Not everyone is wired to get out of bed the second their alarm clock goes off in the morning, especially if you need to be up and at it before the crack of dawn. Fortunately, investing in a sunrise alarm clock — aka a light alarm clock — can make waking up a much sunnier experience.
"Light is the best cue for our sleep-wake rhythms. Morning bright light signals 'wake' and helps all our systems from head to toe get into wake mode," Abhinav Singh, MD, medical director of the Indiana Sleep Center and a member of the medical review panel at SleepFoundation.org, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
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In fact, light is what triggers the rise in cortisol, which is what summons our bodies to wake up, explains Lauri Leadley, a certified clinical sleep educator and founder of the Valley Sleep Center.
People who have trouble getting out of bed, night owls and even early birds who need a little nudge on dark mornings can benefit from using a sunlight alarm clock because they gradually build up the brightness of light, helping you ease into wake mode and setting your circadian rhythm.
At the same time, these wake-up light alarm clocks often have sleep-promoting features that allow you to read at your bedside in the evenings with soft lighting and snooze with white noise to help block outside sounds that may keep you up at night.
"Seeing bright light in the morning and keeping it dark in the evening helps our bodies prepare for sleep. Dim light for reading also helps anchor the mind and allows it to settle and facilitate the initiation of sleep," Dr. Singh says.
Here are the best sunrise alarm clocks to help you detangle from your sheets and avoid hitting the snooze button.
The Best Sunrise Alarm Clocks
- Best Overall: Hatch Restore ($129.99, Hatch.co)
- Most Customizable: Philips SmartSleep Sleep and Wake-Up Light ($179.95, Philips.com)
- Best on a Budget: iHome Zenergy Sunrise Bedside Therapy Machine ($59.99, Walmart.com)
- Best for Kids: Hatch Rest ($69.99, Hatch.co)
- Best for Different Schedules: Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300 ($159, Amazon)
How We Chose
We tapped sleep specialists to explain what features a sunrise alarm clock should have and chose the following products based on their criteria:
- Various brightness settings
- Multiple sound options
- Features that help with sleep
Although they look similar, sunrise alarm clocks aren't the same thing as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) lamps, which are used to treat a type of depression related to the change in seasons. Sunrise alarm clocks help more with training our circadian rhythms, while SAD lamps are geared for changing mood, Dr. Singh says. If you have SAD, talk to your doctor about light therapy.
1. Best Overall: Hatch Restore
This light alarm clock is perfect for the morning grouch (no judgments) who needs a gentle a.m. wake-up routine. It mimics the natural sunrise, which helps you smoothly transition out of sleep.
"It's better on your body if [the light] is a slow progression. That's why the sun takes a while to rise and takes a while to set. So if that artificial light can mimic the sun, then that's really beneficial to the brain and the overall body and hormone level," Leadley says.
But it's not just great for waking up. Hatch's clock also allows you to create a bedtime routine and wind down with relaxing meditations, breathing exercises and yoga flows, which comes with the Hatch Sleep Membership. (Bonus: Each purchase of the Hatch Restore comes with a one-month membership, so you can try it out.)
This sunrise clock also helps you get into the mood for sleep by emitting a soft light so you can read in bed.
2. Most Customizable: Philips SmartSleep Sleep and Wake-Up Light
While this light alarm clock has a much heftier price tag than the others on this list, it has been clinically proven to help people wake up more naturally and more energized, and it has the most customizable features for designing your ideal sunrise and sunset.
For example, it has 25 personalized brightness settings so you can decide how much light you'd like to fill your room. The light intensity steadily builds up within 30 minutes, moving from a soft morning red to orange to a bright yellow.
It also offers five different natural wake-up sounds, such as birds chirping in the forest and ocean waves, that increase in volume, according to your level of preference. Plus, you can set it up so your favorite radio show comes on as you wake up.
The 30-minute light build-up in the morning may be particularly helpful for those who tend to wake up feeling groggy, Leadley says.
"Let's say you're an early morning REM sleeper, meaning you get your REM sleep in the morning. If you have that light start to increase while you're possibly in the middle of a REM cycle, then the brain would naturally end that REM cycle and go into a lighter sleep, where you could eventually wake up," she explains.
Buy it: Philips.com or Amazon; Price: $179.95
3. Best on a Budget: iHome Zenergy Sunrise Bedside Therapy Machine
You don't need to shell out a ton to get a quality sunrise alarm clock. This wallet-friendly option has all the bells and whistles you're looking for at a much more affordable price tag. Just like the other sunrise clocks on this list, it simulates the sunrise to help you ease into your day.
For those who like to listen to music as they get ready in the morning, it allows you to stream your favorite tunes through Bluetooth. And at night, it plays 15 different sound therapy tracks and a 4-7-8 meditation to help you relax.
There's also a dim reading light that you can use as a soft night light if you ever need to roll out of bed to use the bathroom or soothe a crying baby.
Buy it: Walmart.com or BedBathandBeyond.com; Price: $59.99
4. Best for Kids: Hatch Rest
Whether you have a newborn or a toddler you're sleep-training, this three-in-one device acts as a sound machine, night light and time-to-rise light.
Through the app on your phone, you can set a nap time, bedtime and wake-up routine by customizing the light and presetting the sound machine to go on and off for a duration of time.
For example, in the evenings, the Hatch Rest plays calming nature sounds and lullabies to help soothe your baby or child to sleep. And in the morning, you can program when the light should turn on, helping them get into a rhythm of waking up and getting out of bed at a certain time every day.
5. Best for Different Schedules: Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300
Wake up at a different time on weekends? This light alarm clock from Lumie offers a seven-day alarm to help you set your schedule for the week.
Like the other sunrise alarm clocks on this list, it increases the light intensity from 15 to 90 minutes, depending on how quickly you want to get out of bed.
In addition, there are five presets for the FM radio, so you can hop out of bed to the tunes of Taylor Swift or your local news. For your evening ritual, you can program a gradual sunset to help you fall asleep.
Buy it: Amazon; Price: $159
What to Look for in a Sunrise Alarm Clock
Everyone has their own preference for their level of light intensity when they wake up in the morning. If you're someone who has a hard time kicking the snooze-button habit, you might benefit from a sunrise alarm clock that has a longer duration of light in the morning to help coax you out of bed.
And if you usually don't have any issues getting out of bed but want to wake up feeling more energized, a short 15- to 30-minute interval of increasing light intensity might be your Goldilocks.
Keep your partner in mind, too, if you share a bed and have a different wake-up or sleep schedule than you.
2. Sleep Features
If you have additional goals of improving your sleep, investing in a sunrise alarm clock with a variety of winding-down options might be worth it. Some of these clocks come equipped with guided meditations and breathing exercises, as well as a dim reading light.
Consider whether using these features will help you commit to a better nighttime routine that keeps you off your phone and/or TV.
Sound plays a big role in your wake routine and ability to stay asleep at night, so if you're someone who could use a little auditory boost with either, see about getting a sunrise alarm clock with multiple sound options.
Some sunrise alarm clocks include energizing nature sounds to help you get out of bed in the a.m. and soothing white noise to help block outside sound that may interrupt your sleep.
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