What is The Best Alarm Sound to Wake Up To?

According to professor and sleep expert Dr. Till Roenneberg, none. He feels so strongly about the matter that he’s writing a book called “An Obituary for the Alarm Clock.” When we asked him if any song, sound, pitch, or pattern makes for a smoother morning, he said that was like “asking a nutrition expert which kind of potato chips are healthiest.” Waking up without an alarm is the only way to ensure you get the sleep you need.

Though he concedes that occasional use isn’t detrimental, Dr. Roenneberg prefers we rely on our biological clocks rather than forced wake-ups at a socially mandated time.

Unfortunately, society hasn’t caught on. A March 2017 study reveals that only 8% have mastered self wake-ups. Of the 20,000 people surveyed, 18,400 wake up to an alarm.  

How Alarms Affect Our Body & Mind

Part of the problem with our alarms is how they wake us up. For some reason, the cacophony of yesteryear’s analog devices has endured the test of time.

All those beeps, bells, and buzzes could be damaging to our health. Sleep specialist Michael J. Decker recently told the MIT Technology Review that aggressive alarms trigger a physiological response. Noises that startle us awake activate our nervous system and cause stress.

And our alarm’s effects last well beyond that first cup of coffee. Dr. Kristine Wilckens of the University of Pittsburgh’s Sleep and Chronobiology Center told us that it takes about two hours to stop experiencing sleep inertia — that groggy feeling between waking up and firing on all cylinders. A collection of sleep research from 1976 found that you experience more severe sleep inertia if you’re awakened abruptly.

The Right Alarm Sounds

So our alarm shouldn’t be jolting, but what sounds should we look for? Wellness expert Dr. Weil suggests gentle ones. Dr. Rebecca Robbins, a research fellow at the NYU School of Medicine’s Center for Health Behavior Change, told us that “pink noise or noise that emulates those in the environment, like rainfall or birds chirping” is best.

Armed with an earful of expertise, we’ve ranked 10 of the least terrible iPhone alarms from worst to best:

10. Uplift

The most song-like of our list, Uplift is the audio embodiment of a morning sunrise.

9. Blues

This gentle piano riff is more soothing soul than jazz club. You’re bound to wake up feeling groovy.

8. Chimes

Though loud enough to rouse deep sleepers without hitting the snooze button, Chimes isn’t too jolting. You’ll feel like you’re waking up in a Zen garden — until you realize you’re still in bed.  

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7. Twinkle

Though slightly high-pitched, Twinkle develops slowly. The long notes allow greater impact and a less abrupt morning wake-up.

6. Slow Rise

As its name suggests, Slow Rise is one of the more progressive iPhone tones. It starts off quiet and simple then builds to something more stimulating. In other words, it lulls you right out of bed.

5. Hillside

Hillside sounds like a woodpecker at work in the distance. That’s the closest we get to birds chirping on the iOS, the perfect song for an early morning wake-up.

4. Silk

Gradual? Check. Calming? Check. Pink? Sure. Silk is the most soothing middle ground there is when it comes to morning music.

3. Crickets

What could be more natural than the sound of no one laughing at your friend’s stand-up routine? Crickets offers the most realistic nature sounds of the bunch.

2. Harp

Clearly the best option of the classic iPhone alarms, Harp gently ascends in both pitch and volume, a soothing song to kick-start your morning routine.

1. Ripples

Thanks to a low frequency and long, gradual pattern, we’ve declared this water-themed alarm the winner.

Other Alarm Options

Depending on your preference, alternatives like light-based alarm clocks or vibrating watchescould provide a better early morning experience. Dr. Wilckens suggests trying these out to find out which song you wake up to best.


Whatever you do, promise us you won’t wake up to the iPhone’s unironically named “Alarm.” It brings us back to childhood fire drills in the worst possible way.

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