Can we ever get enough sleep? The answer is: probably not. And with the temptation of our smartphones lurking on the bedside table, with all that sleep-disrupting blue light emanating from them, it’s no wonder we’re not getting enough quality rest. A new alarm clock may be able to convince you to ditch your phone as an alarm, providing a more restful ambience and an easier wake up call. I recently got my hands on a Philips Somneo Sleep and Wake-Up light.
What is Philips Somneo?
Philips Somneo is an alarm clock that has a built in light. The light simulates the sun, either as it rises or sets, and the clock also has sound effects and white noise to help you drift off to sleep. It’s a fairly large clock, but its soft donut shape gives it really nice esthetics.
While many specialty lights for the home are app-connected, what sets this device apart is that it’s not smart; you control this clock with virtual buttons on the device, not with your phone or tablet. To avoid the temptation of bringing the phone to your bedside, perhaps?
Set Up of Philips Somneo
Since there’s no connectivity, the set up is straightforward, but it’s not simple.
There are a variety of virtual buttons on the clock face, that are accessed by touching the Home button. The menus that make up the functions of the clock are deep and multilayered and the buttons aren’t exactly labelled for quick recall. The pictograph-style icons take some interpretation.
What will Philips Somneo do?
The Somneo Sleep-Wake light has several functions:
Simulated sunrise and sunset
When set with an alarm, the Somneo light will come on slowly, starting with a dim glow, then brightening gradually over a length of time you can choose, until it brightens your room like a natural sunrise. Similarly, you can set the light to dim gradually, simulating sunset and triggering your body to head for sleep.
You can customize the maximum brightness level too. There’s also a Breathe setting that brightens and dims the light organically so you can match your breaths to it for bedtime relaxation.
Sound effects & FM radio
There are several sound options on the Philips Somneo. You can set them to play as white noise to help you sleep, or as the alarm sound. Sound options range from spa-style music, to nature sounds, and even Tibetan singing bowls.
There’s also an FM radio which you can use for passive listening, or as part of your wake up routine. Unless you have a station set correctly, you’ll hear soft static, which sounds disturbingly like the Soft Rain sound effect.
Midnight light & AUX cable
The Somneo sleep-wake light has a night light built in, so that if you wake in the dark, you can tap the top of the clock to light your way, without turning on bright lights.
You can also connect your phone or tablet using the AUX jack (but you shouldn’t, right?).
Set two different alarms with Philips Somneo
Using the Philips Somneo’s touch screen menus, it’s possible to set two different alarms; one for weekdays and one for weekends, or a different time for each partner. I really like this feature.
How to set an alarm with Philips Somneo
To set the alarms you’ll tap Home> the Alarm button, which is a small bell icon. here you can scan your currently set alarms. To change them, there’s an icon on the far right: a bell with a gear. Click that to adjust the time, then touch the Clock icon (So Home>Alarm>Bell-Gear>Clock>Set time. See? You’ve got to dive deep.) then use the up/down buttons to adjust the time; hour first, then minutes. In here you can also choose if you want a mimicked sunrise effect, and how long you want it to take before coming to full brightness.
How to snooze Philips Somneo
Initially I wasn’t sure I was snoozing the Somneo alarm correctly, and thus was paranoid I’d fall back asleep and miss work. Turns out the snooze is easy. You just tap the small button on top of the clock and it will shut off for 9 more minutes. That will only snooze the audio, the brightening light will stay on.
How to shut off the alarm on Philips Somneo
When you’re up, it may also be a bit confusing as to how to disable the alarm for the day. Look at the touchscreen and you should see a small Alarm icon with an X on it. Tap that and the sound will stop and the light will go out.
How to change sounds
In my early testing, I found I was able to access a menu of about 7 different natural sounds. Weeks later, when I went back to the Somneo to take notes on how to adjust them, I couldn’t find the menu again, and the instruction manual frustratingly had no help for me. I was able to access two sound effects, rain and ocean when I turned on the Sunset effect, but the remaining sounds appeared to have vanished.
I think that’s because you can only listen to the rest of those sounds when you choose an alarm.
Philips Somneo speaker quality
The speaker quality on this alarm clock isn’t great, but hey, it’s an alarm clock, not a Bose home stereo. It sounds quite flat and tinny, but again, this is not a device you’ll use for most of your music listening. It’s designed to wake you up and send you to sleep for a few minutes or an hour at a time. (Want to drift off to something a bit nicer sounding? Read my review of Sleepphones sleep headphones.)
Does Philips Somneo work?
There’s numerous articles written about the best way to wake up. Some studies advocate for a gentle wake-up, while others suggest your smartphone should never be brought into your bedroom.
“Philips wake-up lights are clinically proven to improve your general well-being after waking up,” reads Philips Somneo’s website. “Several independent studies have shown that our wake-up light improves the quality of waking up, improves your mood and makes you feel more refreshed in the morning. Ninety-two percent of users say our wake-up light wakes them up pleasantly, while 88% of users say that the wake-up light is a better way to wake up than how they did before.* In addition, 92% of users find it easier to get out of bed.”
I’ve used a wake up light for a couple of years now and I have to say I find it easier to wake up, and more gentle. By the time my alarm sound goes off I feel like I’m ready to wake up, thanks to the light. With Somneo, I get the same gentle lighting effect, and the soft, round, sunny shape looks nice on the bedside table. The customized lighting levels allowed me to turn the brightness down so it wasn’t too glaring first thing in the morning. Overall, I really like this wake-up style, and think it works well.
Overall review of Philips Somneo
I liked a lot of things about the Somneo. The shape and design are standout and sexy. The soft, warm lighting, and adjustable levels make it easy to get exactly the soft sunrise wakeup you want.
If there were some things I didn’t love about he Somneo, it was that touch screen multi-layered menu. Particularly as I was getting used to it and learning it, I found I had to keep the manual handy to make sure I was setting things up properly. It’s just not really intuitive out of the box.
During my initial early uses, I was also somewhat confused about how to properly snooze it. It’s not clear how to turn it off in the morning. So I was forced to stay awake to make sure I hadn’t turned it off.
I also didn’t love the quality of the sound effect options for wakeups. I found them to be just a bit on the jarring side and somewhat harsh and fake sounding. The scratchy speaker doesn’t help, delivering only very basic audio quality, in my opinion.
Despite that, I like the light and find it a nice addition to my decor and my sleep routine, and recommend it, particularly if you’re looking to leave your smartphone out of the bedroom.
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