Waking Up Doesn’t Have To Be Alarming

Looking for the optimal way to wake up in the morning? Key features will help you figure out if a traditional alarm clock or a more contemporary model is the best fit for you.

Should your alarm clock wake you with a jarring screech, upbeat music, or a soothing light that mimics the sunrise? You’ll need to consider your sleep style to figure out the best alarm clock for you, but first, one caveat. Remember that alarm clocks are there to remind you to wake up, notes Robert Oexman, DC, director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Mo. By the time your alarm sounds, your body should already be waking on its own. If it’s not and you consistently press the snooze button, you need more sleep. Aim to get seven to nine hours a night. If you do press snooze, use those nine minutes or so to stretch while you lie in bed rather than fall back asleep. To help you choose the best alarm clock for you, consider the features most useful to you.

Digital Alarm Clock

Most people do well with a standard digital clock, but it’s important to use one that doesn’t light up. Exposure to light at night decreases the amount of the hormone melatonin we produce, which is important for initiating sleep and maintaining sleep, Oexman explains. If your digital clock does light up, turn it away from you or cover it with a towel to block the light. A nice feature of a digital clock is being able to adjust the alarm’s volume. Some people need a minimal amount of noise to wake up while others need more.

Non-Digital Clock With Hands

A non-digital clock is less likely to light up and makes it harder than a digital alarm clock to count down the hours until morning if you happen to wake up in the middle of the night. People who have difficulty falling or staying asleep shouldn’t check the time in the middle of the night since it can increase anxiety and lead to even worse insomnia, advises Oexman. If your clock has hands, and you still find yourself glancing at it at 2 a.m., turn it away from you.

Light Alarm Clock

An alarm clock that becomes brighter and brighter in the morning to mimic the sunrise is one of the best alarm clocks for people with seasonal affective disorder, who are prone to depression during the dark months of the year, Oexman says. Being exposed to light in the morning can help you wake up and get moving, especially if you use it in combination with a light therapy box while getting ready. Some people may still need an alarm that makes noise though to help them wake up on time.

Bed-Shaking Alarm Clock

Some alarm clocks actually cause your bed to vibrate to get you up in the morning. It’s a terrific option for people who are hearing impaired, notes Oexman. For others, a bed-shaking alarm clock is really more of a novelty. Keep in mind that vibration and motion may actually promote sleep, so you may sleep right through the vibration if it’s not paired with a noise alarm. “Noise wakes us up easier,” he says.

White Noise Alarm Clock

Some people with insomnia go to sleep more easily when they listen to white noise, the sound of the ocean, or music at bedtime, Oexman says. Consistent white noise all night can also help cover up the sound of a partner who is snoring. If you’re woken easily after you fall asleep, sounds other than white noise such as music may wake you later, so set the clock to turn off the noise after 30 or 40 minutes.

On-the-Go Alarm Clock

When you’re getting enough sleep, but still find it hard to pull yourself out of your comfy bed, try an alarm clock that makes you chase it. Clocky and Tocky are two options. These alarm clocks force you to get out of bed to turn the alarm off, Oexman says. If this sounds like a good idea, but you don’t want to buy a new alarm clock, simply place the one you have across the room.

A Programmable Thermostat

One of the best alarm clocks is your own body, and a lower core temperature is your body’s cue to go to sleep at night, while a rise in core temperature is a cue to get up in the morning. Programming your thermostat so that the air is cool at bedtime and starts warming up about an hour before you wake up works extremely well, Oexman explains. You’ll probably still have to use this strategy along with an actual alarm to be sure you get up on time.

There’s no shortage of makes and models among alarm clocks, from classic to the most streamlined, hi-tech designs. Just keep in mind that when it comes to effectively waking you up, form should follow function.

By Marie Suszynski