I’ve been a faithful user of sunrise alarm clocks for years now, and they have truly transformed my attitude about mornings and experience of waking up. Instead of waking up abruptly to a jarring beep in a pitch-dark room, a sunrise alarm clock slowly and gradually lights up your space. The effect reminds me of the gentle feeling of waking up at dawn while camping in the middle of summer – a feeling I really appreciate at times of the year when I need or want to wake up long before sunrise.
Research backs up my personal experiences with sunrise alarm clocks, especially for perimenopausal and menopausal women: exposure to bright light in the morning can help boost the production of serotonin, a hormone that regulates mood, and suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps us feel sleepy. So using a sunrise alarm clock can be an easy but powerful way to regulate your body’s circadian rhythm so you feel more rested during the day and more ready for sleep at night. A healthy sleep-wake cycle is crucial for quality sleep, and qualty sleep is essential to our health in midlife.
I’ve been using sunrise alarm clocks for years now, and they’re all effective regardless of features and price point. That said, some of the features of the more expensive models are very nice, and well worth having for me! Here are three sunrise alarm clock models I’ve personally used and would recommend.
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Most sunrise alarm clocks operate under a similar premise: rather than a jarring alarm waking you in the pitch-dark of early morning, you’re gently awakened to slowly-increasing light and perhaps soft sounds. The Restore 2 sunrise alarm clock from Hatch takes this concept to a whole new level with customizable wake-up AND bedtime routines. I’m currently awakening to the pinkish hues of a “Spring Sunrise” lightscape, but you can choose from a variety of color schemes, as well as different waking-up sounds like chirping birds, flutes, chimes, bells and more. To wind down at night I, do the whole process in reverse, with a slowly dimming light and gentle sounds that tell my body and brain it’s time for bed. Consistent bedtime and wakeup routines are a great way to help reset your body’s sleep cycle and my Restore 2 is a huge part of mine!
Another feature I really like about the Restore 2 is that you can set the time of your personal sunrise from as short as 5 minutes to as long as 60. While I love a gentle, gradual awakening at times, there are other times when the light is so effective at waking me up that I prefer a shorter duration so I’m not wide-awake 20 minutes before I need to be. Right now I have my sunrise duration set at 15 minutes. If I were in a groggier stage of life or having a hard time waking fully in that time, I’d set it to 30 minutes and turn down the brightness – also fully customizable. Another nice feature is that the preferences can be different on your nighttime and morning routines – you could, say, set your morning sounds louder or quieter than your nighttime sounds, or set a longer or shorter duration for your wake-up routine than your bedtime routine.
As I mentioned, I lean heavily on the “unwind” routine on my Restore 2 to set the stage for sleep! Right now my “unwind” sound is set to “Forest Echoes”. As the light slowly dims over a period of up to an hour, it creates the effect of a sunset, which is SO helpful during those late fall/winter months when I’ve been bathing in bright indoor lighting all evening. I typically do my evening skincare routine, read, and do a short yoga/meditation session with the “unwind” sound plays quietly in the background. And if you like to fall asleep to white noise, you can also choose a “sleep sound” like pouring rain, ocean waves, campfire, or my favorite, “forest wind.” There are also voice-guided breathing exercises, meditations, and visualizations to choose from, built right into the Hatch app.
In other words, the Restore 2 is a pretty amazing little sleep tool regardless of whether you struggle with winding down at night, waking up in the morning, or both. While the Restore 2 is a bit more of expensive than some of the more basic sunrise alarm clocks on the market, quality sleep is so vital for health (especially in midlife) that to me it easily warrants the investment – about the same cost as a meal out at a good restaurant, and with way more lasting benefits in the way of a restful sleep and peaceful morning.
Also very good: the Philips Sunrise Alarm
I have had this exact clock since 2016 – for a $50 electronic that’s lived in four different houses and gets knocked off the bedside table from time to time, that’s a good value! I still love this basic sunrise clock, which was my introduction to the whole concept. Philips has upped their game since, with a smart sunrise clock featuring personalized bedtime routines, a variety of brightness settings, wake-up sounds and smart features like tap snooze and dimmable display. Considering the price, however ($179), I think my new favorite in the category, the Hatch Restore, is a better value at $129, with the same features and then some.
Great starting point: this inexpensive Sunrise Clock
If you’re wanting to dip your toes into the world of sunrise alarm clocks without spending much money, this model is a great starting point. I bought these for each of my kids and while they lack some of the bells and whistles of the Hatch clock, they work reliably and get the job done. After a couple of years using a version of this sunrise alarm, I upgraded Clara (13) to the Hatch Restore. She loves the additional features like the bedtime unwind routine, which she faithfully uses. My boys, however, don’t seem to care as much about the extra features, and are still happily using this entry-level clock.
Rest is important for all of us, but sleep is an especially essential part of a midlife woman’s self-care and wellness. For a modest investment, a sunrise alarm clock is an easy tool that can be a total game-changer for how you feel about waking up – and how easily you fall asleep at night.