I like to keep things simple when it comes to my sleep and wake routines—usually a combination of an eye mask and Amazon Echo Show playing light rain sounds does the trick—but always appreciate the chance to explore new sleep routines, which I got to do recently while testing a hybrid sleep device called the Hatch Restore. Known primarily for its sleep devices specifically for infants and children, Hatch released the Hatch Restore last April, the company’s first-ever product that aims to help adults get a good night’s sleep. The Hatch Restore is much more than just a sound machine and an alarm clock, though: It’s one of the first all-in-one devices of its kind which includes a built-in reading light, meditation guidance, and even a creeping sunrise to guide its user to a more restorative sleep experience.
The Hatch has enough customization to suit any kind of sleeper, but would work especially well for those who never hear their alarm go off: If you’re someone who gets distracted by the glow of a screen, you can opt for the Hatch Restore’s already minimal interface to completely disappear. And if you need all the bells and whistles to help launch you out of bed in the morning, this device’s two-part wake up includes a tag team of graduated light settings that mimic sunrise, plus a customizable alarm.
One of my sleep goals is to wake up more gently, with less grogginess, and less groggily, so I was especially excited to experience the alarm options offered in the Hatch Sleep sound library, and see how I reacted to a sunrise alarm (something I’ve never used before). In the app, I can control my entire bedtime routine, with features for reading, meditation, and ultimately sleep that are designed to help Hatch Sleep users enhance their nighttime experience, and later wake up gently with gradual exposure to light.
How I Tested
To help us determine how to test the Hatch Restore, we consulted two sleep experts—W. Chris Winter, M.D., author and sleep medicine and neurology specialist at Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine Clinic in Charlottesville, VA; and Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, and fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine—who agree that choosing an alarm clock is personal, and depends on your specific preferences and needs. (For more on their criteria, read our testing guidelines for alarm clocks and noise machines at the links here.)
To test the Hatch Restore, I spent less than a week tracking my current routine with the Amazon Echo Show, as a reference point, to measure specific things like:
- How I felt right after waking up from an alarm
- My sensitivity to hearing the creak of my upstairs neighbor’s floorboards while playing white noise
- The number of times I asked Alexa for five more minutes
I maintained the same metrics when I swapped my Echo Show for the Hatch Restore to compare my experiences.
Over several days, I tested out the device by:
- Waking at my regular time (around 8:45 a.m.) as well as a few days of using the device to wake up at unusual times
- Monitoring my mood and general level of sleepiness after waking
- Testing out varying sunrise alarm intensities and types (with and without sound)
- Actively using the device’s full bedtime routine features
- Measuring the Hatch Restore’s noise levels using a measuring app created by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
I also paid special attention to the device’s functionality, ease of use, customizability, and overall usefulness while testing. Here’s what I thought.
Sunrise Alarm/Alarm Clock
Ease of Use
Though I had some reservations about using a wake-up light (I tend to think of the curtains being opened too early in the morning), setting the sunrise and audible alarms to my liking was a breeze. You can preview each sound and sunrise intensity before committing to one, which helped me figure out what pairing would be most effective. I tested how easy it was to move through my routine with the app alone versus on the device itself (which has a single button built-in which controls bedtime routine functions to some extent), and found that using the app made it a bit easier to streamline falling asleep, but not necessarily to stop the alarm upon waking. Since I tend to be a little heavy handed, attempting to sleepily snooze my alarm sometimes resulted in accidentally turning it off, and once even starting my bedtime routine altogether.
Unlike the voice-controlled Echo Show alarms I’m used to, this one’s slightly less convenient to use since the upside of using a voice-controlled device as an alarm is that I barely have to move to actually snooze or turn it off. Plus, clearing my throat of a few morning cobwebs to speak to the Echo Show serves as a great final push to wake me up.
Hatch’s sunrise alarm provided a gentler waking experience for me (one of my main sleep goals) compared to a standard noise alarm clock, and after some experimentation, came to realize that my sweet spot for lighting was when the brightness fell between eight and 10%. Anything higher than 10% actually caused me to wake up a little grumpier than normal, as direct, bright light is too much for me first thing in the morning. The device has 10 sunrise settings to choose from, but my favorite is “Morning Stroll,” which slowly cascaded an increasingly warm orange and yellow tone across my bedroom to pleasantly wake me up with the assistance of a sound alarm. The true usefulness of this sunrise alarm depends on your wake-up preferences. While the sunrise is a nice departure from the sometimes jarring buzz or tone of a traditional alarm, testing the Hatch Restore has convinced me that I still prefer waking up to sound rather than to light, although the option is definitely nice to have. Aside from the specific customization features of my wake up, there’s also an option to set recurring alarms for the entire week which I tested as well.
While my Amazon Echo Show doesn’t offer its entire library of white noise sounds for free, the device does have a larger selection than the Hatch Restore. After a while, the alarms and sounds on the Hatch can feel limited, and I miss having the option to treat my alarm clock as an external smart speaker to cue up any songs or sounds I want to listen to. I also appreciate that the Amazon Echo Show has a screen with a built-in sensor that tracks light sensitivity, causing its clock display to change to a dim sage green when the lights are off, and makes me less inclined to check the time in the middle of the night. The Hatch doesn’t offer the same functionality, which often meant less room for customization, and ironically, less versatility.
The Hatch Restore’s calming noise offerings can be customized for volume, time duration, and types of sounds (my favorites were light rain and rain on leaves, but you can also find evening campfire and meditative sound bowls from a library of 30 sounds in the free version of the app). There’s also an option to select a color display while listening to a sound, which I wouldn’t recommend using if you’re extra sensitive to light while falling asleep.
While you may have the desire to turn your noise machine all the way up to drown out even the tiniest increments of noise, experts say that noise machines shouldn’t be too loud, since they can be damaging to your ears. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says that prolonged exposure to noise at or above 85 dB (or decibel) over an eight hour time period can be hazardous to hearing, especially without the use of protection (like ear plugs). The institute also compares a 60 dB reading to that of a normal conversation, and an 80 dB reading to the sound of a ringing telephone. At full volume while playing its light rain sound (one of my go-tos), the Hatch Restore measured in at a max level of 62 dB on my NIOSH Sound Level Meter app, which is more than safe for my ears.
A Clean Loop
Since I can easily get distracted in the middle of the night by even the smallest of sounds, hearing a clean loop—meaning there’s continuous sound, with no distinctive stopping or starting—is essential to helping me fall asleep fast and avoid unnecessary thoughts. One of my favorite qualities about the Hatch Restore is how seamless and natural the sounds in its library are. I made sure to pay close attention to the quality of sleep I got after using the noise machine on its own for a couple nights. Ultimately, I felt like the sleep I had using the noise machine was pretty consistent and solid, with a well-balanced volume level.
There are lots of display options available when choosing which light to use to read with in this setting, but the ones I liked the most were the pastel options, which include warm white, light yellow, and light pink. While deeper hues like purple, orange, green, and red looked cool, the colors were a little distracting for skimming the pages of a book or magazine. Like all of the Hatch Restore features, I appreciated how customizable the light settings were, from options for setting a timer for a specific length of reading time to color changes and brightness level. It was easy to transition from casual reading to the rest of my bedtime routine, or skip the use of a reading light altogether.
My typical bedtime routine consists of lots of screen time, which means scrolling through my Twitter feed and watching videos on my iPhone right before bed. I always make a point to use the “night mode” setting on my phone to give my eyes a break from screen brightness, but it was nice to cut down on screen time altogether for a few hours and just chill with the Hatch.
Before bedtime, the Hatch Restore lets you set a nightly routine that includes options like, “Read,” “Wind Down,” and ultimately, “Sleep.” You can adjust how long you’d like to spend doing each activity (perhaps 10 minutes of reading, a 20-minute meditation), as well as your specific light color and brightness preferences. Once my preferences were preset in the Hatch Sleep app, all I had to do to start things off was either press the play button in the app, or tap the top of the device, which made it easy to flow from one scheduled task to the next. I also switched up my routine during a couple of days by removing reading or meditation time altogether.
One thing to note about the Hatch Restore is that if you want to tweak aspects of the sleep/wake routine (even something small like a volume increase) can’t be changed without having to start a part of the experience over, though there are options to preview your setting choices before they’re saved.
The Hatch Restore has plenty of features that make for a peaceful and relaxing sleep experience, starting with its reading light. While the device is much more than a typical alarm clock or noise machine, the Hatch Restore is admittedly a little pricey at $130. Comparatively, the HomeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock—which Wired recently crowned best overall sunrise alarm clock—offers a gradual sunrise alarm with varying color options, nature sounds, and even an AM/FM radio for a fraction of the cost of the Hatch, at just $19. The more expensive Philips SmartSleep Sleep and Wake-Up Light (which also has a built-in reading light, mediation guidance, and sunrise alarm) retails at $180 with fewer options, though it does have a touchscreen plus an aux port to turn the device into an external speaker and phone charger. However, unlike the Philips Wake-Up Light, the Hatch Restore has a great collection of sounds and mediations to choose from—though the majority of them are only available if you have a Hatch Premium subscription, which costs an additional $5 per month, or $50 a year. In comparison to my Echo Show or similar Amazon devices, I’d have to pay more in the long run to access everything the Hatch Restore has to offer, since Amazon has a number of free sound features (including a wide range of loopable ones) already available, plus a host of others.
The Bottom Line
Depending on what you like to use to fall asleep and wake up, the Hatch Restore could make for a great addition to your bedroom. If you’re the type who prefers to switch up your sleep sounds on a regular basis, you’ll probably have to make a long-term investment (albeit small) to reap the full benefits of the device’s sound library in addition to paying its initial cost. Although the appeal of a sunrise alarm is still growing on me, I wouldn’t consider purchasing the Hatch Restore unless you plan to use it and its reading light at least once in a while, since the features are major parts of its overall sleep/wake experience. I do feel that some of the Hatch’s features helped improve my bedtime experience, but I’m not sure I would spend over $100 on one just for access to a couple cool guided meditations. Call me a creature of habit, but for now I think I’ll stick with my Amazon Echo until the next time I’m feeling too restless for shut eye—which is when the Hatch Restore’s meditation selections will definitely come in handy.
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