This Philips sunrise alarm clock helps me fall asleep faster and lessens the effects of my seasonal affective disorder

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  • The Philips Smartsleep Connected is a smart alarm clock that simulates sunset and sunrise to help you fall asleep and wake up easier. 
  • I experienced significant improvements in my sleep quality and mood after using it for two months. 
  • I especially love the Ambitrack sensor that calculates bedroom conditions and makes recommendations for optimal sleep.
  • We named the Philips Smartsleep Connected our top pick in our guide to the best sunrise alarm clocks.

As a sleep researcher who also experiences some of the distressing effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the gray and cold winter months, I can attest that light therapy really works. Getting out of bed when you have the winter blues can be extremely difficult, but sunrise alarm clocks (sometimes called wake-up lamps) help facilitate that transition by gradually flooding your room with warm, bright light accompanied by gentle, natural sounds.

While interviewing experts, researching, and testing products for our best sunrise alarm clock guide, I came across the Philips Smartsleep Connected, which we ultimately named our best overall pick. I’ve continued using it for more than two months and it’s provided me with a more natural and pleasant wake-up and sleep experience, reduced the effects of my SAD, improved my sleep quality, and enhanced my mood. Its effectiveness is backed by research, and based on my experience, I believe many people would benefit from all the features that this sunrise alarm clock offers.  

The Philips Smartsleep Connected is slightly larger than other sunrise alarm clocks on the market; at 8.8 inches high and 8.6 inches wide, it ends up taking up quite a bit of space on any regular nightstand. The disc-shaped design makes it look like a glowing donut, but its shape does generate a very natural sunrise and sunset simulation. It has a USB port to charge your phone and an AUX cord to play music from your device. It’s also equipped with Philips’ premium LEDs that reach millions of light gradations across the natural spectrum of the sun. You can set up to 16 alarms and it has a backup battery to ensure you still wake up on time in case of power outages. 

Philips Smartsleep Connected in its box - Philips Smartsleep Connected Review

Suzy Hernandez/Business Insider

While the basic Philips Connected functions can be activated using analog controls on the device, to enjoy its best features you have to download the SleepMapper app from the Apple App Store or Google Play, which allows you to customize your wake-up and fall-asleep experience. Setup is a simple two-step process and pairing the devices took me approximately five minutes. 

Once the device was successfully connected to my iPhone, I browsed through the various features on the SleepMapper app. I like absolute darkness in my bedroom because even small or dim lights can influence my sleep negatively. I also detest looking at the time as I’m dozing off, so the first thing I did was turn off the clock  brightness on my Smartsleep. There’s an option that will automatically dim the clock display as it gets dark if you prefer to see the time in the evening, and you can also adjust the display brightness. Once I got that out of the way, I tested out the FM radio; it worked fine, but the sound quality is not top-notch (though I don’t necessarily care to play the radio from my sunrise alarm clock anyway). 

Next, I played around with the 25 light intensity levels. The device works as a lamp and reading light that you can turn on and off at your convenience. I find this option so useful because I’m able to simply turn the light on through my phone from anywhere in my house and expect my bedroom to be illuminated in relaxing orange hues as I make my way upstairs to get ready for bed — I barely use my actual lamp anymore. 

The wind-down features are great; I fall asleep effortlessly with the sunset simulation, which you can set to last from five minutes to an hour. I usually set mine for 20 minutes with the brightness at level 15 and the Caribbean red color scheme and soft rain sound. This creates such an enjoyable and relaxing experience that knocks me out before the wind-down cycle even ends. 

Philips Smartsleep Connected alarm clock glowing in the dark - Philips Smartsleep Connected Review

Suzy Hernandez/Business Insider

Waking up is just as pleasant, with gradual invigorating yellow lights and cheerful sounds such as Nepal bowls, summer birds, and ocean waves. In sleep science, we refer to the groggy, tired feeling from waking up suddenly as “sleep inertia.” This phenomenon can cause temporary disorientation and irritability that typically lasts between 15 to 30 minutes. The Philips Smartsleep Connected does a great job at waking me up on time every single morning without the unpleasant effects of sleep inertia. 

That said, this sunrise alarm clock is not intended to be used as a Bluetooth speaker; the sound quality for music is not the best. If you absolutely need to wake up to your favorite song, I recommend the iHome Zenergy Dream Mini, which can play music directly from your phone. 

The Philips Smartsleep Connected also can’t be controlled from more than one device; not ideal if you have a partner who also might want to use the device. Both the app and a strong home Wi-Fi connection are required to enjoy most of its features. While that may not be a con for most, it’s worth considering if you live somewhere with spotty Wi-Fi or don’t want to bring your phone into the bedroom at night.

There is also something about the design that just feels a bit off. Its odd donut shape makes it unnecessarily large and the design does not blend in well with my decor. Customer reviews have also reported mixed feelings about the design. One reviewer compared it to a “small tabletop toilet,” while another described it as a “modern piece of art.” While I personally don’t love the look of the device (it simply takes up too much space on my nightstand), it’s something I can overlook because of how well it has been able to wake me up, reduce my sleep inertia, and improve my sleep habits. 

Aside from it being a great sunrise alarm clock that wakes you up gently and lulls you into slumber, the Philips Smartsleep Connected has a few other features that I love. First, the sleep tracking feature is very useful to keep track of your bedtime routine. The SleepMapper app gives you the option to sync your sleep data with Apple Health to record how much time you’ve spent in bed. This encourages users to be consistent with their sleep schedule, which in turn helps regulate circadian rhythms (the natural ebb and flow of hormones that helps us wake up and fall asleep). 

It also has a guided meditation feature called RelaxBreathe. In this mode, the device glows as you inhale and dims as you exhale. It’s very calming and relaxes me until I close my eyes to sleep. This feature can also be fully customized with your preferred color scheme and breathing pace. 

Finally, my absolute favorite feature is the Ambitrack sensor that calculates bedroom conditions such as light intensity, humidity levels, temperature, and noise levels, and makes recommendations to improve your sleep environment. I love being able to see the surrounding environment quality right on the SleepMapper app. I didn’t know that my bedroom tends to be a little dry and a bit too warm until I started using the Philips Smartsleep. I solved this issue by turning on my humidifier and turning down the heat, and the sensor now indicates that I’ve reached the ideal sleeping conditions. These subtle changes to my bedroom have made a notable difference; I was able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night.

There are dozens of sunrise alarm clocks on the market, and I’ve tried seven of them (and counting) for our guide. While I think the Philips Smartsleep Connected is the best sunrise alarm clock you can buy, there are other models that may better fit your specific needs. If the Philips is a bit out of your price range, the Hatch Restore and iHome Zenergy Dream Mini are our best mid-range and budget options, respectively. If you prefer a simpler or portable design, the Casper Glow Lights are controlled with simple gestures and can be moved or carried around. Finally, if you are interested in the Philips Smartsleep, but prefer not to use an app, Philips also makes a sunrise alarm clock with all analog controls

We spend about a third of our lives sleeping and our sleep quality has the ability to deeply impact our waking hours. Based on my background in sleep research, I personally believe that anything that helps you sleep better is a worthy investment. The Philips Smartsleep Connected sunrise alarm clock is thoughtfully designed and backed by research to help improve your sleep quality. It will certainly help you wake you up feeling more refreshed and ready to take on your day even during those long, dark winter months. The only people who I don’t recommend this device for are those who would rather have something more traditional and simple that doesn’t rely on an app for most features. If you’re on the fence, Philips offers a 90-day money-back guarantee in case you’re not fully satisfied. However, after thorough testing of the most popular sunrise alarm clocks on the market, I’m positive that most buyers will be happy with the Philips Smartsleep Connected.

Philips Smartsleep Connected alarm clock on a bedside table - Philips Smartsleep Connected Review

Suzy Hernandez/Business Insider

The Philips Smartsleep Connected sunrise alarm clock is a fully customizable smart alarm clock that will help you fall asleep easier and wake up more gently. If you’re looking for a sunrise alarm clock, this is undoubtedly the best for most people.

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