I can't wake up.
February 2, 2010 10:59 AM   Subscribe

I've been sleeping through my alarm clocks, or turning them off without really waking up. Just about every day. This sucks.

This is a recent problem (last few months) and makes me late for stuff almost every day I have to be somewhere before, say, 11 - I wake up naturally around 10:30 pretty consistently. Plus its just massively disheartening to actually want to get up and not be able to because you just flat out sleep through it. I have two alarm clocks, and I set both, staggered by a minute or two. Once in a while I wake up a little for one, but rarely for both. I'm getting around 8 hours a night, so I'm not massively sleep deprived, but I'm really not in a situation where getting more is really practical. For important things, I've had to have people call me to wake me up, but I feel stupid about doing this, so... suggestions, MeFi?
posted by devilsbrigade to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Are the alarm clocks across the room so you have to stand up and walk over to them to shut them off? This is what I have to do.
posted by meerkatty at 11:02 AM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Put the alarm clocks on the other side of the room so you actually have to get out of bed to turn them off. Even a loud one in the next room or right outside your door.
posted by crunchtopmuffin at 11:03 AM on February 2, 2010

You could always try a flying alarm clock.
posted by foodgeek at 11:04 AM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: The alarm isn't off when I actually wake up, so I think I'm sleeping through them. I can't do anything too loud or obnoxious because I have housemates a fairly thin wall away.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:08 AM on February 2, 2010

Have you recently added a morning activity that you're not too excited about?

I had that issue, except it only happened when I had that one activity. Figured out my brain just wasn't excited enough to get up.
posted by biochemist at 11:08 AM on February 2, 2010

In that case, this might not help either, but maybe! Like the flying alarm clock, but so cute! Clocky, the rolling alarm clock.
posted by sabotagerabbit at 11:10 AM on February 2, 2010

Many years ago I had an alarm clock that looked like a foam baseball. I had the satisfaction of hurling it across the room every morning, and then I'd hafta get out of bed to find it when it went off again ten minutes later. It worked really well. I don't know where it came from (it was a gift) and I've searched in vain to find another like it. But something like that would probably work.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:11 AM on February 2, 2010

When I need to get up on time without fail, I drink 2 or 3 glasses of water right before bed. Of course, there is a little trial and error figuring out how much sleep those 2 glasses of water will buy you. This works best for me if I've been up late and I'm only expecting 5 or 6 hours of sleep. If you're getting a full 8 hours, you might wake up in the middle of the night. If so, just drink 2 more glasses of water before going back to bed.
posted by pipco at 11:11 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Getting a sunrise alarm clock has solved all of my problems waking up. They are ridiculously overpriced but well worth it in my opinion (unless you are handy with electronics, in which case I would suggest making your own).

When it is absolutely crucial that I get up at a ridiculously early time after a small amount of sleep I set multiple alarms in different parts of the room/house, including my phone, my PDA, iSnooze on my computer. I stagger each one by about 10 min.
posted by grouse at 11:12 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try a clock radio. When I was in high school I somehow learned to sleep through that horrible alarm clock beeping. I was good, I could sleep through that all morning. I switched to a clock radio, and found that the variety in noise from the radio was much better at waking me up. I couldn't tune out, and then sleep through, what I couldn't predict.
posted by Hoenikker at 11:16 AM on February 2, 2010

or maybe a vibrating alarm clock - you generally put them in your pillowcase (under your pillow) and they shake you awake in the morning.
posted by brainmouse at 11:18 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

(1) You need to get more sleep each night. It's the only known cure.
(2) That being said, try the sort of alarm clock that turns on a bright light.
posted by muddgirl at 11:21 AM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Maybe getting one of those gadgets that tracks your sleep cycle and wakes you up at an optimum point in your cycle would help? If you have an iPhone, there's an app that does that very thing quite well. It is very cool.

It's not a very practical solution, but dogs and cats are annoyingly effective alarm clocks, especially if you feed them first thing in the morning.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:21 AM on February 2, 2010

I had this problem in high school, and them being on the other side of the room just didn't help :(.

Here are some suggestions, of various levels of drasticness:
  • Stagger them by more like 30 minutes, instead of one or two. That way when you turn the first one off, and go back to bed, you're unlikely to sink into a deep sleep, and instead should be in a more alert and ready-to-go place in your sleep cycle when the other one rolls around,
  • Make sure you get your sleep lengths right. Although I'm not sure why it works, I found that the following lengths worked much better than anything in between: 25 minutes, 1.5 hours, 4 hours, 8 hours. (And I say I'm not sure why it works because according to Zeo, I don't really hit deep sleep after the first hour or two, and generally it's waking from deep sleep which is supposed to be hard.)
  • Mess with the lighting. If there's any way to get some sunlight, it will help trigger your body's natural "time to get up" reflexes. I remember in high school I always had to get up before 6:00, when it was dark, whereas in college getting up at 8:00 is much easier, in part just because some light leaks in through my shades.
  • Consider various products. I like my vibrating alarm clock, and my Zeo sleep tracker/alarm clock, the latter of which wakes me up when I make a REM->NREM transition (which is when you're closest to being awake anyway). A similar product to Zeo might be the sleep tracker watches, but IIRC those measure movement to different REM and NREM, whereas Zeo uses brain waves to differentiate REM, light, and deep.
  • If you can get your hands on a prescription for modafinil (i.e. provigil), it's a game-changer. In particular, I can take one of those right before going to sleep and then be very alert when my alarm rings 4 hours later. (Effectiveness slightly decreases when I'm going for 8 hours, but it still helps, and you can probably make it work even better by e.g. taking it with food to delay the onset or perhaps checking out the newer version, armodafinil.)
  • Consider changing up your diet. I found that switching to a vegan diet significantly decreased my general level of sleepiness. Even when I'm tired, it's a very different level of tired: less "oh gawd kill me now I'm so miserable and just need to lay my head down on the desk and sleep" and more "hrm, my brain seems to be doing much worse at basic deductive tasks, and in social situations I'm either more withdrawn than usual or less witty/more awkward. Probably should get some sleep." You might be able to achieve similar results with less drastic diet changes; perhaps the best way to go would be to switch to vegan and then start reintroducing various foods. (Fish seems very safe, as does chicken, but something like hamburger seems pretty likely to screw you over.)
Good luck! Mail me or whatever if you would like more info on any of these. Learning about sleep and how to optimize it is kind of a hobby for me :).
posted by Jacen Solo at 11:23 AM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Many years ago I had an alarm clock that looked like a foam baseball.

Looks like those are called Throw Alarm Clocks.
posted by closetpacifist at 11:23 AM on February 2, 2010

How about this bed-shaking alarm clock?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:26 AM on February 2, 2010

I had this problem in my junior high school years, when I needed to get up early to do my newspaper route. I could sleep through the blaring alarm, or walk across the room to turn it off without ever becoming conscious.

Then one day my dad got sick of listening to the BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP for half an hour, and pounded the hell out of my bedroom door while shouting indistinct expletives. I just about jumped out of my skin. Thereafter, the alarm triggered a moment of terror for me, and I woke up consistently.

Ask one of your housemates to make your next wakeup really, really unpleasant.
posted by jon1270 at 11:31 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Train yourself to get up immediately. It sounds crazy, but worked amazingly well for me.
posted by metaBugs at 11:31 AM on February 2, 2010 [10 favorites]

I used to have a glorious mechanical alarm clock manufactured in the USSR. I was so frightened of the noise it made my terrified squirrel-like subconscious always woke me up 5 minutes before it went off. Get one of those.
posted by Fiery Jack at 11:33 AM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Have or borrow a baby... just kidding.

It seems like you are in a very deep stage of sleep at the time you want to wake up. Are you able to experiment with the times that you go to bed? An earlier or later bedtime might allow you to be in a different stage of sleep at alarm time.

Other things that influence my sleep stages (not necessarily my ability to sleep): alcohol intake before bed; timing of caffeine intake. You might play with factors like these.

Lastly, you might need more than 8 hours, especially if you are doing anything that is mentally or physically tiring, or even if you have extra stress right now. When I was in school and studying a lot, I slept through alarms.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:35 AM on February 2, 2010

If your getting 8 hours have you tried going to bed earlier?
posted by majortom1981 at 11:37 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Shameless plug: Top 10 alarm clocks guaranteed to wake you up.

Aside, I recently setup a older Windows Mobile PDA with MortPlayer, that has a Sleep and Alarm function to MP3s. Hooked up to my bedroom stereo. Gradual waking to Enya is nice, but jarring alarm to Johnny Rotten may work for you.
posted by edman at 11:42 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

You know, if you have thin walls and room mates that don't appreciate a loud alarm clock, that may be the best thing to get you going in the morning. After a couple of times where your roommates wake you up because your alarm is bothering them in the morning, you will become conditioned to get up and turn that thing off as fast as you can when it goes off. It gives you extra motivation to make the noise stop. After a while of doing this, when you can get up quickly once it starts going, you can start reducing the volume.

Alternatively, you may just need a clock that makes a different sound. My radio alarm clock doesn't wake me at all, my buzzer alarm clock suggests to me that I should get up, and the phone alarm makes me jump up and turn it off in fear of waking the neighbors. It's not because one is louder than the other, they just sound very different, and my body reacts differently to each one.
posted by markblasco at 11:47 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

This may sound counter-intuitive but sometimes setting your clock for an earlier time makes it easier to get up. This has something to do with where you are in the sleep cycle at the time that the alarm interrupts you, so changing the time to a point before you get into that deep sleep can make it easier to get up.

Your trouble waking up could also be to do with being slightly disturbed some time before it is time to get up. e.g. if you are trying to get up at 8.00am but the trash pickup comes some time before that you could be being partially disturbed and just getting back into a nice cosy sleep when your alarm clock goes off so maybe you should get up when the trash (or whatever) wakes you up or else get earplugs so that it doesn't disturb you.

I agree you also probably need to go to bed earlier, but just a little bit, maybe 15 minutes or so. If you try to go to bed two hours earlier you'll just lie awake looking at the ceiling.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 11:50 AM on February 2, 2010

I have this issue, on and off, and the only thing that works for me is a) choosing a new sound and b) setting the clock to be a different time (either earlier or later) than what I've come to expect. For me, this means using a phone (endless ringtones to choose from!) and resetting that and the time I get up every few months.

This helps you train to stop setting tons of alarms and ignoring them all, because instead of hearing something familiar every 9 minutes the time and sound varies.
posted by shownomercy at 11:52 AM on February 2, 2010

Just re-read your post and I see that you wake up at around 10.30am. Between the early morning and 10.30 am lots of things could be interfering with the quality and rhythm of your sleep even without you being aware of it -- even such things as the change of temperature when the heating comes on in your house.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 11:53 AM on February 2, 2010

Eat something as soon as you get up, whenever you successfully wake up at the desired time. This way, your body will anticipate eating at this time and will make sure you're up for it.
posted by kindall at 12:05 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe you need an alarm clock that you can't turn off while half asleep.
Ex. the bomb alarm clock or the gun o'clock.
posted by smallvictories at 1:02 PM on February 2, 2010

Tell your housemates that they are entitled to dump a glass of water on your head if you don't turn off your alarm in 20 seconds.

That'll train you pretty quickly.
posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 1:37 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you were getting enough sleep you wouldn't need an alarm clock. If you're young, it's possible that your sleep requirement could be as much as 10 hours and you could have a substantial sleep debt that needs paying.

Another possibility is that you are actually not sleeping well--without being aware of it. The most common causes are obstructive sleep apnea (especially if you're middle aged and/or overweight) and periodic leg movement syndrome (especially if you're over 40).
posted by neuron at 1:40 PM on February 2, 2010

Thirding the sunrise alarm clock, and then also get a SAD light that you turn on or set to automatically come on when you wake. The sunrise alarm light plus its beep alarm will wake you up, the SAD light will then perk you up and stop you feeling so crappy because you've gotten up before your normal waking time. Knowing something will make you feel a bit better is also a help to getting up. I'm an 'owl' who normally works very late and gets up very late, but when I have to rise early this combination really works.

In theory you should be able to use SAD lights to advance your sleep phase and help you get up earlier. I've never found that to work, but they do really make me feel better as a component of an early start.
posted by Flitcraft at 1:48 PM on February 2, 2010

I find that I can get used to the noise of an alarm to the extent that I become able to more or less tune it out - either sleeping completely through it or turning off the alarm without waking up. Setting a music alarm on my computer with a different song every day helps, because I don't have that automatic sleep-through-it response. (Also, it is less awful to hear when I wake up.)
posted by ubersturm at 2:07 PM on February 2, 2010

I agree with the sunrise alarm clock suggestion. I used to have a terrible time getting up until I figured out that sound alarms just don't work for me, but the light works every time.
posted by violette at 2:50 PM on February 2, 2010

Sunrise clocks are neat but kinda pricey. You can just pick up a lamp timer and use an existing lamp to get the same basic effect to at least see if it works for you.
posted by chairface at 3:39 PM on February 2, 2010

majortom1981 and neuron (kinda) have it. If you're getting 8 hours of sleep, but waking up at 10:30 a.m. naturally, that means you aren't going to bed until 2:30 a.m. You'll never wake up at 8 a.m. at that rate. So try, just for a week, going to bed at midnight. This means YOU ARE BRUSHED AND FLOSSED AND IN BED by 11:59 p.m. Set your alarm for 8 a.m. Set another alarm for 8:09 a.m.

For the first few nights you wont be able to go to sleep right away. That's okay. Just lay there with the lights off as long as it takes.

Basically, you need to reset your biological clock, just like you do when you have jet lag.
posted by Brittanie at 5:04 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

I came in here to say the same thing as y6t5r4e3w2q1. You have roommates you don't want to disturb? Great! There's your motivation to get up right away when your new crazy-loud alarm clock goes off. (And once you get accustomed to actually waking up with your alarm, you may be able to switch back to one that's not so loud.)
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 5:34 PM on February 2, 2010

I have a lamp and a 7 day timer. The timer turns on the lamp at the appropriate time, and turns it off again an hour later. The seven day feature means that the lamp stays off on weekends. I bought the timer at Target for about $20. Any lamp will do, but best results for you will depend on the location and brightness.

Perhaps you can team this with a traditional alarm clock.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 5:41 PM on February 2, 2010

I use a timer (5 bucks) on a bedside lamp set to turn on right after my regular alarm. Before, I had to turn the volume on my alarm way up to unnecessarily scare myself out of bed 95% of the time to avoid the 5% of the time where I slept through. Now, it's just loud enough to stir me and warn me that the harsher stimulus is coming (light! aghh!) and I can't ignore the two-front attack. Doesn't bug the roommates either.
posted by zizania at 5:54 PM on February 2, 2010

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