All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Waking up to the sound of a blaring alarm can be jarring, especially if you have to do so in pitch black. That’s why some people have turned to devices that mimic the arrival of daylight as a gentler way to stir from slumber. So-called sunrise or wake-up-light clocks typically start out with a dim light and then gradually brighten to full brightness in order to match your body’s circadian rhythms. If you have a particularly tough time waking up, you probably do still need an alarm, but the sunrise light should at least make it easier. There are several products on the market that have this feature; some are alarm clocks, some are smart displays, while others are simply programmable lights. Some only have sunrise features, while others have sunset features too (where the lights gradually dim and go dark), which could help you get to sleep in the first place. Sunrise and wake-up clocks Philips Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-up Light Philips sells a whole range of sunrise alarm clocks, and the one with the most bells and whistles is the SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light. You can use a companion app to program your sunrise and sunset times as well as set different alarms for different days of the week. You can do that manually too, but the app makes it a lot easier. You can use the app for logging your sleep and wake times. The SmartSleep also offers several alarm sounds, customizable sunrise themes and a red-tinted light setting that’s more soothing than the default white light. In addition, you’ll find specialized sunset features that can help you wind down before bed. The light can be set to gradually dim over time, and it comes with relaxation cues like breathing exercises and calming sounds, like rainfall and ocean waves. As a bonus, the SmartSleep HF3670 also has sensors for humidity, light and noise levels, and the app will let you know if you need to adjust them to achieve ideal sleeping conditions. For a cheaper and more stripped-down option, consider Philips’ $100 Wake-Up Light HF3520. It lacks WiFi capabilities so there’s no companion app and it doesn’t have the extra relaxation settings of the SmartSleep, but it still includes that red-tinted light setting, along with similar sunrise and sunset features and a decent array of alarm sounds. Buy Smart Sleep light at Amazon - $180 Buy Wake-up light at Amazon - $100 Hatch Restore Hatch If getting to sleep is just as challenging as waking up, if not more so, you might want to consider the Hatch Restore, which brings a bunch of sleep-friendly features. It has Bluetooth and WiFi, which you can use to connect to a companion app. That app in turn lets you customize your sunrise and sunset routines as well as set different alarms for different days. On top of that, the Hatch Restore has several color lighting options that range from Warm White to Peach and Raspberry. True to its name, the Restore has various wind-down features that could help you fall asleep more easily. It has over 31 sleep sounds to block unwanted noise, plus a library of over 50 meditations and eight sleep stories. The caveat here is that the meditations and stories aren’t free. Hatch will offer owners a free trial of the full library for six months, but it costs $5 a month or $50 a year thereafter. That said, if you wanted an all-in-one machine to help address your sleep and wake issues, the Hatch Restore might be worth a look. Buy Hatch Restore at Amazon - $130 Smart display clocks Engadget Lenovo Smart Clock Almost all smart displays have some kind of sunrise alarm feature, especially the ones that are designed to sit on your nightstand. The Lenovo Smart Clock is one of our favorites, even if it lacks many of the usual smart display features like the ability to play videos. That’s because it’s adorable, won’t take up a lot of space and it’s affordable, to boot. Plus, it comes with eight different clock faces, six alarm tones and you can smack the top of it to either snooze or dismiss the alarm. When enabled, the sunrise alarm will gradually brighten the display for 30 minutes before the set time. Since it’s a Google-powered device, it also works with all the usual Google Assistant features like telling you the five-day weather forecast or your upcoming appointments. It surfaces reminders of future events plus offers to set alarms so you don’t miss them. You can use it to display your Google Photos and it works with other smart home devices you might own, like Philips Hue lights or a Nest Hello video doorbell. Buy Lenovo Smart Clock at Best Buy - $80 Google Nest Hub Engadget As mentioned, the Lenovo Smart Clock is really more of , well, a clock than a smart display. If you do want more of a typical smart display, the Google Nest Hub is a much better bet. It has all of the features of the Lenovo Smart Clock and then some. The screen is sharp and colorful, making it great for displaying photographs and for watching videos. The on-screen controls are also a lot more intuitive, with shortcuts to your smart home devices and your favorite YouTube videos. The sunrise alarm on the Nest Hub is also more customizable. You can have the screen gradually brighten just like the Smart Clock, but you can also have it so that a soothing “pre-alarm” sound plays as the sunrise alarm begins. If you have smart lights installed, you can have those lights gradually brighten as well. Last but not least, you can adjust the sunrise alarm window anywhere from five to 30 minutes. Buy Google Nest Hub at Best Buy - $90 Amazon Echo Show 5 Engadget If you happen to use other Amazon products like Ring cameras or Alexa-powered microwave ovens, the Echo Show 5 might be a better choice. The screen is bright and colorful, it has a stylish streamlined design, and it can display photographs just like the Nest Hub. It can also play videos from sources such as Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, and it has a built-in browser for surfing the web. Unlike the Nest Hub, the Echo Show 5 does have a camera, which might be disconcerting if you don’t want a camera by your bedside. At the same time, this does mean the Echo Show 5 is capable of video calls, which the Nest Hub is not. The Echo Show 5 works nicely as an alarm clock, with several clock faces and the ability to tap the top of it to hit snooze. There’s a sunrise alarm feature as well, which slowly brightens the display 15 minutes before the set time. Unfortunately, the sunrise feature on the Echo Show is a bit more limited than its rivals, as it only works when the alarm is set between 4am and 9 am. But if that works for you and you’re an Alexa fan, the Echo Show 5 is worth considering. Buy Echo Show 5 at Amazon - $65 Other smart light choices Engadget Casper Glow The Casper Glow is a unique lighting device that can be programmed via a companion app to brighten at specific times just like a sunrise clock, except, well, there’s no clock at all. Plus, there aren’t any speakers, so it can’t play alarm sounds either. Instead, it’s really more of a portable smart lamp. It can also be used as a late-night reading light before bed. (It’ll gradually dim over 30 minutes.) Yet, the Glow does have several innovative features that make it stand out. The Glow is highly portable, and can be held easily in one hand. Turning it on or off is a matter of flipping it over. You can twist it clockwise or counterclockwise to adjust its brightness. At night you can lift it, give it a shake, and it’ll emit a soft glow that’s bright enough to guide you through a dark hallway. If you have two Casper Glow lights, you can have them synchronized to turn on or off at the same time. And, since it runs on rechargeable batteries, you can use it as emergency lights in the event of a blackout. The Glow is probably not a good choice if you need more than just a bright light to wake you up. But If you already have an existing alarm clock, or you just prefer using your phone for the alarm, the Glow could be a nice addition to your nightstand. Buy Glow Light at Casper - $130 Philips Hue smart lights Philips Programmable smart lights like the Philips Hue bulbs are another way to help you sleep and wake up a little more easily. Plus, certain white and color ambiance lights offer color temperatures that mimic natural light, which help you sleep more naturally. You can then set up routines within the companion app that will either slowly turn on the lights in the morning or gradually turn them off at night. Of course, the Philips Hue lights can be used in other lighting scenarios too; you can have them automatically come on at night or when you’re out of the house. Plus, Hue bulbs are compatible with nearly every smart assistant out there, so turning on or off the lights is as easy as telling Google, Alexa or Siri to do so. Buy Philips Hue smart lights set at Amazon - $180
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. By 5:41am I can already tell it’s going to be a bad day, mostly because my twins have taken turns waking me up every 20 minutes since 3:17am. I alternate between the two babies until 5am when I’m able to get almost a whole half hour of rest before they wake again. I feel like a dying neon sign: flickering and buzzing and attempting to function properly. I can’t focus. I’m short-tempered. I cry at least twice before lunch. There’s a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique. Not every night is as hard as that one was. In general, we’ve reached an uneasy truce in my household when it comes to the kids' naps and bedtimes. We more or less stick to a schedule, and they generally don’t take more than 15 minutes to fall asleep at night. But, they don’t always stay asleep, their naps are probably shorter than they should be, and I know I’m getting them into some bad habits by cuddling and rocking them back to sleep. We could be doing better, and since I didn’t know where to start I decided to sign up for the Dream Lab sleep coaching system. Dream Lab is affiliated with Owlet, the company that makes the Smart Sock which monitors a baby’s heart rate and respirations during sleep. The Dream Lab system was developed by two pediatric sleep consultants, Jill Spivack and Jen Waldburger, who have helped over 500,000 families establish healthy sleep patterns with their children. The service is Owlet’s only software product, and while you can purchase a code to unlock it for $100 from several different places, the program itself is only available via the Owlet website. It consists of assessments and questionnaires to see where your child is having sleep difficulties, plus instructional videos and three different training options to use with your child. It’s not a “cry it out” type of program, but does point out that a few tears during the process are likely unavoidable. What is sleep training? For those who are unfamiliar, sleep training is the general concept of teaching a baby to fall asleep on their own without intervention from a parent or caretaker. That means no rocking, cuddling, walking, swinging, nursing or feeding. This not only teaches a child how to soothe themselves, but it also helps them learn how to fall back asleep when they wake in the middle of the night. There are dozens of schools of thought on this — new parents will likely hear the phrase “let them cry it out” more than once — but they’re all basically centered around getting a baby to sleep consistently and soundly through the night. These techniques are sometimes combined with sleep weaning, which is moving your child away from waking at night to eat. Either way, the goal is for everyone to be getting more sleep. The Dream Lab process in action Owlet The first step of the Dream Lab process is to assess your child's health and sleep habits. This consists of nine questions, including things like “Is your child currently cutting a tooth through the gum?” and “How are you feeding your child?” When I enter in the answers for my daughter, who is both teething and close to walking on her own, I’m told that this may not be the right time to start a sleep training program since she is both irritable about the tooth and excited about her new skills. Fair enough. Although this is disappointing, as she’s the one who requires the most help, it’s also entirely understandable and gives me some trust in the process. It makes sense that a child who is suffering from intermittent pain, or who is developing new skills, would struggle with sleep training. Dream Lab allows users of the program to come back once circumstances are more conducive to success. Since I have twins, I instead took an assessment for my son, who qualified. The next page showed a video to help me understand when to start the sleep training process. After that, I answered another questionnaire for the “Sleep Stealer” section, which consisted of an additional nine questions about my kid’s sleep habits, from what he wears to sleep and what’s in his crib, to the temperature and darkness level of the room. The next step was to answer another set of questions to determine which method (Visit, Stay or Touch) would be the best fit. I wind up matching with the Stay method, which is the one I would have chosen regardless. The results of the Sleep Stealer questionnaire are broken down into 17 suggested actions across five categories (e.g., Sleep Environment, Routines and Sleep Schedule). Some of the suggestions were for things I already do, like creating a consistent wind-down routine ahead of bed time. Some of the other suggestions are straightforward enough, like leaving the white noise machine on throughout the night or keeping the room warmer. Others — say, putting my son in a room alone while he’s sleep training — aren’t practical or would be difficult to accomplish. The only other room in our house where his crib could go has a broken window and gets way too cold, so I left that to-do undone. Despite not marking all the items as complete, the site still lets me progress to the next step: a series of coaching videos that gives step-by-step instructions on how to start with the Stay method. There are additional videos covering topics like naps or separation anxiety, and each one has a summary you can click on for more information. After I watched the videos I was taken to my son’s Sleep Plan, which detailed a daily schedule of when to start a wind-down routine, nap times and a schedule to wean him off of night feeds. The plan includes a page for each day, and places for me to enter in details as I go on what time he was put in his crib, how long it took him to fall asleep, etc. Each day’s briefing also includes a video from the trainers to help motivate me to keep going. Does sleep training work? Owlet If I were grading my kids on their progress in the Dream Lab program, I’d give them an A-. They’re older than most babies who start sleep training so they took quickly to a lot of the techniques. And after a few days , they went to sleep faster, with less intervention from me, and stayed asleep longer. They also were easier to put back to sleep when they woke up in the middle of the night. However, if I were grading myself on how well I did on the program, I’d get a D at best. I can’t lie here, I did not follow the program to the letter — and the Dream Lab coaches are very specific about how important it is to fully comply with the recommendations. Some of the places where I failed were the Sleep Stealer suggestions. Honestly, I don’t really have a good place to isolate a child who is sleep training so my son stayed where he normally slept: in the crib by my bed, in the same room as his sister. Of the 17 action items in the Sleep Stealer section, I ignored three. But I also didn’t follow all of the step-by-step instructions for the Stay method either. In order to sleep train with as few tears as possible, the method calls for me to stay in the room while the babies cry and check in with them intermittently — but not to touch them, rock them or otherwise assist. I failed there. I adjusted the method somewhat, so that my check-ins included placing them on their backs in their cribs, giving them a pacifier and tucking them in with a blanket (another thing which is not allowed in the program). While this is not at all what I was supposed to do, I tried to keep my interactions to a minimum, and it generally worked. I also reverted to briefly holding them at night when they woke up, before putting them back down. Again, this still worked most of the time and was an improvement from the nights where I spent hours walking across the room holding them. As far as I can tell, we’re still making progress — albeit more slowly than we might have had we strictly adhered to the program. While the Dream Lab system is intended to make sure that you’re as ready for the sleep training as your child is, with plenty of energy and time to dedicate to establishing a routine and sticking to the plan, I found it difficult to be that precise with it. Not only because I have twins, but because I work a full-time job from home, during a pandemic, in a rather remote location. My days are pure chaos, and something like a Sunday afternoon drive or a migraine do a stellar job of derailing the sort of strict routine that Dream Lab requires. Wrap-up Owlet There are a million different sleep coaching systems and YouTube videos and Instagram influencers who will offer advice on how to get your child to sleep better. Having never tried a sleep training program before, and having scant time to do intensive research, I would be totally willing to pay the $100 entry fee to receive some direction. It helped that the system asks specific questions ensuring the program is tailored to my children’s needs. That being said, I had a few quibbles about the overall process. First, I wasn’t sure exactly how to proceed exactly given that I have twins. There’s a section on the Help Center page about multiples, but it didn’t answer all of my questions and I didn’t really want to wait one or two days for a reply from the web form. For example, what if my son and daughter matched with different methods? I had other questions too: Does weaning from night time feeds include the 9pm one as well as the midnight? This is maybe the one time I really would have liked to see a chat box for more immediate replies. Also, on more than one occasion I wished that the program was available as part of Owlet’s existing app. Because it is only available as a web page, I had to catch up on my entries for each day’s activity — particularly over the weekend, when I rarely open my computer. I also had to refresh the page often as it had timed out, and on at least one occasion, I had to log in again. It’s not the biggest issue, obviously, but given that Owlet’s other products can all be grouped in the app, it would have been nice to have this one there too. As to whether or not you should try Dream Lab’s sleep system, I’ll tell you that like a lot of coaching programs, you’re only going to get out of it what you put in. But I’m not disappointed by the experience, and I’m going to continue to use it with my twins because I’ve seen really positive results. Having my children fall asleep easier, and stay asleep longer, has been well worth the price of the program already. I’m just going to adjust their time table to one that’s a bit more achievable for my house hold right now.