You may think that a smartphone is the only alarm clock you need. However, keeping your phone within arm's reach can be a big distraction that results in a bad night's sleep.
A quick peek at a friend’s post can easily turn into endless browsing, and the next thing you know, it’s well past midnight and you’re wide awake. If this vicious cycle sounds familiar, a bedside alarm clock could help.
Many experts agree that smartphones and tablets should be avoided at bedtime as these devices can disrupt healthy sleep patterns.
Luckily, buying a dedicated alarm clock is an easy, inexpensive way to get you into the habit of keeping your phone out of reach at bedtime. Some are simple, minimalist analog clocks with basically only one feature: an alarm that’s loud enough to get you out of bed.
More modern digital models offer more features, such as temperature, multiple alarm settings and custom sounds (some can even wake you up with your favorite Spotify station). They sometimes have USB ports for charging a phone or tablet, and smart alarm clock models feature voice command capability. Finally, there are sunrise/sunset alarms, designed to work with your circadian rhythm to wake you up gently and naturally.
Whether you’re a light or heavy sleeper, there are several good options to choose from. And best of all, alarm clocks are usually very affordable, many of them retailing for $30 or less.
Alarm clock buying guide
These are some feature to consider when shopping for an alarm clock:
• Multiple alarms. If several people will be using the same clock, it’s best to get one that can save two or more alarm settings. Even if it's just for a single person, a clock with multiple alarms is great for setting up additional reminders such as for taking medications.
• Alarm settings. Hearing the same beeps and chimes every morning can get annoying after a while. Or maybe some nights you’re too beat and need to set the volume a little louder to make sure you wake up the next morning. Whatever the case, there are alarm clocks that feature several alarm tones and volume levels.
Digital alarm clocks generally feature different tones and multiple volume settings that are easy to adjust. Analog clocks keep it simple, having either a beeping tone or metal bells.
• Display. Classic analog alarm clocks have a few hands to tell the current time and mark the alarm time. Digital clocks can often do much more, showing the current time (in 12- and 24-hour format), humidity, temperature, alarm information and other features.
Some alarm clocks let you select only the information you want displayed, which can be important. After all, you don’t want the display to be cluttered and confusing — especially when you wake up in the middle of the night and take a quick glance at the clock.
Best alarm clocks
1. Best overall: USCCE Digital Alarm Clock Radio
This digital alarm clock by USCCE is compact and easy to use, with dual alarms that can be fully personalized.
You can choose between five different alarm tones (or a radio station) and which days you want the alarm to go off (weekdays, weekends or daily). Set the alarm volume between 3 and 16 or, if you prefer to be eased into the morning, program the volume to gradually increase from one level to another.
The LCD screen is only around 3” wide, but users mention the numbers are large enough to be read across a dark room. Its brightness is adjustable and can even be fully turned off. In addition to the time (which can be displayed in 12- or 24-hour format), the screen shows the indoor temperature, whether each alarm is enabled and for what time.
There are other alarm clocks available at this price that allow similar customizations. We particularly like this USCCE alarm clock because it takes up minimal space while featuring two USB charging ports for charging a phone or tablet. The ports are located in front of the unit so they are easy to reach, freeing up wall sockets for other devices that require more power.
2. Editor’s pick: Mesqool Alarm Clock Night Light
For $20, this alarm clock has a large, easy-to-read display and doubles as a night light. It also has two USB charging ports.
Whereas other clocks display additional information like temperature or humidity, the Mesqool’s 7” LED display only shows the time. This sleek, minimalist format makes it easy to read, especially at night. The display is also dimmable for those who need a darker environment to sleep.
The built-in night light has seven colors to choose from. While it can’t be dimmed, a long press of the “Light” button turns it off completely.
3. Best for low prices: Jall Digital Alarm Clock
Not only is this alarm clock budget-friendly ($13 to $15), it also has a boxy, modern design that blends nicely with most decor. The unit's faux wood finish is available in black, brown or white.
The Jall clock allows you to program up to three separate alarms for weekdays or weekends, and the display has three brightness levels to choose from. The volume or tone aren’t adjustable, but users say that while the alarm sound is not startling, it never fails to wake them up.
4. Best smart alarm clock: Amazon Echo Show 5
Amazon’s Alexa can pretty much help with everything nowadays, so, why not use the virtual assistant to improve your waking-up experience?
The Alexa-powered Echo Show 5 has a 5” touchscreen that allows you to fully personalize your alarms with a wide variety of backgrounds (including personal pictures) and clocks. A sunrise feature gradually brightens the screen when it’s time for the alarm to go off, similar to sunrise alarm clocks.
As for alarm tones, you can choose between the usual beeps and chimes, specific songs or playlists (from Spotify or Amazon Music) and special alarms in which actual celebrities (and cartoon characters) have been pre-recorded to give you a wake up call. Programming alarms and even "hitting" the snooze button with the Echo 5 can all be done with voice commands.
You can also create morning routines that go into effect once the alarm goes off. Program Alexa to brief you on the latest news (or watch them on the built-in screen), show you your daily schedule or turn on smart lights or thermostats. The Echo Show 5’s screen can stream live feeds from smart cameras, doorbells or baby monitors too.
5. Best sunrise alarm clock: Philips SmartSleep HF3520 Wake-up Light
Modern life has disrupted many people’s natural sleep cycles, leading them to fall asleep and wake up at unnatural, sometimes even unhealthy, hours. If you’re trying to get your sleep cycle back on track, the Philips SmartSleep HF3520 could be the option for you.
This alarm clock simulates the sunrise (and sunset) to help adjust your circadian rhythm, a natural 24-hour process that regulates our sleep-wake cycle, release of hormones, temperature changes and even digestion. These processes are influenced by natural light, and can be disrupted by harsh artificial lighting.
The SmartSleep takes all of this into account, emitting light that changes gradually from a reddish tone to bright white over the course of several minutes, starting at your chosen time. Even if you’re sleeping, your eyes pick up the change in brightness, coaxing your brain out of sleep more naturally. The wake-up alarm can be paired with a soothing sound (like birds chirping or waves), which also increases in volume slowly.
The sunset setting does the opposite: the light goes from bright white to dimmed orange until it goes completely dark, just as a sunset would. Users swear it makes them feel sleepy, sometimes in under 20 minutes.
The SmartSleep HF3520 is pretty expensive, retailing for $100. However, the light effects on cheaper options are not as realistic. If you want the light quality of the HF3520 for a lower price, consider the Philips SmartSleep HF3500, which at around $50 is the least expensive option in the SmartSleep line. Do note, however, that it lacks some helpful features like the ability to program more than one alarm, volume and alarm sound adjustments and a battery backup.
6. Best budget-friendly sunrise alarm clock: HeimVision A80S Sunrise Alarm Clock Wake-Up Light
If you can’t justify paying $100 for the Philips SmartSleep HF3520, this sunrise alarm clock by HeimVision is worth considering. It simulates sunrise and sunset to help you fall asleep easier and wake up more relaxed, just like the SmartSleep, but it costs only about $50.
You can use an app on your phone to set up the HeimVision's alarm time, brightness, tone and duration of the dimming and brightening effect (between 10 to 120 minutes). You can also control the clock with Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands, which you can’t do with the more expensive Philips SmartSleep.
Having said that, the HeimVision's light effects are not quite as realistic and soothing as the SmartSleep. Also, unlike the SmartSleep, the HeimVision’s sounds can’t be turned off or set to rise and fall progressively along with the light.
7. Best analog alarm clock: Jall Analog Alarm Clock
This budget-friendly alarm clock is perfect for those nostalgic for simpler days. The elegant-looking Jall clock is easy to set up and read, doesn’t make any ticking noises and sets off a loud alarm that rings for up to 30 minutes. (There’s no snooze button, although this may be helpful for those who rely on it excessively.)
It also has a button on the back that softly lights up the display when pressed in case you need to check the time in the middle of the night. The clock is available in four colors: black, white, red, sky blue and pale green.