It’s the most annoying sound ever — the sudden buzz of a traditional alarm clock. And as it turns out, this can have ramifications for the body. According to the Cleveland Clinic, waking up abruptly can trigger a fight-or-flight response, raising blood pressure and heart rate, and adding to stress levels. Board-certified family physician Tamika Henry, M.D., founder of Unlimited Health Institute, concurs. “The jarring from a blaring alarm clock could potentially lead to rapid unwanted changes with neurotransmitters and cortisol.”
According to the Sleep Foundation, evidence shows that Black people are more likely than other groups to experience sleep that is too short or too long. Sunlight simulators, called sunrise alarms, provide a solution to those whose sleep schedule is out of whack. “The sunrise alarm provides a gradual awakening with the influx of natural light that helps to establish and reinforce a normal pattern of awakening,” says Dr. Henry, who bought a sunrise alarm clock for her son. “The sunrise alarm not only can help [make] waking up easier, but it can also help to reset your circadian rhythm to mimic daylight hours. This benefit is especially good for people whose work hours vary from week to week.”
Rise and shine! Sunrise alarms gently rouse you from slumber, helping you feel calmer and refreshed. This may aid in reducing heart issues and stress while boosting brain function and energy. Some models also lull you into a peaceful sleep with a simulated sunset feature.
These sleep tools, with the help of sound and light, may also ease you out of a deep sleep into wakefulness, reducing the sleep inertia caused by traditional alarms and improving quality of sleep. According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, certain sounds, particularly melodies, can decrease morning grogginess and be energizing. Here are four alarm options to consider.
Philips SmartSleep Sleep and Wake-Up Light
This Sleep and Wake-Up Light simulates a gradual, natural sunrise, preparing the body for waking up. To begin, a wind-down feature helps calm the body and mind through light-guided breathing at bedtime for a peaceful transition to sleep. The sunset simulation features dimming lights and soothing sounds to lull you to sleep. There is also a night-light function that can be turned off and on with a few quick taps. Natural wake-up sound options, such as ambient noise and birdsong, can be paired with a colored sunrise simulation that gradually increases light over the course of 30 minutes before alarm time. I woke up in advance of the chirping birds and felt refreshed. ($180 suggested retail price; Philips.com, Amazon.com, BestBuy.com)
The Hatch Restore is described as a sound machine, smart light and sunrise alarm clock all in one. There is a wide selection of wake sounds and sleep sounds (white noise, rain, etc.) that can be used without purchasing the premium subscription. Unfortunately, the unwind features — dreamscapes, guided meditations, rest exercises and sleep stories — are extra. Another minus is that you can’t use the radio or play your own music through it, and it also takes time to customize features that work for you. For example, the sound of flutes didn’t wake me up on time. You’ll need to experiment. That being said, the options are plentiful and the library keeps growing, and it’s the only device that has helped me get to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time. If you’re someone who likes apps like Calm and would like to add a sunrise-sunset feature to your routine, this might be worth the cost. ($130; Hatch.co, Amazon.com)
Hatch Rest 2nd Gen
If fatigue involves kids who don’t sleep through the night, the new Rest 2nd Gen is for you. You can customize color (which can be dimmed or turned off), sound (12 sleep sounds are free) and volume, and create custom bedtime routines and preset scheduled times for the Rest to be on. It also has a dimmable clock and a night-light that can be turned on for nighttime feedings and diaper changes or if you need to move around the room without disturbing a sleeping child. With the app you can change these settings without entering the room. Membership, available at an additional cost, features channels with a playlist of bedtime stories, lullabies and breathing exercises. Unlike the Hatch Restore, the Rest is designed for multiple users — partners, caregivers, etc. A couple with a newborn tested it out and found that it was useful for children (with features that grew with them) as well as adults. A downside with this model is that there is no battery backup, so it needs to be plugged in to work and needs Wi-Fi to operate most features. ($70; Hatch.co, Amazon.com)
JAKATV Sunrise Alarm Clock Wake Up Light
If you need a simple, restful way to wake up without all the bells and whistles, there are several less costly sunrise clocks that fit the bill. This one has a wake-up light with sunrise simulation that emits light (with 20 adjustable brightness levels) between 10 and 60 minutes before alarm time. There is a choice of eight natural sounds, including insects chirping, ocean waves, piano and birds singing, or the FM radio can be used as a wake-up sound. There are seven colors, as well as RGB mood light for soothing ambient light that can be used as a night-light or a bedside lamp for reading, with 10 brightness settings. Two alarm settings can be used to separately set alarms for weekday and weekend. The wake-up light also has a sunset feature that slowly dims during a set time as a sleep aid, as well as battery backup. ($40; Amazon.com)