Why Your Bedroom Alarm Clock is Bad News

Dr. Craig Hudson, MD | November 15, 2016

Most of us have alarm clocks in our bedrooms. We rely on them to help us get up and out the door on time – an important thing to do if one wishes to remain gainfully employed. But could alarm clocks actually be doing us more harm than good?  According to a study[i] done by the National Institute of Japan, the answer is yes.

How waking up to an alarm can be harmful to your health

When we sleep, the physiology of our bodies changes. At the deep sleep stage of the sleep cycle, we experience higher than usual fluctuations in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. People who are predisposed to heart disease are more vulnerable during the early morning. A sudden jolt out of a deep sleep puts stress on the heart. It triggers the body’s fight or flight response.

Even for those who are unconcerned about heart problems, being suddenly awakened by the shrill tone of an alarm clock can have a negative impact on how they function during the day. Another study published in the American Medical Journal[ii] showed that when people were suddenly awoken from a deep sleep, it affected their mental processes and caused impaired short term memory. The effects were similar to those of being drunk.

But I NEED my alarm clock!

Despite the potential health consequences of waking up, many people are reluctant to remove their alarm clocks from their bedroom. This is understandable – after all, you still have to get to work on time right?

The good news is that you can mitigate the harmful effects without totally removing the clock from your room. You can still set your alarm if it is necessary to have peace of mind, but you should train yourself to wake up just before it goes off so that you can turn it off before the alarm sounds.

How to train yourself to wake up without and alarm

  • Stick to a regular bedtime and sleep routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day and resist the temptation to sleep in on weekends and holidays.
  • Place your bed at a spot in your room where the sun is more likely to awaken you.
  • Sleep with your curtains or blinds open just enough that the morning sunlight will come into your room.

Alternatives to alarm clocks

Even those of us with the best sleep habits may still need a little extra help getting up in the morning every now and then. But don’t think that you need to be jolted awake by a shrill alarm to get moving.

Consider using an alarm with more gentle or gradual sounds such as chimes. Alternatively, you could invest in a dawn simulator to help you get up and at it in the morning.

Waking up in the morning should be as natural as possible – and most people would agree that there is nothing quite as unnatural as the sound of an alarm clock!

So why not start taking steps today to reduce your dependence on your bedroom clock and begin improving your sleep and health?