Choose an alarm app that will actually wake you up
Rise and really, really shine.
If you don’t struggle with your alarm clock each the morning, then consider yourself lucky—or at least very well-rested. For the rest of us, technology can help overcome that bleary-eyed and dreamy-headed feeling to get us out of bed on time.
The following apps for Android and iOS can prevent you from endlessly hitting the snooze button on your alarm, or wake you up gently at a time that suits your body. Some even give you statistics on how well you slept too. Choose the best option for your needs, and wake up the right way.
Snooze no more
In an ideal world, you’d wake up when your alarm rings, turn it off immediately, and get out of bed like a responsible adult. All too often, though, you grope for the snooze button and drift off again. That’s not necessarily a problem—until you hit the button again, and again, and again, and all of a sudden it’s time to leave. Or worse, you accidentally turn the alarm off entirely and sleep through the start of the workday.
Instead of giving you such easy alarm-silencing options, the following apps force you to jump through hoops in order to quiet the blaring. By the time you’ve solved a puzzle, played a game, or even snapped a selfie, you’ll have shaken off the fog of sleep and resisted the siren song of your cozy bed.
If you really need a jolt to get out of bed, then Alarmy provides one. By default, the app’s alarm only stops ringing once you’ve taken a photo that matches one you’ve already registered. It could be the bathroom mirror, for example, or the coffee machine downstairs if you really have trouble staying awake in the morning. By the time you’ve located the designated object and framed it properly, you’ll be awake and ready to face the day.
The app includes other modes too. To disable the alarm, you might have to solve a calculation, scan a barcode, or even shake the phone vigorously. The idea is to wake up your mind and body before you have a chance to think about hitting snooze.
Alarmy for Android (free, $8.99 for the pro version with no ads and advanced settings) and iOS (free, $7.99 for pro version)
Enjoy some early-morning Instagram practice with Snap Me Up, the “selfie alarm clock.” The app won’t stop ringing until you hold it up in front of your face and take a photo of your “I woke up like this” look. Fortunately, the app won’t share the image with all your buddies—but it will save the selfie to your phone if you want to consult it later.
The thinking is that you need to be reasonably alert and well-lit for the app to recognize the selfie. Therefore, you need to be pretty awake to shut off the alarm. Aside from this core functionality, the app features a bright and colorful interface, and the option to keep a dream diary. You can opt to stump up $1.99 to remove the ads.
Snap Me Up for Android (free, $1.99 to remove ads) only
Continuing with our theme of bright and colorful apps, AlarmMon is one of the longest-running third-party alarm clocks out there. Its method of getting you suitably alert in the mornings is to challenge you to a game. As well as wake-up calls, these mini games are pretty fun in their own right—the only problem is that you might make yourself late playing them.
On top of the games, this app offers a host of alarm sounds and sticker options (it’s from a Korean software studio after all). You can make in-app purchases for extra content and help during the games. If you’d rather not pay, don’t fret: the core alarm part of the app is completely free to use.
AlarmMon for Android (free, extra content from $0.99) and iOS (free, extra content from $1.99)
If you seriously struggle to get out of bed in the morning, then the Alarm Clock for Heavy Sleepers could be the one for you. Like the other apps in this section, it forces you to complete a challenge, such as a math puzzle, in order to shut off your alarm. Its other features include the option to wake up to a variety of sounds, like weather forecasts or your own music, and logs of the time you spend snoozing (though it doesn’t collect detailed sleep stats like some of the apps we cover below do).
Where the app really excels is in customization. You can assign each alarm with a separate volume and audio track, and even set alarms to activate only when you’re in a particular location—this would automatically switch off your normal wakeup call when you’re on vacation, for example. This alarm also keeps a list of public holidays so it knows when you might not have to get up for work.
Alarm Clock for Heavy Sleepers for Android (free, $2.49 to remove ads) only
Break your sleep cycle
Not all sleep is created equal. As you snooze, your body cycles through different stages, and it’s easier to wake up from some than others. The following apps attempt to hack your natural rhythm by waking you up during just the right point in your sleep cycle. Instead of setting a single wake-up time, you choose a time slot during which you need to rise and shine, and the app will select a specific time from within that window.
Those who prefer a more meditative and calming wakeup call might like Sleep Cycle. Lay your smartphone on your mattress while you snooze, and this app will use the device’s sensors to figure out your sleeping patterns. It only rings the alarm when you’ve reached a natural point of light sleep in your circadian rhythm.
This alarm lets you define a 30-minute window when you need to wake up—otherwise you could sleep right through work or an important interview—and it will sound at some point during that period. If you upgrade to the premium plan, Sleep Cycle can also track the quality of your sleep over several days, based on the movements and sounds you make.
Sleep Cycle for Android (free or $29.99/year for premium features) and iOS (free or $29.99/year for premium features)
Sleep as Android is primarily designed to track your sleep. However, it offers many additional features that resemble the abilities of apps we’ve already mentioned. For example, if you place your smartphone on your mattress, Sleep as Android can figure out the quality of the night’s sleep you’re getting—but it can also use this tracking to set off a smart alarm that will wake you up at the most natural moment. You can also set an alarm that won’t turn off until you solve certain challenges, like doing math or shaking your phone, much like Alarmy.
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On top of these abilities, Sleep as Android provides a good selection of natural alarm sounds, as well as support for wearables, Google Fit, and Spotify. It’s a great all-around choice for Android users—and it’s free. A one-time payment of $3.99 will remove the ads and unlock some bonus features, such as extra alarm sounds, but you can still use the main features perfectly well without paying.
Sleep as Android for Android (free, $5.49 to unlock extra features) only
Sleepzy takes care of your whole sleep routine, from sending you to dreamland with soothing sounds to waking you up at the right time in your natural cycle (albeit within a preset window). At bedtime, if you need to make up a sleep deficit, then the app can help you calculate when you need to start heading to bed. During the night, if you leave your phone on your mattress as you drift off, the app will track and log the quality of your sleep. Finally, in the morning, you can use it as a smart alarm clock.
If you’d rather not track your sleep, you can leave the phone on your nightstand, and the app will act like a more typical alarm. You can customize the alerts—for example, the alarm might start off quietly and gradually get louder. You can also choose from a range of built-in natural sounds or make the app play your own music to wake you up.
Sleepzy for Android (free with a three-day trial, $39.99 a year for a premium account) and iOS ($4.99 for a 1-month premium subscription)