on the ear and I tried to turn it off as quickly as possible.
The hOmeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock can be an OK entry-level option if you want to see what sunrise alarm clocks are all about without spending much money. The device has an average of 4.2 stars on Amazon and gets the job done. But if you find you like waking up to a gentle light, it’s worth upgrading to a better option when your budget allows.