Try These Alarm Clock Alternatives to Make Waking Up Better

Waking up to a blaring alarm clock is a terrible way to start your day. The harsh sound jolts you awake, leaving you frazzled, groggy and stressed out before you even get out of bed.

Fortunately, there are many innovative alarm clock alternatives that aim to wake you up gradually and naturally using light, sound, aroma and other gentle cues.

From sunrise alarm clocks to smart home automation systems, these solutions are designed to align with your body’s sleep-wake cycles so you wake feeling refreshed and energized rather than frazzled. If you dread your harsh morning alarm, it’s time to explore some better, gentler ways to start your day off on the right foot.

The Rise of Alarm Clock Fatigue

Numerous studies have shown that being awoken abruptly by a harsh, loud alarm clock can spike your body’s levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

This hormonal jolt disrupts your natural sleep cycle, leaving you feeling groggy, irritable, and less focused in the morning hours after waking. Over time, this “alarm clock fatigue” can potentially contribute to issues like anxiety, depression, and even cardiovascular problems.

The benefits of gentle wake ups

In contrast, waking up gradually and naturally is better aligned with your body’s innate sleep-wake cycles. When you rise at the optimal point in your sleep cycle, you’re less likely to feel excessively tired during the day. More gentle wake-ups allow your body and mind to ease into the day, resulting in better mood, focus, and productivity right from the start.

Luckily, there are many innovative alarm clock alternatives that aim to wake you up lightly and naturally using elements like light, sound, aroma, and vibration. Let’s explore some of the best options to consider.

10 Alarm Clock Alternatives to Make Waking Up Better

1. Wake Up Light Alarm Clocks

One of the most popular and effective alarm clock alternatives is a Wake Up Light, also known as a sunrise alarm clock or dawn simulator. These devices are designed to mimic a natural sunrise, gradually filling your bedroom with bright light over a set period (often 30-60 minutes) before your desired wake up time.

The gradual increase in light prompts your body to naturally reduce melatonin production and increase cortisol levels, signaling your brain to wake up. Many wake up lights also include natural sound options like birds chirping or ocean waves to further ease you into alertness.

Top wake up light picks:

  • Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
  • Hatch Restore Sound Machine and Wake Up Light
  • LBell Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock

2. Smart Bulbs and Lamps

If a dedicated wake up light doesn’t fit your budget, you can achieve a similar effect using smart bulbs and lamps paired with an app or voice assistant. Set your smart lights to very gradually brighten over 30-60 minutes before your desired wake time.

Many smart bulbs like Philips Hue allow you to customize both the brightness and color temperature to mimic sunrise hues extremely closely. You can also set soothing sounds like birds or ripples to accompany the light transition.

controlling light bulb with mobile device

3. Sleep Cycle and Smart Alarm Apps

Your smartphone likely has access to sleep cycle tracking apps that use your movement patterns and sound monitoring to detect your lightest sleep stage. The smart alarm can then wake you during that optimal 30 minute window before your set wake time when you’ll feel most refreshed.

Some top sleep cycle app options:

  • Sleep Cycle
  • Sleep As Android
  • Pillow Automatic Sleep Tracker

4. Sunrise Clocks and Alarm Clocks With Nature Sounds

If you’re looking for a more low-tech solution, there are many standard alarm clocks that use more gentle wake up methods. Sunrise clocks use a glowing light simulation to mimic sunrise, while nature sound alarm clocks wake you with soothing audio like bird songs, ocean waves, or forest sounds rather than a blaring tone.

5. Aroma Alarm Clocks

Aroma alarm clocks use gentle fragrance to lull you awake. Pleasing scents like peppermint, lemon, or coffee are slowly released before your wake up time, triggering a natural alertness response. The aroma combined with soft ambient sound makes for a relaxing, multi-sensory alarm experience.

Some recommended options:

  • Sensorwake Aroma Diffuser Alarm Clock
  • – Salt Lamp Wake Up Light With Aromatherapy

using wearable watches

6. Vibration Alarm Watches and Wearable Devices

If you’re a heavy sleeper, vibration alarms embedded in smartwatches or wearable fitness trackers could be the way to go. These silent alarms wake you with a gentle vibration on your wrist without disturbing your partner.

Popular vibration alarm wearables:

  • Apple Watch
  • Fitbit trackers
  • Garmin smartwatches

7. Wake Up Lighting Systems

For the ultimate wake up experience, you could splurge on a full lighting system for your bedroom that simulates not just sunrise, but the entire transition between night and day. Top systems dynamically change both brightness and light temperature for an ultra-immersive wake up journey.

Some highly rated options include:

  • Revere Wake Up Light System
  • Sunn Light Wake Up Alarm

8. Wake Up Guided Meditation

If waking up is a real struggle for you, using a guided meditation can work wonders. Apps like Calm and Headspace offer wake up meditations and affirmations designed to help draw you into a refreshed state of consciousness at your desired wake time. The soothing narration provides a gentle, mindful start to your day.

9. White Noise and Nature Sound Machines

For those who favor audio cues over light, using a white noise machine or nature sound machine for your morning alarm could work beautifully. Set these devices to gradually increase the volume on relaxing sounds like rainfall, waves, birds, or wind over 30 minutes to ease you into alertness.

Top picks:

  • Dreamegg White Noise Machine
  •  Adaptive Sound +Sleep Therapy
  • ASTI White Noise Machine

10. Smart Home Wake Ups

With smart home devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, the possibilities for a customized wake up experience are nearly endless. You can set lights, sounds, heat or AC, and even devices like smart coffee makers to kick into action before your desired wake time. A truly immersive and automated wake up experience!

Experiment to Find the Ideal Wake Up

As you can see, there are abundant alarm clock alternatives to explore beyond the harsh, jarring tones of traditional alarms. Finding the right combination of light, sound, aroma and other cues can ease your transition into the morning routine, leaving you feeling refreshed and productive for the start of each new day.

The ideal wake up sensory experience varies for everyone, so experiment to find the right fit for your needs and wake up preferences. With so many innovative and gentle wake up solutions available, waking up can finally become somethingto look forward to rather than something you dread.


  1. What are some alternatives to traditional alarm clocks?

There are many ways to ditch the blaring alarm! Popular options include:

  • Sunrise alarm clocks: Simulate natural dawn with gradually increasing light, mimicking your body’s natural wake cycle.
  • Vibrating alarms: Wake you silently with a gentle buzz under your pillow or on your wrist (like a smartwatch).
  • Nature sounds: Soothing sounds like birds chirping or ocean waves can ease you awake more peacefully.
  • Wake-up light therapy: Uses brighter light to target sleep hormones and boost alertness.
  • Apps: Many sleep tracker and meditation apps offer gentle wake-up features with calming sounds or gradual light increases.
  1. Are sunrise alarm clocks effective?

Studies suggest sunrise alarms can be very effective. The gradual light exposure helps regulate your circadian rhythm, potentially leading to more restful sleep and a more natural, positive wake-up experience.

  1. What if I’m a heavy sleeper?

Don’t worry, there are options for you too! Vibrating alarms placed under your pillow or smartwatch vibrations can be highly effective. You can also combine a sunrise alarm with a backup sound alarm for extra assurance.

  1. Are there any free alternatives to alarm clocks?

Yes! Many smartphones have built-in alarm features that allow you to choose calming sounds or nature sounds instead of harsh beeps. You can also explore free sleep and meditation apps that offer gentle wake-up features.

  1. What’s the best alarm clock alternative for me?

The best option depends on your preferences. If you struggle with mornings, a sunrise alarm might be ideal. Light sleepers might prefer nature sounds or gentle vibrations. Experiment and see what works best for a more positive wake-up routine!