Are you a morning person that jumps out of bed at the first light of the new day? Or do you struggle to wake up to an alarm every morning? It’s hard to find a house nowadays that doesn’t have some type of alarm clock. But do these devices truly help us get a better sleep?
The Dawning of the Alarm Clock
Way before clocks were even invented, people have awoken to some sort of alarm. The original “alarm” was the light of the rising sun and farmers have been waking up to the crowing of their roosters for centuries. Likewise, many people woke up to the beautiful sound of church bells. Even Plato had developed an ingenious device that would fill with draining water then whistle like a water organ. In the 18th century, factories began to flourish and they needed their workers to be on time; so they used to blow whistles early in the mornings to wake the workers that lived in the area. Some companies in certain cities would even send people around door-to-door giving wake-up calls to their workers.
Alarm clocks didn’t really become a “thing” in homes until the 1870s and in those days you had to wind them up. But alarm clocks have evolved since then and they keep evolving all the time. Since the day of the wind-up clock, alarm clocks have gone digital and added snooze buttons, cuckoos, radio receivers and other features. Some modern clocks will even jump off the nightstand and wheel around the room making you get out of bed to turn it off!
Advantages of an Alarm Clock
Alarm clocks resolve an issue for a lot of us—waking up at a certain time. In today’s busy world, most of us have a difficult time dragging ourselves out of bed each morning. If it wasn’t for that alarm some probably wouldn’t get up until noon—which wouldn’t make their boss very happy.
So why is waking up so hard? With our busy lifestyles and abundance of influences like TVs, street lights, smartphones, tablets, neighborhood sounds like that annoying barking dog and other stimuli, it’s a wonder we sleep at all. These things keep interrupting our sleep and our bodies call for more sleep which means we wake up being drowsy.
We do have an internal clock. Our brains may expect to awaken at a particular time which might explain why we awaken only a few minutes before the alarm is going to go off. But it’s very easy to change our internal clock. Shift workers have no choice but to flip-flop their day and night schedules which will mess up their internal clock. Those who are night owls or have erratic wake and sleep schedules can also mess up their internal workings and find it hard to wake up when they have to.
Yet having an alarm clock has its advantages.
- Normal Sleeping Schedule – Your biological clock benefits from waking up about the same time every day. An alarm clock can aid in developing a normal sleep pattern and maintaining a regular schedule.
- Remaining on Civilization’s Time – Although sleeping in every day sounds terrific, sadly, we all have a schedule to keep. If no one had an alarm clock, schools and businesses would be disorderly with everyone showing up at different times. For everything to run effortlessly, it’s critical that everyone arrive at a certain time.
- Peace of Mind – There are people who don’t set alarms but then keep waking up throughout the night to check the time. This interrupts your sleep and can cause anxiety. If you’re anxious you can’t sleep so, in that case, it’s best to set an alarm to feel “safe” every night.
Possible Disadvantages of an Alarm Clock
Believe it or not, there are a few downsides to owning one of these devices. They could even be harmful to a good night’s sleep and your health, in some cases.
- Sleep Anxiety – If you worry about not being able to fall asleep, you could be promoting your insomnia. That darn alarm clock doesn’t help either—always ticking off the minutes until it’s time to wake up! If you suffer from sleep anxiety, sleep specialists recommend covering the clock with a towel; this way you’re not lured into watching the clock count down the minutes.
- Bright Lights – There are alarm clocks out there that have luminous faces. While this is great for viewing the time in daylight, it’s not so great when you’re trying to sleep. Lights from your clock, TV, phone and even your computer can keep you from having a decent night’s sleep.
- Social Jetlag – What is this you ask? It’s when you deprive yourself of sleep in order to keep up with all of your social requirements. Researchers contend that social jetlag messes up our biological clocks; it greatly raises your risk of weight gain or obesity and impacts sleep. There was a big study that indicated on weekends ⅔ of adults slept over one hour more than on weekdays. The study revealed that while the wake-up time remained the same, adults are going to bed later on the weekends which makes for a sluggish morning.
Waking Up On Time and Energized
We all would like to get up in the morning after a terrific full night of sleep without being startled awake by horribly loud beeps. But is there really a better way?
Allow Lots of Time for Going to Bed – Every adult needs 7½ – 8 hours of sleep each night to restore their body and brain to their maximum performance levels. We’re talking actual sleep, not the time you get in bed. If you require an alarm clock, chances are you’re not getting to bed early enough. Not getting enough sleep means the next day you’ll be working with impaired self-discipline, creativity and judgement—like the effects from drinking too much.
If you’re the type that doesn’t fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow—and most of us aren’t—then you need to factor this into you sleep time. For instance, if you need 7½ hours of sleep but 30 minutes to settle down, then retire to bed 8 hours prior to your wake-up time. This will decrease any sleep anxiety you might have. But if you take what seems like forever to fall asleep then perhaps you should try cutting off electronics and caffeine earlier in the evening. You could also try things like stretching, meditation or deep breathing prior to bedtime.
A Smarter Alarm May Work Better for You – Have you almost thrown your alarm clock out the window because of that frightening buzzer that wakes you up every morning? There are gentler varieties out there like the well-known Lumie and Phillips alarm clocks or apps in the iOS and Android stores.
To avoid sleep interruptions while using an alarm clock, try these tips:
- Purchase a clock displaying blue numbers rather than red.
- Set your smartphone to airplane mode.
- Avoid checking the time by rotating your clock’s face away from you.
- You don’t want to be jarred awake, so pick an alarm or app with calming sounds.
The Sleep Shepherd Blue, a wearable smart alarm, strives to assist people to get their best night’s sleep. This handy little gadget monitors your brain waves and biofeedback; it causes you to relax using binaural beats and gently wakes you up at the light stage of your sleep.
Practice Good Sleep Habits – It’s vital to your health that you develop patterns that will promote better sleep. These consist of things such as:
- Keep away from alcohol and caffeine as well as other stimulants several hours before bed.
- Make sure you have soft bedding and a comfy mattress to sleep on and a cool bedroom for your slumber works best too.
- During your day, drink lots of water and eat a healthy, balanced, nutrient-packed diet.
- Get your daily dose of Vitamin D by enjoying the great outdoors and always perform some sort of exercise. Why not combine the two?
- Before bed, curtail your use of TVs, smartphones and other electronics; also your bedroom should be as dark as possible while you sleep.
Pay Attention to Your Body – If you’ve altered your sleep schedule to get the proper amount of sleep but you still wake feeling tired, perhaps there are other factors involved. Have there been changes in your health, stress or are you sleeping on an old mattress? Even your age is a factor. If none of these are a problem area for you, then consider these reasons why you might be groggy in the morning:
- Drowsiness could be due to the previous night’s consumed alcohol or over-the-counter and prescription drugs such as blood pressure, antihistamines and sleep aids.
- You could be feeling run down from sleep disruption because of your partner’s snoring, pets moving around in bed, sounds from a smartphone or TV or sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.
If you’ve tried everything and you just aren’t feeling your energetic self in the mornings, contact your doctor. He/She will help you diagnose the problem.
Avoid the Snooze Button, Maintain Normal Sleep Hours – You should keep a routine wake-up time and bedtime to help keep your internal clock in check. You may discover, as others have, that you’ll be awake before your alarm even sounds off. However, as we said before, our internal clocks can get out of whack easily and many people need alarm clocks due to travel, a shifting schedule or just aging.
But don’t make the mistake of hitting that snooze button! It’s tempting we know, but you must set your alarm for the time you have to get up and then get up when it buzzes off. Pressing that snooze button repeatedly will interrupt your sleep, make you feel as if you had a bad night sleep and you’ll have a groggier morning.
So should you get rid of your alarm clock? Well, if you’re like most people, probably not. But it doesn’t hurt to try to repair your internal clock with good sleep habits. Whether you throw out your alarm clock in the future is entirely up to you.
Contact your local Urban Mattress store for more details about sleep and whether your mattress may be interfering with your lack of shut-eye.