Waking up is the worst. Beds are cozy, and sleeping is great, so extracting yourself from that warm den of slumber is one of life’s most trying everyday struggles.
Therein comes the sun clock (also known as wake up lights, sunrise simulators, or SAD lamps). If you’re going to roll yourself out of best, this is probably the easiest way to do it.
What’s The Deal With Sun Clocks?
Sun alarm clocks wake you up via natural light, rather than a screaming, furious buzzing that’s the auditory equivalent of a freezing wet slap in the face.
The light isn’t technically natural – we haven’t quite figured out how to harness the sun’s power to that specificity. It’s pretty close though. Sun clocks use tinted lights specifically designed to mirror the soft glow of natural light.
Here’s how they work – you set your alarm as you might with any traditional alarm, then hit the hay.
In the AM, 30 minutes before your set alarm time, the wake-up light begins to glow. It starts off very dim, but the light slowly grows in intensity, until it hits full day-time brightness when the clock hits your pre-selected wake up time.
Some of these lights can offer serious benefits, especially if you’re prone to winter blues. Many of these lamps are actually registered as medical devices for helping with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Best Sunrise Simulator Alarm Clocks
We’re covering a lot of different sunrise clocks today – three from Phillips and then four from other vendors. Check out our guide comparison guide here, or scroll down for more in-depth reviews.
Phillips Wake Up Light HF3500
The Phillips Wake Up Light HF3500 is designed to perfectly mirror a natural sunrise. Just put in your desired wake up time, and the Phillips lamp will launch a low glow 30 minutes before you want to get up.
Slowly, the lamp will increase in brightness before finally reaching your alarm time with a beaming sun and an accompanying gentle beep – just in case the light isn’t enough to wake you.
This unit boasts 10 brightness settings for total light customization (up to 200 lux). This allows the lamp to be used for bedside reading as well as waking up. It also offers a tap-to-snooze ability and utilizes soft, yellow light to mirror a natural sunrise.
Some consumers have raised concerns about the lamp’s bulb, which is built into the unit. Some question that – if and when the bulb burns out – won’t this unit be basically useless? This really isn’t a problem though since the LED bulb is rated for 16,000 hours. If you’re just using the unit to wake up, it would last 123 years with only weekday use. If you use it on weekends too, it would last 87 years. Even if you use it as a reading lamp too, you should be pretty well covered!
- Clinically proven light therapy lamp and alarm clock for improving your sleep, energy, and well being
- Only Philips wake up light alarm clocks are clinically proven to help you wake up feeling more refreshed; Light intensity 200 lux
- Natural light alarm clock for a more natural wake up; Lamp with natural light sunrise alarm improves your ability to function in the morning
- Tap to snooze alarm clock with speaker and beep function ensure you wake up on time; Use the light therapy lamp as a bedside reading lamp with 10 brightness settings
- Natural light alarm clock comes with 90 Day No Hassle Money Back Guarantee from Philips
Most folks really love the better morning routine this unit provides. It’s one of the more affordable sun clocks produced by Phillips.
Most users also like the design and appreciated that the LED light is cool to the touch, making it safe for families with kids.
We’ll be discussing a lot of drawbacks to this unit since we really want to cover everything there is to say about this device. While there are many issues that make this product less than perfect, nearly all users admitted that – despite any qualms – this lamp does a great job waking up
One of the biggest issue users have with this unit is that you can’t disable the wake-up sound that accompanies the end of the sunrise sequence. This seems particularly odd since the whole point of a sun lamp is to be awoken by light, not sound. One user actually shared his personal strategy for manually disabling the sound, but of course we’d rather see the ability to turn off the sound included as a feature!
Users also note that the tap-to-snooze feature is a bit annoying to use. Since the unit is so light-weight, hitting the snooze button (which requires tapping the unit) can often move the sun lamp – in some cases, users have even pushed it off the nightstand!
Using the unit as a reading lamp may also be a problem, depending on how dim you keep it in the evenings. One consumer notes that they use the lamp for reading on the 4 setting, but prefer level 10 brightness for the sunrise wake-up process. Before going to sleep, the user must manually change the light to level 10, as turning off the lamp right after reading will result in only level 4 brightness for the wakeup process. It’s a shame that they can’t have a separate, pre-set brightness specifically for the wake-up process that is independent of the reading lamp brightness setting.
A few folks also wish that you could turn the time display off completely. Currently, while the clock numbers are dimmable and can be set to a very low level, they can’t be turned off completely. If you need 100% darkness to sleep, this may be an issue.
Phillips Wake Up Light HF3505
The Phillips Wake Up Light HF3505 is nearly identical to the model above, but with a few extra features.
Instead of just the standard beep sound, you get two natural bird sounds to choose from – owls or birds! While this may seem minor, as someone who used bird sounds to wake up for years, I can tell you that birds chirping is a thousand times more relaxing to wake up to than any beep or bing.
You also have the option to set up the built-in FM radio to wake you up, which is a plus if you have a favorite morning radio talk show.
This unit also lets you turn off the sound if you want to wake up to just light. Well, not exactly – you can only turn down the wake-up sound very low, but can’t turn it off completely. However, users note that you can turn it down to be so quiet that you can barely hear it at all.
This version also has anti-slip rubber feet to help reduce movement when you inevitable use the tap-to-snooze feature.
- Clinically proven Light therapy lamp and sunrise alarm clock for improving your sleep, energy, and well being
- Only Philips wake up light alarm clocks are clinically proven to help you wake up feeling more refreshed
- Natural light alarm clock for a more natural wake up; Lamp with natural light sunrise and speaker with 2 natural sounds improve your ability to function in the morning
- Alarm clock features tap to snooze and beep functions to ensure you wake up on time; Use the light therapy lamp as a bedside reading lamp with 10 brightness settings
- Natural light alarm clock comes with 90 Day No Hassle Money Back Guarantee from Philips; Alarm Clock Snooze Duration: 9 Minutes; Snooze Type: Tap Top to Snooze; Type of Lamp : Liteon SMD Lamp LED
Again, folks really adore this sun lamp. The sunrise wake-up process works fantastically, and users agree that the bird sounds are relaxing and enjoyable.
Some people even note that they wake up so naturally that they stopped using their snooze function completely!
As with the Phillips 3500 version, you need to adjust the brightness setting back up to a higher level for the sunrise process if you use the lower brightness settings to read at night.
One user also notes that while the touch buttons are cool, they can be difficult to see in the morning. You see, normally at night, waving your hand over the unit makes the touch buttons appear – they become visible due to the soft emitting glow coming from them. However, in the morning when the sunrise process happens, turning off the alarm requires you to stare into the bright light and try to find the button. This can be annoying before you get the muscle memory down and learn the location of the buttons
Another complaint is that the unit is not naturally intuitive out of the box. You can’t plug it in and jump in bed. That said, most users agree that it’s not complicated, but it will require you to at least take a look at the quick 5-minute manual.
Folks also wish it had a battery backup in case of a power outage.
Phillips 3510 Wake-Up Light
The Phillips 3510 is another sunrise simulator alarm clock unit similar to the other Phillips products mentioned above, but with a few differences.
For one, the design is different, more akin to a giant rectangular orb. This unit also offers a whopping 20 brightness settings up to 300 lux, three nature sounds to choose from (Birds Chirping, Birds In The Forest, or Zen Garden), and the FM radio option.
This unit also does offer the ability to turn off the alarm sound completely, which is a nice bonus for the folks who really want total silence in the mornings. The 3510 also provides an option for a dusk simulation, where the light will gradually decrease – just the thing for a better bedtime routine.
- Light therapy lamp and sunrise alarm clock for improving your sleep, energy, and well- being
- Only Philips wake-up light alarm clocks are clinically proven to help you wake up feeling more refreshed. To set the clock time, choose between a 12-hour and a 24-hour clock and then adjust the time.
- Relax and drift off to sleep with dimming sunset with 20 brightness settings. Wake-up light with sunrise simulation wakes you gradually with a natural light lamp and choice of 3 calming wake-up sounds.
- FM radio and a tap-to-snooze alarm clock. Use the light therapy lamp as a bedside reading lamp with 10 brightness settings.
- Natural light alarm clock comes with 90 Day No Hassle Money Back Guarantee from Philips. Voltage-100/240 Volts
Users really love all the sound options that come with this unit, as well as the ability to turn off sound completely for those who would rather wake up without noise.
While a few people complained that this unit was difficult to figure out and complicated, others said it wasn’t very hard, so ease-of-use may depend on how technically comfortable you are.
Phillips Wake-Up Sun Alarm Clock HF3520
We’re almost done with the Phillips models, but there’s still one more to mention! The Phillips HF3520 is the same design as the last model listed above, with some differences.
The biggest difference with this unit it that it has colored lights as well – the sunrise wake up process actually starts with a dim reddish dawn glow before changing to warm orange and finally to a yellow-white light similar to what’s found in the other units.
The 3520 also has a “dusk simulation” which, while largely unused by most, is a nifty addition that may be especially handy for those who go to bed early and need a bit of extra help getting in the bedtime mood.
It too has the tap-to-snooze function and the FM radio option, but this unit offers five different nature sounds to choose from (Bird Song, Birds in the Forest, Zen Garden, Gentle Piano and Seaside Sounds).
Another handy extra feature is that this version has the ability to set up 2 different alarm profiles. This allows you to set up one wake up schedule for weekdays, and another for weekends (or one for each member of a couple).
As with the previous model, this one can also have the volume turned off completely for alarm noises.
- Light therapy lamp and natural sunrise alarm clock for improving your sleep, energy, and well being
- Philips’ #1 best-selling wake up light alarm clock. Only Philips wake- up lights are clinically proven to help you wake up feeling more refreshed
- Relax and drift off to sleep with dimming sunset and sounds. Colored sunrise simulation alarm clock wakes you gradually with a natural light lamp and a speaker that plays a choice of 5 wake up sounds, or FM radio with tap to snooze
- New! PowerBackUp+ feature maintains internal clock settings and back-up alarm for at least 8 hours in the event of power failure
- 90 Day No Hassle Money Back Guarantee from Philips and can be used as a bedside reading lamp with 10 brightness settings
As with other units, users really can’t get over how easy it is to wake up with the sunlight lamp. Most users appreciate the variety of sounds that come with this units, and while the dusk simulation isn’t used often, the people who do use it enjoy it.
Nothing much new – similar issues as mentioned with the previous unit.
ATTENION: This product has been changed since our reivew – we no longer recommend this item.
The NakaLight is more or less the same as the Phillips design, featuring a glowing circular shape that serves as the light source and clock.
The NakaLight is considerably more affordable than the Phillips equivalent, but still offers the most popular features found in pricier models.
This sunrise simulator goes from dark to light like other units, turning on 30 minutes before your set alarm time with a dull glow that increasingly grows. It features 10 brightness settings up to 100 lumens and also has a sunset feature where lights slowly dim.
The NakaLight also offers 7 wakeup sounds (ocean sound, birds singing, forest nature, classical music, and traditional alarm sound) plus an FM radio option. The sound can be adjusted from level 1-15. It also has 7 different colors that the light can be set to for different moods.
Snoozers rejoice! This light therapy alarm clock has a snooze option at 5-minute intervals. It also has the ability to turn the time display to a bright, dim or off option (something Phillips users often desired).
Users really love all the nifty features this unit comes with. They testify that they wake up much better with this sun simulator than with a traditional alarm clock.
Those who have used the Phillips products and the NakaLight note that the NakaLight feel significantly cheaper and not as well made. They also prefer the Phillips atmospheric sounds.
Another con is that you can’t set a color for the sunrise – it has to be the soft white light (although arguably this is the color you should be using anyway).
- NO MORE GET UP LATE AND MORE ENERGETIC: Wake up light have 10 levels brightness up to 102.34 Lumens.It starts shining 30 mins before your set time which gently brings you out of deep sleep to wide awake from dark yellow to shiny white.
- NEW SAVIOR FOR SLEEPING: NakaLight alarm clock sunset simulation gradually weakened lights will make you relax and take you into the sweet dreamland. You can set shutdown time in 15/30/60 minutes.
- 7 NATURE SOUNDS AND MULTI-COLOR: If you miss the birds singing in mountain you can set it as alarm clock.Nakalight wake up light have 7 sounds and FM radio (could search up to15 channels) meet up all your expectations; 7 fixable colors allow you express mood through lights.
- UNIVERSAL CHARGER USB & ADAPTER: This upgraded sunrise alarm clock can be charged by any universal Android USB port. An adapter is included in the package.You can take it every where you want to go.
- BEST CHOICE AS AN AMAZING GIFT: The morning wake-up alarm clock obtained FCC, CE, ROSH certifications which guaranteed its high quality. It will be the best gift for your families and friends.
Tecboss Bedside Sunrise Lamp
The Tecboss Bedside Sunrise Lamp is a more economical sunrise simulator alarm clock, but functional none the less. It has a sunrise simulation that gradually goes from 10% to 100% brightness over the course of the 30 minutes before your alarm.
This unit offers three levels of lighting brightness that are perfect for reading and relaxing in bed before snooze time. The lowest level is very soft lighting, the medium level is normal daytime lighting, and the highest level is bright for reading in bed without any eye strain.
The Tecboss also has multiple colors you can use, as well as a mode that gradually rotates through all the different colors. Along with the sunrise process, the Tecboss offers 5 natural alarm sounds. These sounds start off quietly and grow louder as the light gets brighter.
There’s also a battery backup that supports the wall charger, so even a power outage won’t stop you from waking up on time.
- Touch Control: Easy reach to the top and touch control the light modes, brightness, colors, and power on/off;
- 3 Level Warm White Bedside Light: low for sleep; medium for normal illumination and high for reading;
- Atmosphere Mood Lighting: 256 atmosphere RGB color changes gradually, just one touch to cycle and one touch to stop the color;
- Sunrise Simulation Alarm: 5 natural alarm sounds; the light will gradually light up from 10% to 100% brightness 30 minutes before alarm; then it starts alarming from weak to strong. NO SNOOZE FUNCTION, so either get up or miss the time;
- Rechargeable Emergency Lighting: Connect the lamp to your 5V wall USB adapter (NOT INCLUDED) using enclosed micro USB cable. Rechargeable battery enables the lamp as a portable temporary lighting sourcing, which can supply 10 hours low, 5 hours medium and 2 hours high brightness illumination.
People love the wake-up process with the Tecboss, and have a ton of fun with the various light colors – definitely a cool extra!
While overall the Tecboss is a solid pick, there are a few issues you should be aware of.
The Tecboss doesn’t have any kind of snooze feature, which may be a no-go for snooze-prone people.
A few other big caveats are that you must select a wake-up sound – turning off alarm sounds all together is not an option. An even bigger issue is that you can’t change the sound volume, so you’re stuck with it. For some people, this may be a big deal breaker.
This unit also only has three brightness modes, versus Phillips’ 10-20. However, most users didn’t complain about lack of light dimming options.
Also, while not a huge problem, the unit comes with a 3ft long micro-USB cable but no wall adapter, so you’ll need your own.
Nature Bright’s Sun Bliss 2-in-1 Lamp
The Nature Bright’s Sun Bliss 2-in-1 lamp doesn’t offer the classiest design, but it is one of the only ultra-portable light therapy alarm clocks available, with a fold-up stand.
If you travel a lot and have a hard time waking up with traditional alarms, this is the way to go. However – it’s worth noting this unit still needs to be plugged into a wall to get power.
Like other sun simulation alarms, it begins lighting up 30 minutes before your pre-set alarm time and gradually increases.
This unit is also marked as a light therapy tool and encourages consumers to use it even outside of a morning alarm role.
One important distinction with this wake-up lamp is that it doesn’t go gradually from dark to light during the wakeup process. Instead, the light turns right on at it’s lowest setting and increases up to full brightness. The problem is, even the lowest setting is fairly bright. So while this unit does have a wake-up cycle, it isn’t a true sunrise simulation as with some of the other units.
- 10,000 LUX bright light mimics sunlight
- Built in wake-up light alarm clock gently rouses you
- Advanced LED diffusion lens protects your eyes
- Lightweight and small size for easy portability. Universal Adapter - Input 100 – 240 V 60/50Hz
- Universal adaptor for use while traveling
Users remark how small and easy to transport this unit is – it’s become a favorite travel item for many folks! While the wake-up process is different, most users seem content and don’t mind the lack of a gradual dark to light process.
Users find the design to feel quite cheap, and find the buttons and accompanying instructions to be very complicated.
Some also argue that it’s too bright – with a 10,000 lux light it’s much brighter than other units. While it can be used as a wake-up clock, it doesn’t offer the same gentle nudge towards the morning that other units provide.
The Aura is a bit different than the other units here – it’s specifically designed for light therapy, rather than waking up. Still, we thought it might be worth including for those interested in these types of products.
The Aura uses a 10,000 lux UV-free light with a dimmer that gives you full control of the light brightness, with the lowest at just 3,500 lux. Why such powerful light? Well, as we noted, this unit is marketed primarily as a light therapy tool – it even claims to help with jet lag, low energy, and circadian sleep disorders.
It has dual title angle capability (85 and 70 degrees) and can also be mounted to the wall, avoiding taking up space. The unit also has a built-in timer which can be set at 10-minute intervals, anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes.
- CLINICAL STRENGTH- 10,000 Lux of Bright Light to help beat the Winter Blues, Circadian Sleep Disorders, Shift Work Adjustment, Jet Lag and Low Energy --THIS LAMP IS DESIGNED FOR USE IN THE USA ONLY. IT WILL NOT WORK ON ANY OTHER VOLTAGE.
- PATENTED TECHNOLOGY- The Aura Daylight Therapy Lamp features a patented lux adjusting dial so that YOU are in full control of your light therapy treatment.The lux output is 3,500 lux at the lowest setting and 10,000 lux at the maximum setting. The unit also adjusts to an 85 or 70 degree angle for comfortable positioning.
- ETL SAFETY TESTED AND FCC CERTIFIED- Don't take a chance with your health. The Aura Daylight Light Therapy Lamp is ETL and FCC certified to ensure the safety of this device. The Aura BL40 is also certified as 100% UV FREE.
- TIMER FEATURE- The built-in timer feature adds additional flexibility! The timer can be set at ten minute intervals from 60-10 minutes. Bonus feature: the lamp will automatically shut off when the treatment is complete.
- WALL MOUNTABLE- The Daylight Therapy Lamp easily mounts onto the wall. The stand folds up for simplified storage.
Users can vouch for the benefits of this light therapy tool – many note feeling more positive and energized after using this device.
Unfortunately, this unit does not have a wake-up option, so it isn’t suitable as a sunlight alarm.
Can’t You Just Open the Shades?
Some folks might be able to pull off waking up with natural light sans lamp, but most of us can’t, as waking up to real natural light requires pulling up the shades before you fall asleep.
If you live in a city, this isn’t practical due to the city lights that will no doubt stream in through your window. However, if you can sleep with a bit of light in your room, this natural alternative is certainly cheaper.
Many wake up light manufacturers claim that their lights have been scientifically proven to be a better way to wake up, in addition to providing increased energy and better mood upon awakening.
At least one study seems to support these claims, noting that dawn simulation has been shown to reduce SAD (Season Affective Disorder).
Who Are Wake Up Light Best For?
Anyone who wants a better way to wake up may appreciate sunlight alarm clock, but we think these groups of people will benefit most:
- Regions With Long, Dark Winter Months. If you live in an area with drawn out winters and daylight savings that require you to wake up when it’s still pitch black out, sun clocks will feel like a real life saver.
- People Who Sleep With Blackout Curtains. Blackout curtains are great for sleeping but tough for waking up.
- Those With SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing, and it can have a negative impact on your life. Light therapy offered by sun clocks may be hugely helpful in keeping your spirits up.
- People With Unusual Sleep Schedules. Whether you’re working the night shift or rising up early to catch a 5am meeting with offices overseas, keeping odd hours is hard on your body. A natural light alarm may make getting out of bed significantly easier.
Many people suffer from insomnia and other sleep-related issues, and I’d venture to guess that natural light therapy could help with issues like those as well.
Are there any natural sunrise alarm clocks that we’ve missed? What’s been your experience using these devices? Did it cure your SAD? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Last update on 2019-02-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API