How can we wake up without an alarm clock? And why should we try?
Interrupting the natural sleep-cycle disrupts our circadian rhythms managing many things in the body, including hunger, female cycles, release of cortisol, thyroid, melatonin and more.
Humans evolved to sleep in the dark and wake with the light, unlike nocturnal animals who do the opposite. As day approaches, we release the adrenal hormone cortisol, giving us a natural boost to wake up and get going.
We often have a light sleep cycle (as opposed to a deep sleep cycle) just before morning. We prefer to wake naturally at the end of this light sleep cycle. Waking suddenly to an alarm leaves us disoriented and stressed. And with a big surge of the cortisol we’d prefer to ration out during the day.
How to Wake Up Without an Alarm Clock
- Put a timer on a bedside or room lamp. If one light fails to wake you (after doing some of the retraining below), put TWO lamps with timers at different time settings. Try a clock with dawn-simulator lighting or Zen Bells that gradually increase as the wake-up time is reached. See below…
- Set a clock radio to come on to low volume talk or music, and maybe keep the lamp as a back-up
- Depending on the season, and how well your blackout curtains are working, leave the curtains open just enough to get good morning light. Or prop your hall door open an inch or two to let natural light in
- Set an alarm for the latest possible wake time as a back-up, but move it away from your bed
- In cooler seasons, program your thermostat to warm the house before waking time. This mimics the weather, and is part of the body’s response to sensing daytime
Retrain Yourself to Wake Without an Alarm
Allow more hours for sleep so you’re rested and more ready to wake up. Commit to a set bedtime and waking schedule and 8 hours of sleep (more or less). Re-set your natural sleep cycle by making the house darker and cooler at night, wearing blue-light blocker glasses at night, and consistently getting to sleep as early as possible.
Get consistent sleep hours in place first, over a 2 week period if necessary, before trying to wake without an alarm.
On planet Earth, blue means wake and dark means sleep. Fluorescent lights, TV and other blue screens at night prevent the release of Melatonin, our natural sleep hormone. Having light in the bedroom disrupts sleep too. Remove or turn off anything with a lit power button in the bedroom.
Use a clock without a lighted face. I have a small battery operated travel clock with temperature readout which I press to light the face up briefly. I can check the temperature if I’m not sure the room really is too warm or if it’s just me.
Help establish the circadian rhythm light cycle by spending time in daylight and by brightly lit windows during the day.
Practice your new sleep cycle, and stick to it! Use your alarm for now and add the lights or music a few minutes before the alarm so you’re expecting them.
What about the Snooze button?
You know the answer to that one…. Ignore it, and train yourself to get up when the time is right.
One of my favorite tricks is to spend a minute after I get into bed and visualize me waking up at the appointed time. See yourself looking at your clock with 7 AM on it, and see you waking up and seeing that clock. Use some mental programming such as: I will wake up refreshed at 7 AM tomorrow morning. Think hard and feel it! And feel your pleasure to be waking quietly and naturally the next morning.
Some gadgets I’ve never tried but might be useful:
Plug the Lighten Up! 8 hours before your desired wake time into your own lamp with an incandescent bulb. It comes on every 24 hours automatically, with the light increasing over a 30 minute period. For $20 it might be worth a try.
This one has its own light, radio and alarm.
iTunes has a progressive Zen bells alarm timer app.
Here’s a few of my articles on sleep. You really can be a better sleeper, and you deserve to wake up gently!
- 5 Sleep Tricks I Use for Waking Up Too Early is here
- Sleep Aids For Better Sleep – Cheap! is here
- Sleep, Snoring and Airway Disorders is here
- Passion Flower for Sleep and Calming is here