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Morning alarms – a rude awakening

It is probably safe to say that it is a truth universally acknowledged that people don’t like alarms waking them in the morning. Most would rather wake naturally in their own time.

I nearly used the term “alarm clock” in that opening sentence but pretty soon realized that such a thing is a rarity these days. In my childhood an alarm clock was a clunky, ticking beast which sat beside your bed and, at the pre-set time, shook and gyrated while emitting unpleasant raucous or strident sounds that nobody could sleep through. Some could be measured on the Richter scale.

To stop the racket, you had to strike the button on top, not easy when the clock was jumping around and your arm was still mostly asleep.

These days, for most people, their phone is their alarm clock. And their watch, camera, photo album, calendar, direction finder, translator, music provider, best friend, pet, social media link, all-purpose encyclopaedia …

On a phone’s alarm function, you don’t have to endure raucous or strident. You can, if you wish, choose classical music, birdsong, Taylor Swift, a babbling brook, or a Viennese waltz, for example. Many of the options sound so soothing they could even send you softly back to the land of slumber.

One online wit suggested making Justin Bieber’s “Baby” your alarm. He said it worked for him because he developed the skill of waking up five minutes before the alarm so he could turn it off.

Then, of course, there’s the snooze option, which allows you to doze a little longer. And possibly miss work or school.

It all got me to wondering whether there has been any research about waking up by alarm versus waking up naturally. Logic surely suggests that waking up naturally is better for your health, but who knows!

The research I looked at was a mixed bag offering pros and cons for both so I settled mostly on just one typical researcher, Brandon Peters MD.

He said early on in his piece that your alarm clock actually promotes unhealthy sleep habits. Ideally, he says, you should be able to sleep as long as you need to but, to add confusion, that need differs from person to person. [And he fails to mention the interrupted sleep occasioned by nocturnal ageing bladders.]

Peters – it’s okay, I’m talking Brandon not Winston – even explains a little experiment you can do to determine how much sleep you need. Over several nights, allow yourself to sleep until you wake up naturally – I’m not going to mention bladder excursions again – and then average out the number of hours you slept.

It’s then a matter of simple arithmetic to work out what time you need to go to bed and sooner or later eliminate the need for the alarming intrusion. Sounds easy but is it?


For one thing, daily life isn’t that clockwork. For another there can be issues with ageing blah … oops, almost slipped up.

Another study [from Japan] found alarm clock use can harm your heart. It concluded that waking naturally does not cause the significant rise in blood pressure and heart rate that an alarm can cause. “It can cause acute increases in older people and even increase the risk of heart attacks.”

Perhaps, on balance, the researchers are more in favour of natural waking but, as always, it’s your call. Changing won’t be easy but it will benefit you in the end.

People at the older end of the scale should remember to factor in what I shall refer to as nocturnal interruptions so that I don’t have to break my earlier promise about not saying a certain word.

Goodnight for now.

Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, musician and public speaker.


  1. Is this article meant to be taken seriously 😳. Reality is hard to except but that’s life for the working and mum’s. Life’s a bitch in the real world but you can have dreams they are free.

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