If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
For anyone who has a difficult time waking up in the morning, especially around Daylight Savings Time, sunrise alarm clocks — alarms which use gradually increasing light to simulate the rising sun — might mean the difference between a cranky morning and a productive one. Scientific studies indicate that by mimicking your body’s natural circadian rhythm and allowing you to wake up slowly rather than yanking you out of REM with a sharp alarm, sunrise alarm clocks can make it easier for you to start your day.
Many light therapy alarms on the market today come equipped with additional features and adjustable settings. We like models that can also be used as a sun lamp, for example, which is helpful for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter. Many include a wide range of alarm volume and brightness levels, and others can be connected to your smart home device. If you’re struggling to adjust your sleep schedule to the changing seasons, then check out our picks below.
What is a Sunrise Alarm Clock?
The number of additional features and functions you need is a matter of personal taste, but there are a few factors we think are important no matter what clock you choose. You should be able to adjust to the perfect volume and brightness level, for example, and consider how smoothly the lamp transitions to full brightness. Here’s what else to know.
Settings: In general, the more volume and brightness levels a clock has the better, as everyone’s sensitivity to light and sound are a bit different. Additional settings like automatic timers, the ability to set more than one alarm at once, and a variety of alarm sounds are also helpful. Some of our favorite clocks also include a bedtime setting, in which the light gradually decreases at night to mimic a setting sun.
Versatility: Many of these clocks double as a lamp, which can provide the benefits of sunlight during the winter or in geographic locations that don’t get a lot of sun. Many also function as a night light, with a variety of color options to customize your atmosphere.
Operating Time: Most sunrise clocks elevate the brightness levels over a period of 30 minutes. We also take into account how long the light stays on after the alarm goes off and whether this can be adjusted.
Intuitive: User-friendly design is essential, and common complaints about sunrise alarms are that they are too confusing or difficult to use. We’ve found versions that set up easily right out of the box.
1. Hatch Restore
Hatch Restore is as gentle as it gets for a sunrise alarm clock, which is why it’s our clear top pick. With smart functionality, calming light, and integrated meditation, this clock will not only help you wind down, but actually make you want to hit the pillow.
The companion Hatch Sleep app let’s you personalize your sleep-wake routine, but it best functions as a sound machine, with a library of soothing sounds, white noise and shades of mood lighting at your fingertips. The soft glow of the reading light is quite gentle, too.
The app also includes meditations and “sleep stories”, which really help establish a good routine before bed without having to force yourself down with melatonin gummies. The soft-touch buttons on the clock are also intuitive, so you don’t have to wake yourself up too much fumbling around in the dark.
With a sleek design, smart features, and a gentle touch, Hatch Restore lulls you off to sleep as effectively as it nudges you awake.
2. Philips SmartSleep Connected
There’s no competing with the customizability of Philips’ SmartSleep Connected, which combines several functions — including recommendations based on your sleep environment, “wake-up” and “wind-down” programs, several color and alarm sound options and guided meditations — in one handy device. The sunrise alarm feature begins slowly increasing light around five to 60 minutes before your alarm, so that by the time it goes off, your room is already fully bright. When it is time for bed, you can program the clock’s bedtime setting, which simulates a sunset.
The device is also a clock, an FM radio, a nightlight, or a phone charging dock, and all of these settings can be modified and customized to your needs. The alarm comes with several sounds at adjustable volumes to choose from, while the nighttime setting includes relaxing nature sounds to block out other noise and help lull you to sleep. There’s also an AUX cord so you can play music from your phone (no Bluetooth, unfortunately).
And perhaps most conveniently, the “AmbiTrack” sensor lets you know if your bedroom is optimized for sleep, or if it’s too hot or too loud, for example. No only does the SmartSleep Connected make sure you can fall asleep, it makes sure you’ll stay asleep.
3. Casper The Glow Light
A small but consequential feature of sunrise alarm clocks is that most need to stay plugged in like a traditional lamp, and can be bulky to move if you’re trying to nap in say, your living room. We like that The Glow Light from Casper is a fully wireless, portable night light — which gives the ability to move it around if you’re a frequent couch napper.
We also love how streamlined this light is, which has just a few controls: you flip it to turn it on, twist it to adjust the light levels, and wiggle it to turn it into an ambient night light you can take with you to get a midnight snack. The lighting is soft and gentle, and while heavy sleepers might not appreciate the lack of relaxing sounds or alarm options for waking up, if you just need a gentle nudge to get up in the morning, The Glow Light has your back.
4. hOmeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock
Another sunrise alarm that provides a gentler wake-up call, this hOmelabs clock combines a gradual mock sunrise with the morning alarm sound of your choice, be that nature sounds, or FM radio. The clock is a touch-screen, which is satisfyingly reactive and easy to navigate, especially when it comes to the very prominent snooze button on top of the device, which pauses the alarm sound and light for five minutes.
We don’t love that the light clicks off as soon as the alarm is switched off, but it’s nothing we can’t live with. Choose from multiple color options to match your bedroom decor.