Written by S. Bowyer

 

     In 2006, a survey in the U.S. discovered that alarm clocks were the second-most hated invention by the population. Yet, almost every household  has one. The reason why is obvious, but the negative effects of some alarm clocks are not. Sleep experts have been examining how the shock of a quick wake affects our mood, cognitive functions, body stats, and physical well-being to understand how alarm clocks impact us, and the data improves the case natural alarm clocks. 

      Dr. Chris Idzikowski from the Edinburgh sleep centre stated that subtle body changes will affect us most earlier in the day, and an alarm that frightens us out of sleep is going to further affect the sleeper.

    The National Institute of Industrial Health of Japan studied the physiological affects of sudden wakings, and found patients had higher blood pressure and heart rate. 

      The theory is the sudden away stresses the system, and triggers the fight or flight response we all have, causing an adrenaline response. It means the waker will start the day stressed before even getting out of bed. The shock releases cortisol, the stress hormone into your body, as well as affecting other hormones, resulting in low moods and inertia. Such hormonal challenges can be contributed to overall lethargy in life if regularly over-stimulated.

      A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association also said that when people were woken during a deep sleep cycle, instead of a light one, they will suffer short-term memory problems, and cognitive and counting skills were impaired. The frame of mind was compared to being drunk. Some of the affects were still detectable up to two hours after waking, which could imply danger for those driving to work, working in emergency services, or other professions where mental and cognitive functions are relied on. 

      Sudden alarms can also ruin enjoyment of things if they are the negative stimulus. A blogger for Smart Living Network wrote, "I’ve tried different things. Once, I tried setting my alarm to play Europe’s, The Final Countdown, thinking it would wake me up and get me totally psyched to start my day. I tried it for a week, and it completely ruined the song for me. Lesson: if you enjoy a song, don’t use it to wake you up in the morning."

 

 BUT I NEED TO WAKE UP!

      While there are these downsides to your typical whiny, shocking alarm clock you probably rely on, there are a range of different alternatives aimed at giving you a better start to the day. Or it might be a case of just tweaking what you already have. The sky is the limit, as they say. So what are the options? What is there to consider when considering which alarm clock could better suit your lifestyle?

 

 #1 Alternate sensory clocks

      Typical alarm clocks use sounds, but we have 5 senses and there are alarm clocks that target different senses. While some of the plots are involved in their snooze button, such as clocks that make you answer a question or finish a task before going on snooze, there are clocks that change your environment to wake you up. One of the favourites is Bacon clock

 

      Bacon Clock works by users putting a piece of frozen bacon into the side dish before they go to bed. Ten minutes before the alarm should go off, the device turns on and starts to cook the bacon. Instead of loud noises, the user is woken by the delicious smell of bacon and a light sizzling noise. However, if you're not a fan of bacon, I'm sure you could use any meat in the tray. Articles don't mention if a snooze button is implemented, but it wouldn't be suggested unless you want burnt or unpleasant meat. 

      Unfortunately Bacon Clock is not in mass production, but is a cousin of a similar clock, Coffee Clock. While these aren't easy to find on the market, wikihow.com suggests you can make your own by using a time-set coffee maker and placing it on your bedside table. 

      A sensory clock that is in mass production is a Dawn Simulation clock. 

 

 

      Dawn clocks work on the power of light. They rely on the belief that the human sleep cycle is affected by the sun and the body is encouraged awake by light. The "alarm" turns on thirty minutes before you need to wake, and slowly upgrades its starting light glow into brighter and brighter beams of light, simulating a dawning of a day. They are highly recommended by the UK swim team, Rowing, and British Cycling. They come with a sound alarm too, but the theory is your body will be in a lighter sleep pattern from the light before the alarm sounds, meaning you will still wake up in time, but your body won't have as many negative effects because of the pre-wake light routine.

      A running enthusiast tested one for the Guardian newspaper, before switching permanently.

      "I woke as if rocked into wakefulness, rather than being slammed into it. I didn’t feel groggy; I didn’t feel dopey. I just felt smoothly and peacefully awake. I got out of bed, put on my running kit, ran to the park to watch the morning mist rise off the lake, and felt excessively superior."

      Psychologists at University of Westminster found people using a Dawn Simulator in their study also reported more alertness and less tiredness. 

      A Dawn Simulator clock does not have to be purchased if you have an iPhone. Itunes offer an application for $2 that will turn your iPhone into one. 

     One reviewer said, "Great idea for an ap! Love how I can go to sleep with relaxing music if I wish and wake up to birds chirping or what ever I may choose. The birds are beautiful and natural. The light could be a little bit brighter. The light definitely helps to wake you up."

      Other sensory alarms include water-spray clocks, and vibrating alarm clocks.

 

#2 Change Your Sound

      As explained above, if a gentler wake is administered, then negative affects, including bad mood, will be less likely. 

      “The first sound we hear in the morning has such an effect on our mood for the rest of the day,” states Dev Banerjee of the Sleep Clinic.

      If you use a clock or phone that you can edit the sound, you could change the volume and sound to be less interruptive, and set the alarm earlier. It will encourage a more natural waking pattern. But what sounds? You want something that starts very quiet, isn't too repetative or annoying, possibly even something that inspires. Something docile that contains pick-ups or sounds that will catch the attention of your sub-conscious without shocking you. 

      My alarm clock features the sound of xylophone. I love the sound of xylophones and similar percussion instruments. It plays quietly from my alarm, and wakes me up gently. 

      Other examples I found on Youtube were soundscapes and compilations. These last a few minutes and could work as pre-wakers. Something to suit everyone, including the last for cat lovers.

 

                    

 

 

       The last sound compilation I chose in case you want something cute to wake up to and want to avoid music options. Played quiety they will not shock you, only rouse you out of your sleep as the sounds continue. 

 

#3 Dual alarm clocks

       An engineering student blogged about his experience with alarm clocks. He relies on a dual alarm clock system. The theory is to buy an alarm clock that has 2 separate-set alarms, or use 2 alarm clocks, then set one that is quieter and earlier, which will pre-wake the subconscious and drop you into a lighter sleep cycle, then the second alarm set louder to finish the waking process. 

       The dual system is easy to use, and will ensure you wake up, even if you are not normally easy to wake. If you wish to use your snooze button on the second alarm that will be fine too, however, you might not need it. Studies reported by the Daily Mail stated 65 percent of people woken more naturally were less likely to use their snooze button.

 

#4 Using other tricks

      Some people prefer not to use an alarm at all, but instead use other tricks to wake more naturally. Alarm clocks are often used to cover bad habits we maintain because of societal trends and encouragements, such as caffeine usage, skipping sleep for other tasks, and unorganised sleep routines. Often alarms are used because our bodies are confused and not following the natural 24-hour cycle pattern they were created to follow.

 

     Wikihow  lists a range of tricks to get your body to wake itself, or how to support its natural cycles, some of them being: 

      1. Drink a large glass of water before bed so that your bladder will wake you in the morning. 

      2. Create your own natural Dawn simulator alarm by opening your curtains before you go to bed. When the sun rises in the morning, it will wake you into a lighter sleep.

      3. Determine how much sleep your body usually needs, then plan a regular bedtime based on this, and when you need to wake for your committments. Creating a pattern will encourage your body's internal clock to be more reliable.

      4. Learn what real-life sound cues your environment has. Does your sister regularly get up 30 minutes before you? Does the neighbours chickens crow around the time you get up? Knowing this information and training your self-conscious to react could help. 

      My suggestion is to start feeding your pet 30 minutes before your alarm goes off, setting a tiny alarm in the kitchen every time you feed them. Take a leaf from Pavlov and teach your pet that his alarm means food. Then, when you don't feed them some mornings when the alarm by their bowl goes off , they'll find you. We all know what racket a hungry pet can make. Leave your bedroom door open and wait for the meows, barks, hand poking, grunting, and drooling by the side of your bed. If you do miss some mornings because you slept a little later, the learnt trait will strengthen, as this act as intermittent conditioning, meaning the lesson is stronger due to unpredictability. 

      Interestingly, a University of Lubeck test on 15 people who slept in the lab determined that our intentions drive our hormones of sleep patterns. They found on the days they told the volunteers they wanted them to wake early, they had stress hormone increases at 4:30am, their body anticipating for the plan. It also gives indication that a snooze button is bad for setting a pattern in your system. When the snooze button goes off, and you hit it to go back to sleep, you are ignoring and confusing your body because the stress/mobilisation hormones your body created are left unused, and the body is unsure what to do with them. Often too, returning to sleep from snooze will place you in deep sleep, ready for your alarm to rip you out of it again. 

      Other websites suggest programs to eradicate the alarm clock from your life completely, however, heavy sleepers would probably not be comfortable with this idea. Morning persons can find such information at sites like: 

http://www.psychmechanics.com/2014/12/how-to-develop-habit-of-waking-early.html

http://goinswriter.com/wake-up-early/

 

     Life with or without an alarm can be more pleasant when the plan is tailored to your natural body's reactions, your preferences, and your lifestyle. If you feel you could be getting more out of your sleep, look at how you're waking up. 

 

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