To find the best alarm for you, you'll need to consider your personal sleep habits. If you always press the snooze button, an old-fashioned clock that doesn't have one might be for you. If you often sleep through your alarm, an extra-loud clock designed for heavy sleepers could be the ticket.
As for what experts use on their own nightstands, alarm clocks that gradually get brighter to simulate the sunrise are becoming increasingly popular. It makes sense that these are beloved by sleep specialists, given that there's real science backing them up. Exposing yourself to bright light first thing in the morning—and throughout your entire day—has been shown to help keep your circadian rhythm on track (and, by extension, keep your sleep-wake cycle more consistent).
Nishi Bhopal, M.D., a psychiatrist specializing in sleep medicine, says that the Philips light she uses helps her wake up feeling more alert. "It just kind of eases you into a state of wakefulness," she tells mbg. "It's much less jarring than an old-fashioned alarm clock, or even an alarm on your phone."
If you've ever heard of people using sun lamps to adjust to seasonal changes in light, these alarms work similarly. By mimicking the light of the sun in the morning, they send a clear signal to the body that it's time to wake up and get going. "Early morning exposure to bright light stimulates photoreceptors in our retinas, shutting down melatonin levels and allowing cortisol to rise," immunologist Heather Moday, M.D., previously explained to mbg. "It also increases the production of serotonin—one of our feel-good hormones."
Heavy sleepers and those who wear eye masks to bed can program these clocks to emit noises as well. But Bhopal is a fan of just using the light feature to gently support her circadian rhythm and provide that ever-important sleep-wake regulation.