The Best Alarm Clocks Will Make You Ditch Your Phone
Lo-fi for the win.
Published Sep 17, 2021 1:10 AM
“When cell phones first became a part of everyone’s daily life, we thought that perhaps alarm clocks would fade away, that no one would need them anymore,” says Chay Costello, associate director of merchandising at MoMA Design Store. But the bedside basic has maintained its spot on the nightstand, and it may actually have health benefits: Sleep hygiene experts suggest that keeping smartphones out of the bedroom can help us avoid disruptive screen time before bed.
While classic alarm clocks remain popular, the best ones have subtle updates for 21st-century consumers. Newer alarm clocks have all sorts of bells and whistles—not to mention smart features—to make the most of your mornings. Costello points to the rise of what she calls lifestyle alarm clocks, devices that “tend to address the whole sleep cycle, from falling asleep to waking up in a more peaceful and restorative way.”
Whether you’re looking for a low-tech model or a modern, multipurpose option, read on for the best alarm clocks to help you wake up on the right side of the bed.
- Best updated classic: Newgate Covent Alarm Clock
- Best minimal: Georg Jensen HK Alarm Clock
- Best travel friendly: Braun Classic Travel Analog Clock
- Best retro: Arne Jacobsen Alarm Clock
- Best smart: Loftie Alarm Clock
- Best sunrise: Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
- Best multipurpose: Hatch Restore Smart Sleep Assistant
- Best sound: Oneclock Analog Waking Clock
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Analog vs. digital: “There is a customer divergence between those who want a simple, utilitarian alarm clock to keep tech out of their sleeping space and those who really value engaging with technology to customize and optimize their sleep schedule,” explains Costello. While a lot of analog clocks have useful conveniences like touch-sensor lights, if you want smart features and customization, go digital.
Alarm sounds: “A good alarm clock is simply one that can consistently get you up and out of bed,” says certified sleep science coach Logan Foley, managing editor of SleepFoundation.org. Some people respond best to a ringing bell, while others require a louder noise; some, however, find that far too jarring and prefer natural sounds or music. Many models now offer a variety of great alarm sound options and additional features to complement the sound and make waking up more pleasant.
Additional features: Today’s alarm clocks truly work overtime, functioning as bedside lights and noise machines, generating meditations or serving as speakers. A number are meant for more than the morning, helping users wind down in the evening with soothing light and relaxing sounds. “If you can wake up with a simple alarm clock and it doesn’t cause any trouble for you, go that route,” says Foley, who has struggled with insomnia herself. “However, if you have a hard time falling asleep or a hard time waking up, or hit the snooze button over and over, consider an option with more features.”
Our Top Picks
Best Updated Classic: Newgate Covent Alarm Clock
Best Minimal: Georg Jensen HK Alarm Clock
Best Travel Friendly: Braun Classic Travel Analog Clock
Best Retro: Arne Jacobsen Alarm Clock
Best Smart: Loftie Alarm Clock
Best Sunrise: Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Best Multipurpose: Hatch Restore Smart Sleep Assistant
Best Sound: Oneclock Analog Waking Clock
Pro Tips for Styling Your Bedside Table
- Keep your alarm clock on the near side of the nightstand so that bleary-eyed fumbling won’t knock other items onto the floor.
- Add something to your nightstand that’ll make you smile in the morning, whether it’s a favorite picture in a frame, a memento from a great trip, or a small plant.
- Corral accessories on a tray for a more streamlined look. If you don’t use it daily, it shouldn’t be on top of your nightstand.
Three Ways to Sleep Soundly
These sleep hygiene techniques from the Sleep Foundation’s Foley may help alleviate mild to moderate insomnia, so that you fall asleep faster, stay asleep during the night, and wake up more refreshed.
Keep calm: Keep your bedroom free of such distractions as a computer, smartphone, and TV. “Only use your bed for sleeping and sex, so your brain doesn’t start associating your bedroom with other activities,” Foley explains.
Banish blue light: It’s not just the distraction of devices that can be a slumber stopper; the blue light they emit can make it hard to fall asleep. “Avoid looking at smart devices in the hours leading up to bedtime,” says Foley, who recommends leaving your phone charging in another room so you’re not tempted to check it.
Set the clock consistently: Foley also believes in keeping regular hours. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends, helps to get your internal body clock in gear.
Q: When was the alarm clock invented? (Seriously, I want to know!)
American clockmaker and inventor Levi Hutchins created what is believed to be the first mechanical alarm clock in In 1787. He didn’t patent his device, however, and a French inventor was the first to do so with a mechanical and adjustable alarm clock in 1847.
Q: I’m such a heavy sleeper; I never hear my alarm go off. What should I look for in an alarm clock?
If you can’t wake up to a standard alarm clock, consider a clock that has extra-loud volume settings and/or a vibrating bed shaker. You could slip it under your pillow or on the mattress to amplify the effect of the alarm.
The Last Word
Waking up is hard to do for many of us, but the right alarm clock can make it easier. That may mean a model that simulates the sunrise; offers the sound of music or birdsong; or helps you relax at night for deeper, more consistent slumber. It doesn’t hurt if the model you choose is a beautifully designed object that truly suits your style.
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