Don't Shine Unless I Need You To!
February 25, 2012 5:00 PM   Subscribe

I need a bedside clock which emits zero light in that dark, but can be read at a touch, or push of a button.

This should be easy, but I have only seen a clock like this once - in a B&B, and of course I did not write down the make. My wife insists that our bedroom be absolutely dark, in order to sleep, and I need to be able to know the time when I wake up.

I have seen clocks that are very dimly light in the dark, then light up at the push of a button (I have one of those now), but she is firm about wanting a cave-like dark room, and has invested in blackout curtians and shades to keep it that way, and we have no other even tiny lights in there. I want to give her what she wants, but I also need to look at the time when I want to.

Has anyone ever seen anything like this? It can be battery or A/C.
posted by Danf to Home & Garden (37 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
In the dark. I swear I proofread this a number of times!
posted by Danf at 5:01 PM on February 25, 2012

Ikea usually has these in store (but not online). I own two.
posted by Frowner at 5:04 PM on February 25, 2012

Two years ago my aunt gave me a small clock from Brookstone that has a cylindrical base so it can rock back and forth. When it is still it stays dark and when you tap it, setting it in motion, it lights up.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:06 PM on February 25, 2012

Not a clock, but a touch screen phone (including an iphone) can easily do this. When it's off, it's dark, and you can turn on the screen for 2-3 seconds just to check the time. Keep it on silent and face down when you're not using it.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:06 PM on February 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

I just place the alarm clock face down = zero light.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:06 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm the same way as your wife. Pitch black is almost good enough.

I just use my phone as a clock. When it 'sleeps' the display is dark and when I hit any button the locked screen comes up with the time on it. After a few seconds it goes back to sleep.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:07 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Travel alarm clocks are good for this. I use a tiny battery-operated one that I got at Target for $7 (looks more or less like this). The backlight (which is extremely dim) only shows you push a button on top.
posted by anderjen at 5:09 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have exactly the same sleep problems (right down to hating even the smallest gadget-LED on anything) and the same clock requirements. I just bought this and it does what I need just fine - no light most of the time, a button-press to illuminate the LCD, and total blackness as soon as I release the button.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:12 PM on February 25, 2012

If you can find something with only red light definitely go for that. The color of light has a huge effect on our circadian rhythms and night light sensitivity. For this reason I can't stand using my phone as a reference. We ended up with a red light projector style alarm clock. I turn the face of it away from the bed and the projected red time on the ceiling really is so little it doesn't bother either of us. You can't see it if there is other light in the room. YMMV.
posted by meinvt at 5:14 PM on February 25, 2012

I got one at Walmart for about 7 bucks. It's a Sharp, about an inch and half high by three wide. No light unless I press the top, and then it only stays lit long enough to read the time.
posted by Ardiril at 5:19 PM on February 25, 2012

I have this clock from Oregon Scientific that would fit your requirements. Hitting the top button will project the time onto the ceiling and the face lights up temporarily. The alarm feature is nice too. It starts of as a slow beep that gradually increases in frequency and volume.
posted by TheCavorter at 5:23 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have an Oregon Scientific like the one TheCavorter linked to and I love it beyond reason. It is the answer to your problem for sure.
posted by katie at 5:28 PM on February 25, 2012

A little searching has revealed that the clock I mentioned above is called the Jimi clock.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:31 PM on February 25, 2012

I've bought these from camping/traveling supply stores.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 5:37 PM on February 25, 2012

I used this alarm clock for years, and absolutely loved it. If you have it unplugged (and the batteries last forever) it will be completely dark until you touch the big button that covers the whole top. That turns on the backlight. It also sets itself from the atomic clock. It has a projection feature, too, but that was fairly useless for me since I need glasses to see the ceiling, and it's easy to turn off.
posted by duien at 5:45 PM on February 25, 2012

Sharp SPC315. It's what I have. Top button lights it up with pale green light for about five seconds. Battery lasts something like 1-2 years.
posted by Saydur at 5:47 PM on February 25, 2012

I'm on my phone, so can't really link. But amazon has a kikkerland clock that you clap to illuminate. They're cute squares - I think there are three different ways to illuminate them. (also at - I just saw them for the first time the other day)
posted by crankyrogalsky at 6:01 PM on February 25, 2012

This alarm clock is a travel clock that I use as my regular alarm. The display is incredibly dim, so you can see it but it doesn't disturb your eyes if you weren't quite ready to be up yet. It also has two alarms.

It's incredibly accurate and the battery in mine lasts forever. Nothing weird, either. Just a AAA.

I have a similar model to Saydur's Sharp SPC315 but the display is VERY bright. And I've had to replace it two or three times when something just stopped working in it. The one I have right now is still working fine, though, for over a year. And it's a good clock. Just bright. Bought mine at Target.
posted by kpetrich at 6:01 PM on February 25, 2012

This small Kikkerland clock is nice and simple. You clap to make the time appear, but you can also just lightly tap the top of the cube (so, I'm guessing that you wouldn't have a problem waking up your partner...).
posted by flomo at 6:02 PM on February 25, 2012

I used to rest a sleep mask on my alarm clock's face, until I got smart enough to start wearing the sleep mask on my own face.

Your wife may not want to to do the second, but you could do the first.
posted by orangejenny at 6:09 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just use an IndiGlo watch from Target for this. Doesn't go off unless you push the button.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:21 PM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

You could go to your local Goodwill and pick up a wind-up alarm clock... unless the ticking will be a problem.
posted by brownrd at 7:26 PM on February 25, 2012

Not a clock, but a touch screen phone (including an iphone) can easily do this.

I am also a "the room must be totally dark" person and I use an old iphone for this. So like not my iphone but one from a long time ago, first generation. The good news is that it's portable, it works as an alarm clock and you can basically set the screen to go dark after a few seconds once you've checked it. So, not saying you should purchase one for this, but if you have one in a drawer somewhere [any old cell phone really] they are pretty good for this.
posted by jessamyn at 7:49 PM on February 25, 2012

You could go to your local Goodwill and pick up a wind-up alarm clock... unless the ticking will be a problem.

The ticking would be a huge problem. I am profoundly hard of hearing without hearing aids, and my wife can hear people farting in the next zip code.
posted by Danf at 7:52 PM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've used a "talking" clock with no dial or just push a button on it and it "says" the time...would that work?
posted by Exchequer at 8:03 PM on February 25, 2012

I once had a lovely variation of this digital seiko alarm clock that worked beautifully, whose face only glowed if you pressed at the top.

I imagine all of their alarm clocks would be similarly designed - also, I just really appreciate seiko products in general, their functionality is thought out and comfortable to use, which for an alarm clock, an inherently unpleasant item, is rare and well appreciated
posted by joannqy at 8:10 PM on February 25, 2012

I have a SkyScan atomic digital clock that requires you to push the top at night to light it up; it was purchased eight years ago and a quick google search doesn't show the same exact model anymore, but I imagine they still sell an updated version.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:55 PM on February 25, 2012

The L L Bean Nightfinder. It is completely dark, but at a light push anywhere on the front, it lights up for eight seconds. The light is not too bright, it is like a Timex Indiglo watch glow. It also always shows the alarm time that has been set and the temperature.

The light push is also the snooze control for the alarm. So, if the alarm is set "on", the light push of the front of the clock both turns the light on for 8 seconds and delays the next alarm for 4 minutes. The base shown in the web picture flips over to make a cover, making this a travel alarm. The light push is spring loaded against the base or cover, so this can't be mounted, it has to be freestanding to receive the push.
posted by caclwmr4 at 8:59 PM on February 25, 2012

I have this clock, which has an Indiglo style illumination. Tap the top and it glows for 2-3 seconds.

There's a bunch on this page, but I didn't buy it in the U.S., and a quick search for the model number (DQ-650) on comes up empty. But I think it looks a bit more stylish than the other Indiglo clocks I've seen.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:25 PM on February 25, 2012

this is the answer

it's a bit expensive but not only does it not give off light while you're sleeping, you can listen to relaxing sounds whenever (i like to while cuddling!) and wake up to relaxing sounds instead of obnoxious beeping. it's AMAZING

you press the snooze button and it lights up, and you can plug it in or use batteries
posted by saraindc at 12:01 AM on February 26, 2012

I use this clock.
It was many cool features including the dark setting which turns off all the lights on the display.
Instead of pressing a button to turn them on the clock has a motion sensor. So, just wave your hand in front and the lights will turn on for a few seconds (you can also set it to turn on with a button).
The motion sensor is pretty sensitive so you'll have to place it at an angle that won't be picking up your every move.
posted by simplethings at 12:05 AM on February 26, 2012

I have this exact same problem, but I'm also looking for one with dual alarms - we wake up at different times.
posted by CathyG at 10:31 AM on February 26, 2012

I use a travel alarm clock much like the one joanngy linked for just the same reason, sometimes I need it completely dark in the room to get to sleep. Unfortunately, I cannot find my alarm clock anywhere anymore. I've had it with me for nearly twenty years now, and I'll be sad when it finally dies.
posted by patheral at 2:57 PM on February 26, 2012

I use a non-illuminated clock and I keep a tiny red LED flashlight (keychain kind of thing - it was a freebie at some work thing but I've seen them in drugstores and such) next to it on the nightstand. My phone is too bright for me. I am a delicate cave flower.
posted by mskyle at 5:48 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just spent a ton of time looking for an alarm clock that meets all my needs - dual alarm, nap button, etc. - but that also dims down to nothing or almost nothing. Then I realized that my current alarm clock meets all my needs when I put a hand towel over the display. I can just lift it up if I want to see what time it is.
posted by thejanna at 12:41 PM on February 27, 2012

The sweet spot in all this was the LL Bean. It should be here tomorrow. Thanks, all for your guidance on this!
posted by Danf at 11:07 AM on March 4, 2012

Follow up for anyone who may have seen my suggestion for the Brookstone- apparently it does stay lit up when plugged in, but not when using battery (I had been using it on batteried until now and didn't know). sorry if this caused anyone inconvenience.
posted by saraindc at 6:48 AM on May 8, 2012

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