Each and every morning since the iPhone’s 2007 debut, my day has begun exactly the same: startling into consciousness to the sound of my smartphone’s built-in alarm.
Regardless of whether I set it to chime or trill or beep, the whole thing makes for a very unpleasant experience, which typically involves me hitting snooze three to four times in protest before finally managing to drag myself out of the wrong side of the bed around 20 minutes later.
Obviously, waking up shouldn’t be this way. We should start the day feeling happy and bright — or at the very least refreshed. And turns out, there actually is a much better way to begin the morning, thanks to a new class of alarm clocks designed to transition us from sleep to wakefulness gently, using alternatives like light, soothing sounds, and vibrations.
Armed with this intel, I hunted down the best technologies out there right now: "alarms" with the ability to gently coax, not startle me, out of an eight-hour slumber. The results of over a month of testing: the four devices ahead, which taught me (and my S.O.) that the entire day will be 75 percent better when we wake up to a whisper rather than a roar.
Bose Noise Masking Sleep Buds
Full disclosure: These little bluetooth earbuds aren't actually an alarm clock. At least not officially. Their intended purpose: to help you sleep the night through by funneling a selection of sweet, noise-cancelled sounds into your ear canals to mask the buzz-saw lying next to you in bed. And they do that job well. Very, very well, in fact. The first night I used them I slept eight hours solid for the first time in months, lulled into deepest REM sleep by their soundtrack of softly bouncing raindrops.
But as much as I love how they help me sleep for a full night, it’s their hidden hidden talent for getting me up gently and quietly the next morning that I appreciate even more. At bedtime, I simply program them to wake me at a particular time with gentle chirps whispered into my ears that I — and only I — can hear. This means that my S.O. gets to sleep-in undisturbed while I get to sneak into the shower ahead of him. And that means a better day for the both of us.
Philips Somneo Sleep & Wake-Up Light HF 3650
I love this ingenious lamp alarm, and here’s why: At 6 a.m. it starts to glow, gradually increasing its intensity over the next half hour. By 6:30 I am fully and totally awake for the rest of the day. No hitting snooze. No desperately trying to grab a few minutes more sleep. I don’t even need my coffee to feel wide awake.
The reason it works so well, of course, is that it mimics natural sunlight, triggering your sleep hormones to dial it down and alerting your body that it’s time to get up and get moving. Yet it does this so gently I can’t even be mad the night is over.
Worry light won’t be enough to get you up? It will… but if you’re still anxious, rest assured that nature sounds or your radio will turn once your room is filled with the lamp’s faux sunshine.
Homedics SoundSpa Recharged
Homedics' fresh take on the sound machine lulls you to sleep then greets you again in the morning with a selection of eight hyper-realistic nature sounds, allowing you to start your day with the rustling of a rainforest, the soft whir of a fan, or the crackle of a campfire—each of which is a thousand times more pleasant than the insistent beeping of a standard alarm clock (though it does offer that option, too). Best of all, it sounds just as good as any $200+ sound machine, but for $35.
Sonic Boom by Sonic Alert Alarm Clock
A clock called Sonic Boom might not seem like the most obvious pick for a story on gentle alarm clocks. After all, it’s one of the loudest models on the market, offering a blast of sound so strident it can’t fail to shock you out of sleep. The reason it makes the cut? It offers a companion option that vibrates you awake instead.
Just place the little extender pad under your mattress, and it’ll shake you to wake you. The vibrations alone have easily been enough to get me up each morning I’ve used it, and I like that it offers me the choice of doubling-up vibration and sound for the mornings I have to catch a flight or have an early-morning meeting.
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