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Published Oct. 4, 2021

For many of us, smartphones are the last thing we check at night and the first thing we check in the morning. So it makes sense to just use your phone as an alarm since it’s sitting on the nightstand anyway. But if you’re hoping to cure your smartphone addiction and actually get good sleep, finding an alarm that fits your space and routine is far superior. With features like lights that help you wake up naturally and noises to help you sleep soundly, not to mention connectivity that lets them serve double-duty as smart speakers, the best alarm clocks are more than just something to dread in the morning. Whether you’re helping your kids sleep train or packing for a business trip, you’ll be set with our picks for the best alarm clock.  

How we selected the best alarm clocks

We selected the best alarm clocks by taking the necessary, well, time. We tested products with our families, waded our way through expert and real-world user opinions, and determined what models lived up to manufacturers’ claims. When it comes to sleep, people have very different needs, so that’s why we considered a range of clocks. The best alarm clock for one person may be a sunrise clock that wakes them up with changing light, while the best clock for heavy sleepers may have bells that seem downright rude to lighter sleepers. By considering all the features available, we arrived at a well-rounded list that can help you feel well-rested around the clock. 

What to consider when shopping for the best alarm clocks

From display type to sleep sounds, the best alarms can be very different from one device to the next. Here are some of the top features to consider when shopping for the best alarm clock. 

Do you want analog or digital? 

There are really only two types of displays, though some smart alarm clocks allow you to choose between both types of faces. Digital displays tend to offer a cleaner look, but some people love the throwback style that analog offers. 

Are you in the mood for lighting?

Even though there are only two basic types of displays for the alarms, the look of those displays can vary greatly. That’s partly to do with LED lights. LED lights can be used to display the time, such as with the Amazon Echo Dot, or they can also be used to add features. For instance, sunrise alarm clocks adjust the brightness and color of LED lights to help you fall asleep or wake up. LED lights can also allow an alarm clock to function as a reading light or a nightlight, or they can signify when you’ve activated your virtual assistant.  

What’s that sound? 

Many of us are still haunted by the obnoxious beeping or buzzing of our childhood alarm. But the best alarm clocks today have many sound options—from streamed music to traditional FM radio to pleasant nature sounds—meaning you no longer have to be jolted out of your sweet dreams. If you don’t want to fiddle with apps, look for alarms with lots of built-in sound options. But Bluetooth connectivity is relatively easy to set up and can allow your smart alarm to wake you up with pretty much anything your smartphone is capable of playing. 

Another noteworthy point in the audio department is that some of the best alarm clocks don’t just wake you up, they can also help you stay asleep. They accomplish this, in part, via embedded white noise or nature sounds or they let you play soothing audio via a synced app.  

How smart do you want your alarm clock to be? 

Some alarm clocks keep it simple by design, displaying the time and waking you up at the right hour. But other clocks are smart alarm clocks, letting you stream apps or other audio content over Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi. Smart alarm clocks can also give you wireless control over all the features of your smart home. Turning the lights off downstairs or activating a security alarm at the front door can be as easy as communicating with your alarm. For some, this provides peace of mind, while for others, all that technology in an otherwise simple device is more of a headache.  

The best alarm clocks Reviews & Recommendations

Whether you’re looking for the best sunrise clock for a natural wakeup or the best alarm with nature sounds, the following are natural choices for the best alarm clocks of 2021.

Best sunrise alarm clock: Hatch Restore Sound Machine

Cortisol Is Key

As the light changes from red to orange to white—just like a real sunrise—your brain is cued to wake your body gently. Hatch

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Why it made the cut: With an impressive 22 light colors and an expansive volume of sleep sounds, this sunrise clock lets you customize your bedtime routine, helping you to fall asleep easily, sleep soundly, and wake gradually. 

Specs:

  • Product dimensions: 7.5 x 2.75 x 5.75 inches
  • Mounting type: Tabletop 
  • Display: Digital
  • Power source: Outlet
Pros:Cons:
  • Sleek design
  • No snooze
  • Multiplatform compatible app
  • Some reviewers report clunky buttons
  • Always-expanding sound content
  • Expensive
  • 22 light colors
  • Whether you feel like reading in bed or drifting off to sleep, 22 selectable colors (controlled, along with brightness and volume, via soft-touch buttons or connected smartdevice) mean you can always get the right soft glow from this tabletop alarm, avoiding harsh, eye-straining blue hues. Through the app (available for iOS and Android), you can connect this best sunrise alarm clock to Wi-Fi and then create a customizable sleep routine that emits the right lights and sounds to help you drift off and reach a deep slumber. In addition, a subscription option lets you access meditations, sleep stories, and a more adjustable ambiance. And, in the morning, the light will naturally wake you up by mimicking the rising sun (though there’s no snooze button, you can’t pause the dawn).

    Best alarm clock with nature sounds: JALL Wake-Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock

    A Natural Selection

    This sunrise alarm clock doesn’t offer as much customization as some, but it also doesn’t cost nearly as much. JALL

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    Why it made the cut: The built-in nature sounds, like ocean waves and birdsongs, combined with the sunrise feature help create a natural wakeup. 

    Specs:

    • Product dimensions: 3.5 x 7.2 x 7.2 inches
    • Mounting type: Tabletop 
    • Display: Digital
    • Power source: Outlet
    Pros:Cons:
  • Affordable
  • Less customization than some of the best sunrise alarm clocks
  • 20 brightness settings
  • Snooze button (up to 5x)
  • Featuring dual alarms, an FM radio, a reading light/nightlight, a USB-charging port, and built-in sounds, this sunrise alarm serves a full spectrum of functions whether it’s dusk or dawn. It has seven built-in sounds—including crashing waves, babbling brooks, and wind—making it one of the best alarm clocks with nature sounds. Plus, it can be set to all seven colors of the rainbow, with 20 levels of brightness possible for every color. At night it can be an atmosphere lamp, and in the morning it can gradually come to life across 10, 20, or 30 minutes (with a 9-minute snooze option you can trigger up to five times).

    Best smart alarm clock: Echo Dot with clock (4th Gen)

    Alexa, What’s the Best Alarm Clock?

    The built-in virtual assistant makes this a wise choice for your smart home. Amazon

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    Why it made the cut: The Echo Dot gives you access to Alexa right from your alarm, meaning, if your home is properly connected, you can control the thermostat, lights, and TV, etc., from your bed. 

    Specs:

    • Product dimensions: 3.9 x 3.9 x 3.5 inches
    • Mounting type: Tabletop 
    • Display: LED
    • Power source: Outlet
    Pros:Cons:
  • Sleek design
  • Requires third-party apps to play music as an alarm
  • Eco-friendly features
  • Alexa access
  • Snooze button 
  • This Amazon alarm is our pick for the best smart alarm clock and brings the power of Alexa to your bedside. Access the virtual assistant to set alarms, turn off the lights, play music, and operate whatever else you’ve got looped into your wireless smart home system. The LED light ring at the bottom of the smart alarm has 10 brightness settings, meaning it can serve as a reading light or a nightlight—or go entirely dark. The Echo Dot also has several environmentally conscious features, including a low-power mode that saves energy while the device is idle and a cover made of 100-percent post-consumer recycled fabric.

    Best alarm clock for kids: I.Code Time To Wake Up Alarm Clock

    An I-conic Learning Tool

    Cute, clear emblems help kids learn the distinction between day and night. ICode

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    Why it made the cut: This is the best alarm clock for kids because it gives your little one the sun and the moon so they can learn when it’s time to wake up.

    Specs:

    • Product dimensions: ​​4.7 x 3.9 x 4.7 inches
    • Mounting type: Tabletop 
    • Display: Digital, with LED lights
    • Power source: Outlet
    Pros:Cons:
  • Sun and moon icons for sleep training
  • Single alarm means toddlers may resist napping during the day when the sun icon is displayed
  • 28 sounds
  • Clearly marked controls
  • Especially during summer days of long light, parents know that it can be hard getting your toddlers to understand when it’s time to slumber. This alarm for kids helps them learn by allowing you to set when the moon and sun icons appear, signaling that it’s time for bed or time to wake up. You can choose from noise or light alarms and even select sounds to sleep by. The clock includes 28 audio options, from nature sounds like rain and birds to white noise. Kids can choose between eight LED colors, with three brightness settings, or opt to have the clock cycle through all of its available LED displays.

    Best modern alarm clock: Tivoli Audio Model One Digital (Gen. 2)

    A Forward-Thinking Throwback

    A smart speaker that turns back the clock. Tivoli Audio

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    Why it made the cut: This Wi-Fi-connected alarm offers the benefits of a smart alarm clock without unnecessary bells and whistles. It’s got a distinctly retro look, and it even functions as a regular (over-the-air) radio. 

    Specs:

    • Product dimensions: 5.5 x 8.7 x 4.5 inches
    • Mounting type: Tabletop 
    • Display: Digital
    • Power source: Outlet
    Pros:Cons:
  • Retro midcentury style
  • Expensive
  • Robust sound
  • Connected, but no built-in virtual assistant 
  • Easy to set up/use
  • While you can read our complete ​​thoughts on the Tivoli Audio Model One Digital (Gen. 2), the best modern alarm clock here, the bottom line is that this alarm and smart speaker pairs old-school looks with new-school technology. The retro aesthetic comes from the fabric grille, real wood cabinet, and pleasingly analog dial of this shoebox-sized speaker, while the modern capabilities are showcased via seamless Wi-Fi connectivity and a rich, powerful sound for its size. It supports an array of apps through AirPlay/Chromecast/Bluetooth—including Spotify, Pandora, etc., as well as Netflix, Disney+, and anything else that streams—but it also has an antenna that can collect the signal of your favorite FM radio stations.

    Best travel alarm clock: Travelwey Digital Travel Alarm Clock

    Keeps it Clean

    This lightweight travel alarm clock has a clear, simple display. Travelwey

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    Why it made the cut: This no-frills device folds up small and doesn’t bother with features like date, temperature, and stopwatch, making it a simple-to-use travel alarm clock.

    Specs:

    • Product dimensions: 3.5 x 3.5 x 1.18 inches
    • Mounting type: Tabletop/Handheld 
    • Display: Digital
    • Power source: 2 AAA Batteries
    Pros:Cons:
  • Compact
  • Bland look
  • Affordable
  • Single digital tone
  • Easy to use
  • Clear display
  • Why make things more complicated than you need? This pocket-size alarm is perfectly simple, displaying the time, letting you set an alarm—and that’s about it. Turn the alarm on and off with a single, large button on the front, and illuminate the digital display with a 5-second light. Weighing just .022 pounds and featuring a clean digital display, this alarm is the best travel alarm clock and as easy to carry as it is to read.

    Best cheap alarm clock: Peakeep Twin Bell Alarm Clock

    Two Bells, No Whistles

    Loud looks and a loud alarm make this affordable alarm clock a fun and functional choice for heavy sleepers. Peakeep

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    Why it made the cut: The price is right and the bold old-school style makes it even better.

    Specs:

    • Product dimensions: 4.13 x 5 x 6.5 inches
    • Mounting type: Tabletop
    • Display: Analog
    • Power source: 1 AA Battery
    Pros:Cons:
  • Retro style
  • Minimal features
  • Affordable
  • No snooze button
  • Loud ring for heavy sleepers
  • If you have trouble waking up and don’t want to spend what you would for some of the other alarms, this Peakeep may sound right. Selling for $15.99, the Twin-Bell alarm is designed to be one of the best cheap alarm clocks for heavy sleepers because it rings loudly and has no snooze button—the only way to turn it off is to flip the switch on the back. Plus, research shows that the snooze button only messes with your head. The loud bells don’t mean this analog clock will keep you up at night, though, because the second hand sweeps silently rather than ticking like the midcentury clocks to which this pays homage.

    FAQs

    Q: What is the average cost of an alarm clock?

    The average cost of an alarm clock varies—a lot. You can spend anywhere from $10 for a simple, compact travel alarm clock to more than $300 for the best smart alarm clocks.

    Q: What is the most effective alarm clock?

    The most effective alarm clock depends on your needs. If you have trouble waking up, you should look for the best alarm clock for heavy sleepers, featuring a loud sound that can’t easily be turned off. If you prefer to wake up in a more natural way, look for the best sunrise alarm clock, which adjusts the lights’ brightness and color to mimic a real sunrise and stimulate your body’s cortisol levels. If you’re looking for an alarm clock that can communicate with your virtual assistant, look for one of the best smart alarm clocks.

    Q: Are light alarm clocks worth it?

    Light alarm clocks can absolutely be worth it. You can find some sunrise clocks for $50—though the best sunrise clock on our list costs more than twice that amount. They allow for a more natural wake-up by changing the color and brightness to simulate a real sunrise, stimulating your body’s natural cortisol production. They often also include other features like Wi-Fi connectivity and built-in sounds, letting you customize your wake-up routine. 

    The final word on shopping for the best alarm clocks of 2021

    Perhaps you sleep with your phone to use it as a sleep tracker. Or maybe you’ve gone the other direction and are thinking your phone would be better off spending nights on the couch. Either way, you can benefit from some tableside assistance. If your goal is better sleep, the best alarm clocks can deliver that with lights and sounds that create a soothing environment. If you’re trying to detach from your phone, then an alarm is pretty much a necessity if you need to wake up on time. Don’t phone it in; pick up one of the best alarms today.

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