If you hate your alarm jolting you out of bed in the morning, a sunrise alarm clock may be for you. Sunrise alarm clocks, which work to mimic the natural sunrise in the morning by gradually emitting light up to an hour before your scheduled wake-up time, can be paired with other sleep aids like blackout curtains to create a much gentler wake-up routine. These clocks are typically compact enough to fit on top of your nightstand and offer gentle wake-up sounds that are queiter than the blaring sound of audio alarm clocks.
The presence (or lack) of light can be a main factor in regulating our sleep cycle: Studies show that light exposure too late in the day and too early in the morning may reduce your quality of sleep and affect the body’s circadian rhythm, an internal mechanism that regulates various processes within any given day or 24-hour cycle (including the sleep-wake cycle).
“Sunrise clocks are designed to mimic the natural sunlight, which plays an essential role in the regulation of our sleep-wake cycles, also known as our circadian rhythm,” said Dr. Shelby Harris, Director of Sleep Health at sleep product review site Sleepopolis. This can ultimately help improve your overall sleep quality, mood, health and well-being, and using an alarm clock that simulates both the sunset and sunrise can help you fall asleep faster and wake up quicker in the morning, Harris added.
To help you determine the best sunrise clock for you, we consulted medical experts on the benefits of these sleep aids, their limitations and what to look for when shopping for one. We also rounded up highly rated options across various price points in line with experts’ guidance.
How to shop for a sunrise alarm clock
Some sunrise clocks have other key features like sleep sounds and connected apps, but the light is the critical feature that determines whether the product will be useful to you. Experts noted a few key features to look for when determining the best sunrise clock for you (we elaborate more on them below):
- Brightness levels: You’ll sometimes see a sunrise clock’s brightness level expressed in lux or lumens: Lumens are a measure of brightness, whereas lux is a measure of lumens spread over an area, expressed in square meters. As you shop for a sunrise alarm clock, keep in mind that a higher lux signifies a more intense light. Most sunrise clocks we browsed range between 100 to upwards of 300 lux.
- Sleep and wake sounds: Sunrise clocks can include sleep sounds that can either help lull you to sleep or gently wake you up in the morning — these typically range from nature sounds like birds chirping and ocean waves to white noise that reduces distractions.
- Connected apps: Experts told us to look for a sunrise clock with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity that lets you customize features like brightness level, sleep sounds, your wake-up schedule and more through a companion app.
Highly rated sunrise clocks
Below, we highlight these highly rated sunrise clocks and sleep lights from notable brands like Hatch, Casper and Philips, all of which include varying brightness levels and additional features like connected apps and noise settings in line with our experts’ guidance.
Dr. Seema Khosla, medical director of the North Dakota Center for Sleep previously recommended this sunrise clock in our guide to alarm clocks. "It allows you to be aware of your sleep environment: You can set a routine such as dimming the lights in the evening/night, playing quiet music and reminding you to turn off your devices and indulge in a relaxation routine," she said.
The Hatch Restore sunrise clock has different light styles that include a range of options, from Warm White to Peach, and you can tap the lit dome to jumpstart your sleeping routine, according to the company. Hatch says you can connect to the device via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and control its sleep-forward functions on its companion app. The clock also includes pre-programmed sound features — including white noise— and a customizable light-and-sound sleeping arrangement.
This sunrise clock from Philips is equipped with 315-lux brightness, an auto-dimming display and five adjustable sunrise colors, according to the brand. Philips says its connected app, SleepMapper, lets you customize your chosen sunset and sunrise times, track your sleep over time and sync your sleep metrics with Apple and Google Health.
If you’re looking for a more affordable model that drops the app connectivity, the Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light has a weaker light intensity at 300 lux and still includes up to five built-in sounds to help you fall asleep faster, according to Philips.
This sunrise clock from Lumie lets you customize the maximum brightness of its light and allows you to wake up gradually over anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes, according to the brand. It also includes a built-in alarm that lets you wake up with the radio or one of 15 sleep sound options to complement the light in aiding you to wakefulness, the brand says. It also has a dimming display and a snooze button.
Lumie also offers other, pared down Bodyclock models available: The Bodyclock Rise 100 loses its radio function and alarm while the Bodyclock Glow 150 includes 10 waking sounds and a duration of 20 minutes, 30 minutes and 45 minutes.
This sleep light lacks sound functions, so it’s less of an alarm clock and more of a daytime light and nightlight. You can twist it on its base to control its brightness and lift it off its base to light up the way to a midnight snack — Casper says it’s also durable enough to survive everyday tumbles, too. Select writer Mili Godio said she uses this light to gradually wake up during her early morning routines and wind down at night and loves how versatile and easy to use the device is thanks to its lightweight and portable design. The Casper app will let you schedule when the light turns on in the morning to help you wake up, according to the brand.
This JALL sunrise alarm clock offers seven colored lights, including blue, indigo, purple and yellow. The brand says the clock provides 20 levels of lighting to gradually wake you up in the morning over the span of 10 minutes, 20 minutes and 30 minutes. It's also equipped with seven natural sounds such as birdsong, ocean wave and piano music with 16 levels of volume and access to FM radio, according to JALL. The clock comes in white and wood colors.
This clock by hOmeLabs — a Select reader favorite brand when it comes to dehumidifiers — has both a sunrise and sunset simulation over the course of 30 minutes, according to the brand. hOmeLabs says the clock comes with eight colored light options — including red, blue, and yellow — and three brightness levels, as well as sounds inspired by nature to wake you up. It also features access to FM radio and a USB charger to plug in your phone at night.
How sunrise alarm clocks work
Most sunrise alarm clocks are fairly similar: They have a light that simulates the sunrise and sunset, which can gently provide (and reduce) light without the blaring noise of a regular alarm clock. “They are especially beneficial during the winter when the sun rises later, and can help improve symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, insomnia, jet-lag and other sleep issues,” Harris said.
To determine the best sunrise alarm clock for your needs, our experts highlighted a few features to keep in mind when shopping for one, including brightness level and sleep sounds.
In addition to lux and lumens, one thing to be aware of is the inverse-square law — the further the distance from the light source, the less intense the light will be. That may seem intuitive, but it tells us that the brightness rating provided for any sunrise clock is only accurate at a certain distance. If you have the sunrise clock all the way across the room, it may not seem too bright. There are other variables too — like the size of your room and your wall paint colors — that can impact how you perceive a light source.
While the sunrise alarm clocks available commercially generally won’t equip an extremely bright light, experts told us the lights in sunrise clocks can still help. “You have to kind of take what's available commercially, recognizing that it may not be ideal,” Khosla said. She emphasized that your goal should be to sleep better, not necessarily to completely optimize the process.
Sleep and wake sounds
Harris noted that, in addition to mimicking a sunset that helps you slowly fall asleep to a dimming light, some sunrise alarm clocks also offer sleep sounds like white noise and nature sounds to help you fall asleep at night (the latter can also be used as a gentle alarm in the morning). White noise in particular can accomplish multiple things, from reducing outside distractions to tapping into a calming reflex, experts told us in our guide to white noise machines.
“[Sunrise alarm clocks] that allow you to control and set them from your phone are the most convenient,” Harris said. Though sunrise clocks that don’t offer a Bluetooth feature or Wi-Fi connectivity are still just as effective (especially if you’re not necessarily tech-savvy), most app-controlled clocks can offer the benefit of managing the brightness, setting a timer and managing specific sounds and noises to help optimize your bedtime and wake-up routine.
Are sunrise clocks worth it?
Sunrise clocks aim to help you wake up at the right time for your body — when you’ve reached an optimal time to leave the sleep state and enter the waking state — by lighting up your space gradually and slowly in order to give your body time to react and adjust, according to Khosla.
Most sunrise clocks will start gradually brightening about 30 minutes to an hour before your scheduled wake up time (some give you the option to adjust that length via app) to give you enough time to fully wake up at your preferred time. This helps avoid disrupting your sleep too abruptly, which can push you to sleeplessness or sleep deprivation and ultimately have significant effects on your wellness, from weight gain and mood swings to lack of alertness and even memory loss, according to Khosla.
“You don't have that big adrenaline surge [like] when that alarm clock suddenly goes off,” noted Dr. Sabra Abbott, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and board-certified sleep medicine doctor.
Purchasing a sunrise clock alone isn’t enough to build healthy sleeping habits, according to Abbott. She highlighted the importance of regulating the light you’re exposed to in general — trying to get a lot of light during the day and less in the evening. Likewise, Khosla believes that sunrise clocks are great only if operated appropriately and alongside other healthy sleep behaviors, like eating right, exercising, putting your phone away before bed and trying to stay away from screens altogether long before that moment.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Dr. Shelby Harris, Director of Sleep Health at sleep product review site Sleepopolis.
- Dr. Seema Khosla, medical director of the North Dakota Center for Sleep
- Dr. Sabra Abbott, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and board-certified sleep medicine doctor