How to use sleep technology to become an early riser

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You don’t have to sell me the benefits of being an early bird. I’ve seen dozens of articles and studies breaking down how getting up early is better for your health, productivity, and stress levels. But becoming an early bird isn’t easy. Speaking from experience, it’s much harder if you’re a night owl by nature and there’s no specific reason — like taking your kids to school — to get up before 7 a.m. Plus, alarm clocks and phone alarms don’t always work for the sleepiest sleepyheads.

That said, there Are other sleep gadgets and apps that can be a huge help.

If you’re an inveterate night owl who tries to pretend to be an early riser, good news. I’ve been for the last 10 years, and I’ve tried everything from melatonin to those alarm clocks that run away from you. But after a lot of trial and error (and experimenting with a whole lot of sleep technology), I’ve become one of those people who likes to get up well before I have to. It can be done! Although I won’t lie, you will mess up a lot. What worked for me may not work for you, and frustratingly things that used to work sometimes suddenly stop working. So feel free to tweak and experiment, but here are some helpful tips to get you started.


An early day always starts the night before. This may seem obvious, but the key to waking up easily depends on knowing how much sleep your body actually needs. The more rested you are when it’s time to wake up, the less tempting that snooze button looks.

The amount of sleep you need changes with age, but the CDC recommends that adults get a minimum of seven hours a night. Some people will need less, and others will need much more. The best way to find out how much you need is to either download a sleep tracking app or invest in a sleep tracker.


Sleep tracking data is a good way to find out what your current habits are and where you can improve.

The first step is to record a normal week of sleep. From there, you should be able to see how much sleep you’re getting and whether that’s good enough for your needs. If you already own a smartwatch or fitness tracker, chances are you’ve got a week or two worth of sleep data and can get right to the good part. Otherwise, apps are the easiest and most cost-efficient route.

I’ve tested several sleep tracking apps over the years and recommend Rise Science for this particular use. It has a $59.99 annual subscription, but you don’t really need more than the initial 7-day free trial. I like Rise Science because it calculates your sleep debt and need based on your sleeping habits, and also provides a bedtime window. I’ve also used Mintal Tracker and Sleep Cycle and liked them, but anything that measures your sleep duration and can give you an idea of ​​your sleep quality is a good fit.

Then look in your data to see what time you are Actually waking. For example, I wanted to wake up at 6:00 AM, but most days I rolled out of bed at 8:15 AM.

At that point you are going to set two alarms. Set the first to 15-30 minutes earlier than you currently wake up. Work back for the second to figure out what time you need to sleep to meet your sleep needs. Set an alarm for 15-30 minutes before as a signal to relax.

In my case, I had two years of portable data, and the Rise Science app calculated my sleep needs at 8 hours and 15 minutes. Based on that, I set my alarm clock for 8:00 am and my bedtime alarm clock for 11:45 pm. You can always use the Sleep Schedule feature on iOS or Bedtime in the Clock app on Android to visualize this more easily.


Sleep schedules can help you visualize what time to go to bed to wake up earlier.

Once you can reliably maintain that schedule for about three weeks, you can move your alarms up another 15-30 minutes until you reach your ideal wake-up time. Be patient – this whole process can take months and you may get stuck at some point. It took me about seven months to successfully and sustainably go from waking up at 8:15 am to waking up at 6:15 am. (I’m still trying to get to 6am).


A regular bedtime routine can include non-technical things like getting your clothes ready for tomorrow before you go to bed, but it can also mean making the most of smart bulbs, smart plugs, sunrise lights, thermostats, and gadgets for aromatherapy. Your setup can be as simple or as complicated as you like, as long as it helps you create your ideal sleeping environment.

One of the easiest things to do is enable a sleep focus (iOS) or bedtime mode (Android 13) on your smartphone. These features work slightly differently, but both are designed to limit phone-related distractions when you’re trying to relax. These modes are also highly customizable. For example, you can set limits for apps that tempt you to stay up, turn off notifications for anyone who isn’t related, or have the phone automatically switch to Dark Mode. It takes some experimentation, but most importantly, it’s a signal to put your phone down.


Sunrise lamps are a kind of alarm clock that wakes you up gradually by simulating sunrise.

Smart lighting is also a great way to customize your sleeping environment. We have a complete guide to smart lighting here, but one cool thing is that you can program your lights to dim at a specific time. If you’re all into the smart home, you can also sync your lights along with lowering the thermostat (cooler rooms are better for sleeping) and queue up a soothing playlist. Smart plugs are another good option here if you just want to turn a device on or off at a specific time. For example, if you want to turn on a regular diffuser or humidifier every night at 10 p.m.

If that is too complicated, you can always opt for a sunrise lamp. These lamps are essentially a kind of smart alarm clock where an artificial light source simulates the sunrise. The idea is to replace sound-based alarms with a softer, non-invasive method that takes advantage of your natural circadian rhythms. Many modern sunrise lamps can also be used as reading lamps that use warm lighting to help you relax at night. Some have built-in sleep tracking and integrate with the smart home, like the Amazon Halo Rise, while others can play white noise to help you fall asleep.

In short, you try to stack the odds in your favor. You wake up earlier if you can fall asleep more easily. You fall asleep faster if you have control over your environment, and so on and so forth. The ideal routine will look different for everyone, but here’s an example (assuming you have a fully smart home):

  • Smart bulbs dim and use warm lighting at 9 p.m.
  • The smart thermostat lowers the temperature in your bedroom at 10 p.m.
  • Smart plugs turn on a diffuser with lavender oil (which promotes sleep) at 9:45 p.m.
  • The phone goes into bedtime mode at 10:35pm, which mutes all notifications, limits all social media apps, and dims screens.
  • The lights go out at 10:45 PM.
  • You fall asleep at 11 p.m.
  • Your sunrise lamp starts waking you up at 6:15 AM.

My personal setup is a lot simpler these days. I have a smart diffuser that turns on at 9:00 PM and my humidifier is plugged into a smart plug that turns on at 9:30 PM. Both turn off automatically at 01:00 AM. My phone’s sleep focus turns on at 10:15 PM and I usually sleep at 10:30 PM. At 6:15 AM, my Apple Watch starts vibrating to wake me up without bothering my partner.

I know I have to adjust this down the line. In fact, in the past month I’ve added the diffuser and removed a sunrise lamp that only woke me up half the time. That said, do all of this has helped me wake up earlier 90 percent of the time while my overall sleep quality improved — even when my cat tries hard to thwart my efforts. I don’t always succeed, but after ten years of trying to change my sleeping habits, I can honestly say that focusing on the night before makes a world of difference. And if gadgets can help you better automate the perfect bedtime routine, why not take advantage of them?

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