Lenovo Smart Clock Essential with Alexa on a table
Lenovo

Alarm clocks have an interesting existence. They’re something many of us desperately need, and yet a few seconds after they start working as requested, we want to smash them to pieces or throw them out the window in front of an oncoming bus.

This urge is slightly lessened with modern smart alarm clocks, which all seem to have learned a lesson from earlier generations: “I better wake this guy up gently, or I’m dead.”

Smart alarm clocks have come a long way from those old clock radios that look like mini station wagons with wood paneling. They can creepily watch you while you sleep and provide unwanted feedback on everything you’re doing wrong, will gently wake you with calming sounds adapted to your sleeping patterns, and even will mimic a sunrise by bathing you in natural light.

You might gently wave one of them off like you would a waiter offering more water, but you won’t throw it into the fireplace or anything.

Gentle Suggestions to Wake Up

Take Amazon’s soon-to-be-released Halo Rise, which looks like something in a dystopian science fiction movie that seems friendly at first but later won’t let the character leave the room. It uses sleep sensors to track elements like breathing patterns, and then gives you feedback the next morning. “You seem to scream a lot,” it might say.

While you may picture these sensors as robot arms scanning your eyes and probing your nostrils in the middle of the night, they’re apparently contactless. The Rise measures sleep stats while sitting totally still and doesn’t require you to wear any device to bed which inadvertently keeps you up.

Amazon Halo Rise

It totally tells the time, among other things.

It can also measure ambient light and noise with suggestions on how to improve your environment and mimic the sunrise in the morning to gradually wake you up. Is there an actual alarm? I think so.

The Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light features 25 brightness settings and the ability to set both a sunrise and a sunset. It’s an impressive array, but I feel like the kind of person who would buy an alarm clock with 25 brightness settings is also the kind of person who would get mad at their spouse for setting it to the wrong one. “I told you I can’t sleep well in Orange Honeydew!”

While the Loftie Clock has much of the above smart alarm clock bells and whistles (not literally), its most unique feature is the inclusion of sleepy bedtime stories, like a lullaby or your uncle talking about that time he rode the train from Wichita to Lexington.

Why Not Just Use Your Phone’s Alarm?

That’s a good question. Many people don’t even own an alarm clock and just set their phone’s alarm and/or use a sleep app that already has many of these features. My girlfriend wakes me up every morning the way Karen woke up Henry in Goodfellas.

Where separate alarm clocks make their argument is that there have been numerous studies showing that using your smartphone before bed can lead to restlessness, and relying on it for an alarm might cause you to scroll Twitter for too long or see what your ex is up to on Facebook, neither of which are conducive to sleep.

Using an alarm clock farms out that work and may keep you from overusing your phone late at night.

Many of us have trouble sleeping, and while it’s easy to make fun of these smart alarm clocks with their AI technology and cavalcade of settings, I get it. Spending more for a smart device is often silly when it comes to things like toasters and toothbrushes, but we’re talking about sleep here. If you’ve tried everything and think one of these robot angels might help, by all means go ahead. But only if you’ve tried everything to get a good night’s sleep.

It’s important to remember what bad late-night habits they won’t prevent: Smart alarm clocks won’t stop you from heading to Taco Bell at 2 a.m. and then wondering why you’re tossing and turning all night. They won’t prevent you from repeatedly trying to finish that one video game level you keep dying at. And they certainly won’t stop you from staying so long at the bar that you become one of the stools.

But if you don’t do any of those things and the warm milk is not cutting it (eww), perhaps a smart alarm might help. If it doesn’t, feel free to throw it at your ceiling fan.

Lenovo Smart Clock Essential with Alexa

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This 4-inch LED clock has the Alexa virtual assistant built-in. It's like an Echo Dot with a big clock display.

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Chason Gordon is a staff writer and editor for How-To Geek. His writing has previously appeared in Slate, Vice, Input, and The Globe and Mail, among others. He currently lives in San Antonio, but is on a month-to-month lease.
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