5 Best Sunrise Alarm Clocks (2020): Homelabs, Philips, Casper

Who’d have thought we’d be discussing alarm clocks again? Of all the gadgets smartphones usurped and sent to the grave, the alarm clock was among the first and most deserving. Yet, here we are. Now, alarm clocks can do more than scream at you and tell time, which—let’s be honest—are pretty first-grade skills. These are different. They’re sunrise alarms, which simulate relaxing sunsets to lull you to sleep and invigorating sunrises to help you wake in the morning. Here are our favorites.

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  • Why You’d Want a Sunrise Alarm

    Easier Mornings

    Your body is built to wake naturally with the sunrise and feel sleepy as it sets. The sun rises at a deeply orange 2,000 kelvin (K) and transitions to a rich, golden 3,500 K on its way to a bluer midday sun around 5,500 K. Sunsets do the reverse.

    My apartment was the perfect lab for testing these alarms. In my bedroom, I hang blackout curtains because I live on a busy city street that’s somehow brighter at night than during the day. I’m a heavy sleeper who doesn’t have a problem waking up, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it. Every morning I lurch forward out of bed like a crash test dummy flying through an invisible windshield and run for coffee. When I woke up with (most of) these sunrise alarms, I had an easier transition into consciousness.

    If you don’t have access to a window in your bedroom, or maybe you use blackout curtains like me, then a sunrise alarm could make your mornings or nights a little easier.

  • Photograph: Amazon

    Best Overall

    Homelabs Sunrise Alarm Clock

    WIRED: Yanking it out of the box, the build quality of this thing smacked me right upside the head. A solid metal stand and touch-sensitive buttons for $20!? Hell yes. It’s simple to use, and the light on the sunset setting was warm and relaxing. The artificial sunrise was enough to rouse me out of bed, but it wasn’t too bright. There are nature sounds to help you wake up too, like birds and ocean waves.

    You can dim or turn off the display completely. For people like me, who have always hated seeing glowing numbers in an otherwise dark room, the latter is a great option. I’ll never understand why more alarms don’t offer it. It’s a steal at $20, especially with the extras like multicolor mood lighting, access to an FM radio, and a center snooze button that’s easy to hit.

    TIRED: It did a good job of casting enough light when it was the only lamp in my otherwise dark bedroom, but it’s a bit on the small side and, because of its headlamp-like shape, it shines most in a particular direction. The light is also not as diffused as the higher-end alarms on this list—certainly enough to read by before bed, but not quite as able to bathe the whole room in light. It’s still plenty bright to help wake you up, though.

  • Photograph: Philips

    A Nice Upgrade

    Philips Wake-Up Light (HF3520)

    WIRED: Why is this so heavy? And big? Those were my first thoughts, yanking Philips’ alarm out of the box. It reminded me of my college job at a hot rod shop, lugging around headlights from old 1950s Mercurys and Chevys. It’s a good thing. The Philips HF3520 oozes build quality and is easily the nicest alarm in this guide. It has the usual features, such as an audible alarm, five natural wake-up sounds, and an FM radio.

    The lens is convex, and some light shines through the back of the casing, so it casts light in more directions than other headlight-shaped sunrise clocks I reviewed, like the Homelabs and Totobay. Light is beautifully diffused, which keeps the rays from being blinding—that’s especially nice in a dark room when your pupils are enlarged and particularly susceptible to harsh light. The more upscale Philips SmartSleep barely beats it out in the quality of light, but the HF3520 has the second-nicest light quality in this test. The clock display and touch controls are a cut above the cheaper alarms, as well.

    TIRED: This would be our top pick if it wasn’t so expensive. It’s five times the price of the Homelabs, but it’s not five times the alarm. Perhaps if you have a particularly large bedroom and want the extra light for reading as you settle into bed. It is nicer to look at.

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