The 7 Best Wake-Up Light Therapy Alarm Clocks of 2021

Never wake up on the wrong side of the bed again

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The Rundown
Best Overall:
Philips HF3520 at Amazon
Unique features like pleasant wake-up sounds, dual alarms, and a bedtime 'sunset' setting make it our favorite model on the market.
Best Gentle Wake-Up:
Philips HF3505 at Amazon
With 10 different brightness levels up to 200 lux of light, you can choose the intensity of your alarm.
Best Multifunctional:
Philips HF3650/60 at Amazon
It has USB and AUX ports on the back so you can charge your phone or play music through the device’s built-in speaker.
Our reviewer found working in front of this therapy lamp first thing in the morning 'eliminated morning sleepiness within minutes.'
It functions as an alarm clock, wake-up light, mood light, sound machine, and Bluetooth speaker.
This disk-shaped lamp gradually brightens from dim red to white, giving your body the light cues it needs to naturally wake up.
Parents can set wake-up alarms as well as nap timers, and the color of the device changes from yellow (sleep) to green (wake).

Traditional alarm clocks can be an effective but harsh way to wake up in the morning. And if you wake up before the sun rises or don’t get much natural light in your bedroom, it can be even more disorienting to be startled awake in a fully dark room. If you want a gentler start to your day, consider using a wake-up light alarm clock.

These devices use a combination of gradually-brightening light and sound to cue your body’s natural wake-up response, resulting in a more relaxed (and less groggy) morning. They can also be a great antidote to dark winter mornings.

Most wake-up lights take 20 or 30 minutes to reach full brightness and some even simulate the red-to-white colors of a sunrise. By the time the alarm comes on, your body is ready to wake up and there’s a light on beside your bed. As an added bonus, many of these alarm clock lights can double as a bedside reading lamp or mood light.

We’ve tested out several wake-up light alarm clocks and compiled a list of our favorites below. If you’re interested in incorporating smart home gadgets such as lights and speakers into your morning routine, we also recommend checking out our smart home device reviews.

Best Overall: Philips HF3520 Wake-Up Light Therapy Lamp

  • Design
    4/5
  • Setup Process
    5/5
  • Performance
    5/5
  • Features
    5/5
  • Connectivity
    5/5
What We Like
  • Doubles as a bedside lamp

  • Bedtime dimming feature

  • Two separate alarm systems

What We Don't Like
  • No backup battery

  • Large footprint

The Philips HF3520 SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is a relatively pricey alarm clock, but it performed so well in our testing that we had to make it first on the list. This device is fully functional as both an alarm and a bedside lamp, and unique features such as pleasant wake-up sounds, dual alarms, and a bedtime “sunset” setting make it our favorite model on the market.

The Philips HF3520 simulates a gradual sunrise to help your body wake up naturally, combining red-to-white light with nature sounds, music, or the radio. You can also set two different alarms and toggle between them with the push of a button. At night, the sunset feature dims the light from white back to dark red to help you fall asleep. 

As our reviewer Rebecca Isaacs notes, the HF3520 is pretty bulky at 9.9 x 4.6 x 9.2 inches and 3.6 pounds, and it will definitely crowd a small nightstand. But the design is sleek, and once the device is set up, it’s easy to use. Rebecca tried out the SmartSleep as both an alarm clock and a bedside lamp and confirms that the higher brightness levels are great for reading. She particularly liked how the light gradually brightens and then stays on when you hit snooze, allowing for an overall gentler wake-up experience.

Light Settings: 20 / 300 Lux | Bluetooth: No | Radio: FM | APP Enabled: No

"The Philips has a large price tag, but taking into account its amenities compared with competitors, it’s worth the cost." — Rebecca Isaacs, Product Tester

Philips HF3520

Lifewire

Best Gentle Wake-Up: Philips HF3505 Wake-Up Light

  • Design
    4/5
  • Setup Process
    4/5
  • Performance
    4/5
  • Features
    4/5
  • Connectivity
    4/5
What We Like
  • Gradually brightens

  • Streamlined design

What We Don't Like
  • No backup battery

  • Not a great value at full price

The Philips HF3505 SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is a mid-range wake-up light with a limited but solid set of features. Like other devices in this price range, the HF3505 has a gradually-brightening light that reaches maximum illumination after 30 minutes to help you naturally wake up. With 10 different brightness levels up to 200 lux of light, you can choose the intensity of your alarm and a wake-up sound from the built-in bird song options or FM radio.

Our reviewer Rebecca liked the lightweight design and simple interface, but she found the features to be a bit limited for the price. It has only three alarm sound options and does not change color to simulate a sunrise like the more expensive models. But she also notes that it works very well as a wake-up light and can double as a “basic, albeit dim” reading lamp.

Light Settings: 10 / 200 Lux | Bluetooth: No | Radio: FM | APP Enabled: No

"You won’t get all the features and brightness/alarm options of some of the higher-end choices, and functionality-wise, it's on par with much less expensive alternatives." — Rebecca Isaacs, Product Tester

Philips HF3505

 Lifewire

Best Multifunctional: Philips HF3650/60 Sleep and Wake-Up Light Therapy Lamp Review

  • Design
    5/5
  • Setup Process
    5/5
  • Performance
    4/5
  • Features
    5/5
  • Connectivity
    4/5
What We Like
  • Lots of brightness and color settings

  • Battery backup

  • Breathing exercises

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Very bulky

The Philips HF3650/60 Wake-Up Light is one of the more expensive models out there. But the high price tags gets you an uncompromising wake-up light with plenty of extra perks and features. The design is large but sleek and looks good on a nightstand. It also has USB and AUX ports on the back so you can charge your phone or play music through the device’s built-in speakers—our reviewer Rebecca noted that the audio quality was “superb” and great for listening to the radio. 

The HF3650/60 has several different features for both falling asleep and waking up. Our tests found the light to be extremely effective, and it naturally woke up our reviewer right before the alarm audio started to play. Like other high-end wake-up lights, it simulates a sunrise starting with a deep red light that gradually brightens. You can customize both the color and level of brightness.

Our reviewer thought the bedtime features were just as good. She tried out the breathing exercises (the light brightens and dims to prompt calming breaths) and used the sunset simulation to fall asleep, noting that it was a “worthwhile investment” as part of a relaxing bedtime routine.

Light Settings: 25 / 310 Lux | Bluetooth: No | Radio: FM | APP Enabled: No

"The light didn’t pop on, but gradually brightened. The HF3650/60 ended up waking us up naturally a few minutes before the audio alarm sounded." — Rebecca Isaacs, Product Tester

Philips HF3650/60

Lifewire / Jordan Provost

Best Light Therapy: Aura Daylight Therapy Lamp

  • Design
    4/5
  • Setup Process
    5/5
  • Performance
    4/5
  • Features
    4/5
  • Overall Value
    3/5
What We Like
  • Built-in timer

  • Wall mountable

  • Very high maximum brightness

What We Don't Like
  • Not an alarm clock

  • Expensive

The Aura Daylight Therapy Lamp is not an alarm clock, so you can’t set it to come on at a specific time and wake you up with an audio cue. But setting it on your nightstand and using it in the morning can provide the same kind of energizing benefits. Our reviewer, Sandra Stafford, used it for just that purpose during product testing and found that sitting and working in front of this therapy lamp first thing in the morning “eliminated morning sleepiness within minutes.” 

This Aura lamp can reach up to 10,000 lux of brightness and perfectly mimics sunlight (without any harmful UV rays). The lamp can be angled up and down or even mounted on the wall, though Sandra preferred to move it from room to room throughout the day. It also has a built-in timer that automatically shuts off the light after a certain amount of time, making it a great choice for anyone scheduling light therapy into their daily routine.

Light Settings: 10,000 Lux | Bluetooth: No | Radio: No | APP Enabled: No

"Skeptical as we were that the lamp would wake us up faster than a computer or overhead light, the results can’t be argued with." — Sandra Stafford, Product Tester

Aura Daylight Therapy Lamp

Lifewire / Sandra Stafford 

Best Value: iHome Zenergy Bedside Sleep Therapy Machine

  • Design
    4/5
  • Setup Process
    4/5
  • Performance
    4/5
  • Features
    4/5
  • Connectivity
    4/5
What We Like
  • Ten different sound modes

  • USB charging port

  • Great audio quality

What We Don't Like
  • No sunrise simulation

  • Tricky controls

The iHome Zenergy Bedside Sleep Therapy Machine is a jack of all trades. It functions as an alarm clock, wake-up light, mood light, sound machine, and Bluetooth speaker. And based on our testing, it’s good at all of these things, making it the best value on this list. The Bluetooth speaker was a particular standout for our reviewer, Andy Zahn, who said the sound quality and volume were “staggering” for a device that’s generally advertised as a lamp.

You can choose from 10 different relaxing sounds, such as rainstorm or white noise, and customize the color, pattern, and brightness of the lighting. It has settings and sounds for both waking up and falling asleep. 

At 5 x 4.5 x 6 inches, the Zenergy is larger than a typical alarm clock but smaller than the high-end wake-up lights on our list. It has a pod-like design and color-changing lights on all three sides, with a companion app that lets you remotely control the lights and adjust the alarm settings. Andy noted that the Zenergy is significantly easier to set up through the app as opposed to navigating the device’s many buttons.

Light Settings: Color / 10 / 1,000 Lux | Bluetooth: Yes | Radio: FM | APP Enabled: Yes

"Trading in the shrill bleat of a traditional alarm in the dark for the soothing sound of falling rain and the gentle glow of sunrise is certainly worth a few extra dollars." —Andy Zahn, Product Tester

iHome Zenergy Bedside Sleep Therapy Machine

Lifewire / Andy Zahn

Best Budget: HeimVision Sunrise Alarm Clock A80S

  • Design
    5/5
  • Setup Process
    4/5
  • Performance
    4/5
  • Features
    4/5
  • Connectivity
    3/5
What We Like
  • Sunrise simulation

  • Multiple alarm sound options

  • Smart home-compatible

What We Don't Like
  • Limited features

  • Poor audio quality

If you want a sunrise simulation wake-up light without paying for a big brand name, the HeimVision Sunrise Alarm Clock A80S has several of the same features at a much lower price. This disk-shaped lamp gradually brightens from dim red to white, giving your body the light cues it needs to naturally wake up. You can choose from seven different alarm sounds to accompany the light.

Our product tester, Andy, noted that the warm light and soothing sounds provided a much more pleasant wake-up experience than a traditional alarm clock. He also tried out the smart home integration features and found the Smart Life app to be a convenient centralized hub for controlling both the HeimVision lamp and other smart devices. 

Andy determined the audio quality to be the device’s greatest weakness: "It’s not awful by any means, but it’s certainly not capable of producing realistic soothing nature sounds.”

Light Settings: Color / 20 / 1,000 Lux | Bluetooth: No | Radio: FM | APP Enabled: Yes

"The default sunrise color is really quite beautiful, and though the audio effects could be better, the overall experience is superior to a typical alarm." —Andy Zahn, Product Tester

HeimVision Sunrise Alarm Clock A80S

Lifewire / Andy Zahn 

Best for Kids: Mirari OK to Wake! Alarm Clock

  • Design
    5/5
  • Setup Process
    4/5
  • Performance
    4/5
  • Features
    3/5
  • Overall Value
    3/5
What We Like
  • Kid-friendly controls

  • Useful features for parents

  • Cute design

What We Don't Like
  • Flimsy construction

The Mirari OK to Wake! is a color-changing clock and timer designed to help young children develop healthy sleep and wake habits. Parents can set wake-up alarms as well as nap timers, and the color of the device changes from yellow (sleep) to green (wake) to let children know when it’s time to get up.

This makes it a functional alarm for older children and a great sleep scheduling device for younger kids who are inclined to jump out of bed at very early hours. Kids don’t need to know how to read the clock—they can simply watch for the light to turn green to signal it’s time to get up. 

Our reviewer, Andy, especially liked the cute design of the clock and the fact that it comes with interchangeable faceplates. He also noted that the large buttons were kid-friendly and intuitive to use. His main criticism: The construction feels a bit flimsy, which means it could get broken if it’s knocked onto the floor.

Light Settings: Variable color | Bluetooth: No | Radio: No | APP Enabled: No

"It essentially turns waking up into a very simple sort of game that even very young children may be able to learn."—Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Mirari OK to Wake! Alarm Clock
Final Verdict

Our top pick is the Philips HF3520 (view at Amazon), which offers a great selection of bedtime and wake-up features with a very pleasant sunrise simulation. If you want a similar device without the brand recognition, the HeimVision Sunrise Alarm Clock A80S (view at Amazon) is a solid budget option with slightly more limited features.

About Our Trusted Experts

Emmeline Kaser is an experienced product researcher and reviewer in the field of consumer tech. She is a former editor for Lifewire’s product testing and recommendation round-ups.

Rebecca Isaacs has been writing for Lifewire since 2019. She's covered a variety of products focusing on smart home, and reviewed a large number of the wake-up light therapy alarm clocks on this list. She loved the Philips HF3520 for its reliable set of features and multiple brightness options and sounds.

Sandra Stafford has been reviewing products for Lifewire since 2019. Specializing in pet devices and smart home, Sandra reviewed the Aura Daylight Therapy Lamp, praising it for its adjustable light levels and safe UV-free light.

Andy Zahn has reviewed products for Lifewire since 2019. As a tech generalist, he's reviewed a wide range of devices, including the HeimVision Sunrise Alarm Clock which he liked for its smart home connectivity.

FAQs

Are sunrise alarm clocks better than standard alarms for waking up?
There is some evidence that being exposed to light in the morning can help prepare the body to wake up in a more natural way than an audio alarm, according to a study at the US National Library of Medicine. Light signals our body to prepare for the day by elevating core temperature and cortisol levels, while simultaneously decreasing melatonin levels that induce feelings of sleepiness and fatigue.

Will a light alarm clock work for heavy sleepers?
Because light alarm clocks are generally less bracing and impactful than traditional alarms, they may not be suitable for some heavy sleepers. We recommend the first few times you use a new light alarm clock you don't rely exclusively on them to make sure you're awake in time for an important event: Set the light alarm clock for several minutes before your standard alarm goes off, and see if it prompts you to wake up.

What about a sunrise alarm app?
While sunrise alarm apps may be a cheaper alternative than a dedicated light therapy/sunrise alarm, they're generally a case of getting what you pay for. Sunrise alarm apps tend to emit weaker light that does a poor job of filling a room the way natural, ideal light would, and are therefore often significantly less effective at signaling our body to prepare for the day.

What to Look for in a Light Therapy Alarm Clock

Brightness Settings

The more brightness settings an alarm clock has, the more gradually the light will increase. Most have a minimum of ten settings, but some premium options have 20 or more.

Light Intensity

Light intensity, measured in lux, indicates how bright the light gets at its peak. A light with a 200 lux maximum is a solid bet, although some models have lights up to 10,000 lux; the difference isn’t as big as it sounds.

Design

Functionality aside, design is a matter of personal preference. Some people like the look of a round alarm clock that mimics the sun, while others prefer a more traditional design. Compact travel models make it easy to take your gadget on the go, and still, others can be mounted on the wall.

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