Alexa’s Alarms have recently been updated to include music and radio options, but you’ll find a much better experience by using Routines instead.

Amazon recently lit up Alexa’s ability to wake up to music or even true over-the-air radio stations streamed on services like TuneIn or iHeartRadio. These basic options are fine for a basic alarm clock, but your Echo device is so much better than basic.

The first step to enhancing your Alexa alarm is to delete it.

First: delete your existing, basic alarm.

First, you’ll want to delete or at least turn off your existing alarm. To do this, just say out loud, “Alexa, turn off my alarms”, or open the Alexa app on your phone, go to the reminders & alarms section, and turn off the alarm.

Why 5:59am?  This lets my Echo device play my entire morning greeting routine, then switchover to my local NPR station just in time to hear the 6am national newscast begin.

Now, also inside the Alexa app, go to the Routines menu and add a new routine.  While you can activate routines by voice, an alarm is really only effective if it can activate itself. So, set a time and days for your regular routine.  I use 5:59am on weekdays.

A look at my “alarm routine” is below.  My alarm is set to adjust the volume to a suitable level, greet me with a random “good morning” phrase, and give me a new tip.  Afterwards I receive a weather briefing, update on my commute traffic, and quick calendar agenda for the day, before switching to NPR radio from my local KOSU station.

My routine performs these actions at 5:59am every weekday.

Advantages:  The advantages of a routine over a plain alarm are as obvious as they are numerous. You can customize exactly what you hear, and loop in other services and tools.  I didn’t include it in mine, but you can also have your alarm clock routine automatically adjust your home’s air conditioning, lighting levels, even open the blinds and start coffee (if your house is properly equipped, of course). The possibilities are nearly endless.

Drawbacks:  The only downside I’ve found is that the option to “snooze” is no longer available when using routines instead of basic alarms.  This is no bother to me because I rarely ask my alarm clock to snooze, I get out of bed and dressed as I listen to my top-of-the-day briefing.

Even with this one small downside, if you’ve got an Alexa-powered device in earshot of your pillow, I definitely recommend upgrading your alarm with a routine instead.