Substituting Sunrise: The quest for the perfect sunrise alarm clock.

Hi everyone! 

A couple months ago I announced on Instagram that I was going in search of the perfect sunrise simulating alarm clock. I've had a sunrise alarm clock for years, but it wasn't perfect: Luc was fed up with the finicky buttons on it, we were both tired of the only 3 alarm sounds it offered, and it always bothered me that the clock light stayed lit -- I prefer a completely dark bedroom.

So I decided it was time for an upgrade. I couldn't believe how many sunrise alarm clocks there are on the market now -- this is a growing market with way more options than 5 years ago. Many of you have been following along on the journey and pinging me to share my findings - I'm happy to say that I've finally come to a conclusion and have my top three to share below! 

What is a sunrise alarm clock?

A sunrise alarm clock (also known as a dawn simulator) is an alarm clock that turns on gradually, increasing light brightness over a period of time - usually 45-30 minutes before your set alarm - that gradually lights up your room and eases you into your day.

Why use one?

These sunrise simulators help keep our circadian rhythms on track, have been shown to help increase sleep quality, and are a useful tool in helping to fight Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

If you're interested in doing a deeper dive into why light is so important for our internal rhythms, I would suggest listening to this podcast from the Huberman Lab. It features Dr. Samer Hattar, Chief of the Section on Light and Circadian Rhythms at the National Institute of Mental Health. It's a little too dense to paraphrase the whole thing here, but it's chock full of interesting information about light and how it affects us. 

Another sleep podcast recommendation is this episode of Ten Percent Happier, featuring Matthew Walker & Dan Harris. I appreciated how Walker explains the importance of sleep in an engaging and encouraging way. The section about daylight savings time blew my mind!  (Also to note -- these podcast recommendations are all men and mostly white men. I'm trying to learn from and recommend as many diverse voices as possible, so you know of women or non-binary experts on sleep, especially people of color, please send your recommendations my way.) 

The Experiment

After some online research - I quickly decided that the only way to do this was to become an unofficial product tester and gather my own data! I ended up ordering seven different sunrise alarm clocks that I would test out over the course of a couple of months. 


The Results:

#1 - Hatch Restore

The Hatch Restore is the one that we will be keeping! It's not perfect, but it comes pretty close... 


  • Comes with a built-in nighttime meditation feature that lets you set up a sleep routine that includes a pre-recorded meditation. This was a happy accident, and not something I was expecting to find in an alarm clock. I've been wanting to add a meditation routine into our lives and this makes it very easy to do. 
  • Has a huge variety of high-quality sounds - the birdsong actually sounds like birdsong, not a computer pretending to be a bird. 
  • This one allows you to change the clock brightness settings, including which time of the day/night you want the clock light on and when you want it off. 


  • Most adjustments are made via an app on your smartphone. I don't like to sleep with my phone in the room, so this is a little bit inconvenient for me/means that I need to make any adjustments to the routine before I go get in bed for the night. This one will work best for people with regular, predictable wake-up routines.
  • It's a little tough to figure out how to use it just as a reading light - it's hard to deviate from the set bedtime and wake-up routines. 

#2 Lumie Bodyclock Shine 300

This is another great option and the one I probably would have kept if the first one didn't have the surprise meditation feature! 


  • Lots of options for lights and high-quality sounds. 
  • Relatively easy buttons. 
  • Adjustable clock brightness, can turn all the way off.


  • No meditation feature. 

#3 Phillips Smart Sleep

The Phillips Smart Sleep is the one that started it all! This is the newest version of the original light I owned. One of the reasons we started this whole quest was to find a clock with easier buttons; ironically once we tried out a bunch of other ones I found that this one was relatively easy to operate! 


  • Relatively easy to program.
  • Easy to use as a reading light. 
  • Comes with more sounds than the previous model. 
  • The updated model allows for clock brightness to dim completely.


  • Complicated buttons. 

The Runner Ups

All four of these were of similar quality and that's reflected in their much lower price tag than the top selections. Of these four, the Wake Up Light Alarm Click (with the *** next to it) was my fav. A really good option for someone with a lower budget that may want to do some experimenting. 

All of these clocks have a higher price tag than a standard alarm clock or phone alarm,  and I want to be clear that you don't HAVE to have one to make the most of your winter routine. Be conscious of getting some daylight every day, and if you already had a SAD lamp or anything like that, turning it on first thing in the morning can help just as much as these clocks - even 15 minutes can help do the trick. 

Thanks for coming on this journey with me, everyone! If you try out a sunrise alarm clock I'd love to hear how it goes for you! Feel free to get in touch here with any findings. 


- Sarah

P.S. I have a bunch of extra alarm clocks now and would like to find good homes for them! If you're interested in buying any of these  (other than the Hatch) at cost, reach out to [email protected] and we will let you know if it's still available. 



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