Early morning riser I am not.
January 25, 2007 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Help me wake up with my alarm.

I always start out with the best of intentions. I set an alarm, and for a couple of weeks I wake up on time. Then... I start slipping. Five minutes, ten minutes. Usually by the time it gets to be a problem my schedule changes again, which resets the pattern.

I don't hit the snooze button. I just let the alarm (currently set to the radio) play until I get out of bed.

Now, I've got a real job. I wake up at the same time every day, or I try to anyway. After six months, it now takes me about a half hour to get out of bed after my alarm goes off. I can still wake up on time if I know I'll miss something very important, though (like a flight - work isn't important enough to get me up). I really need a way to consistently wake up with my alarm!

So, what's worked for you? I've noticed I wake up more easily in summer, probably due to the fact that I keep my shades open and the sunrise wakes me. Other things that I've tried with mostly negative results:
-eliminating food and drink several hours before bed
-waking up to favorite music
-moving the alarm clock across the room
None of these really seem to help. I've been intrigued by that particular alarm clock that's supposed to wake you up at the correct point in your REM cycle (within a certain range from the time you set) - does this thing actually work at all?
posted by backseatpilot to Health & Fitness (45 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure whether this will work for you, but the rising more easily in the summer comment makes me think perhaps. One of the best absurdly overpriced gadgets I ever bought for myself was a sunrise clock. I have a HELL of a time getting up in the AM, and particularly in the winter. A sunrise clock gradually brightens over 15-30 minutes, and the light naturally wakes you up as it would in the summer. I find it much easier to wake up when I'm peacefully transitioned into wakefulness rather than blasted out of REM sleep with a sudden klaxon of alarm-clock-radio. With the sunrise clock I usually wake up before the backup alarm (it eventually emits actual noise -- hilariously, cheerful little bluebird chirps). Added bonus is that when I *do* lie there for a while after the chirps go off, I'm getting some decent light therapy time, as the LEDs are rated for such & I do suffer from SAD.

This is the one I have, but at the time I found it cheaper elsewhere, and you probably can too. I believe Amazon carries this model, for starters.
posted by tigerbelly at 7:59 PM on January 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

I sometimes drink a huge glass of water immediately before I fall asleep — I'm a deep enough sleeper that my kidneys and bladder can't wake me up on their own, but they do force me out of bed when the alarm wakes me up.
posted by limicoline at 8:00 PM on January 25, 2007

I'm in the exact same boat as you, and I've yet to find anything that consistently works. I end up setting my alarm clock forward anywhere from 10-30 minutes. I try to not see how far I am setting it forward, so that I don't know what time it really is. Then, when the alarm goes off in the morning, I can't tell if I'm 10 minutes or 30 minutes behind. Usually, this only works for about a week, until I figure out how far ahead my alarm really is.
posted by stovenator at 8:01 PM on January 25, 2007

Also, side note: I noticed I was taking longer and longer to get out of bed in the AM during a particularly discouraging phase at work. As you say you actually do wake up but don't get up, and can get up for a flight, etc., perhaps you're not so happy at work and subconciously dragging your feet to avoid the unpleasant/depressing?
posted by tigerbelly at 8:02 PM on January 25, 2007

Are you getting enough sleep at night? Maybe going to bed earlier might help.

Some people just aren't morning people (myself included), but if you know that you need to be somewhere on time and it takes you X minutes to wake up, another option might be to set your alarm earlier. I had a roommate in college who took an hour to get out of bed, hitting the snooze button every 7 minutes. He wasn't ever late, though.

I've never heard of a clock that wakes you up at a certain point in your REM sleep (wouldn't that require it to know what point of your sleep cycle you're in, with electrodes attached to your head and such?) but I remember seeing an alarm clock in Sky Mall that claimed to wake you up slowly by increasing the volume of the alarm over a period of time. Unfortunately, I don't know if it works.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:05 PM on January 25, 2007

limicoline does what I do. The alarm goes off and I can either pee in bed or run to the bathroom. If I don't have the water, I stay in bed even with the 3 alarm clocks screaming at me.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:06 PM on January 25, 2007

oh no, don't use the radio, the radio sounds nice and will lull you into a pleasantly informative doze. instead, set your alarm to its blattiest screech, the louder and more horrendous the better. place the alarm across the room, or better yet, in an adjoining room.

also, obtain a cat and get into the habit of feeding him at 8 am. the daily antidote to my langurous mornings is a combination of squalling alarm clock, insistent mewing, and catpaws lovingly inserted into my eyes.

even on weekends.
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:07 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure you're not alone in this... A few months back, Steve Pavlina wrote an article with some good tips, called How to become an early riser, which you might find useful.

Something in there that stuck out for me: if you want to make getting up at a certain time a habit, then do it every day, regardless of public holidays, weekends or days off.
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 8:09 PM on January 25, 2007

Breakfast is a good reason to rouse.

Put a coffeemaker on a timer. Or another similarly useful appliance, if you don't like coffee.

Years ago, there was something called a 'Breakfast Machine' or -- wait, 'Breakfast Express' that'd make your coffee, and toast, and eggs. I keep meaning to look for one on eBay; it's long struck me as a get-out-of-bed solution.

Some combination of Teasmade, egg poacher, pre-breaded toaster, etc, all going off in the kitchen would do it. Assuming, of course, you don't like cold/overcooked breakfast.

The cat is not a bad idea. You'd need the right sort of impatient one. Ours get their little dish of wet stinkies as soon as one of us is up every morning; gentle requests are if I'm up to pee at 5am, but we're left alone if we sleep in. I doubt all cats are so polite, though.

Seconding 'oh no' on the radio. At least for an extended period. Get something that makes a hideous racket, set to go off a bit after the radio. Something you'll get out of bed to turn off before it starts.

Don't, maybe, eliminate drink before bed. See 'up to pee' above.

Or just resign yourself to being the sort who takes a while to get up, set your clock accordingly, and enjoy it. Mr Kmennie does.
posted by kmennie at 8:24 PM on January 25, 2007

I have found some minimal, but nonzero, success by lifting my head when the alarm goes off, and keeping it lifted.

I mean, if you're lying on your back, bring your chin to your chest, so your head off the pillow. And just keep it there.

This seems to wake me up - when I do it. I never tried very hard to get into the habit as a daily thing, though. It was more of an experiment.
posted by Flunkie at 8:25 PM on January 25, 2007

You need to train yourself. The idea is to get your body to the point where getting up when that alarm goes off is automatic. You want yourself to be up out of bed, have turn the alarm off, and be in the shower before you even gain coherence. Routine and repetition will make this easy to do.

At the beginning, I might suggest setting 2 or even 3 alarm clocks, staggered by a minute or so. The sheer annoyance will probably wake you up and get you moving.

I also second the "are you getting enough sleep" question. If your body is telling you every morning that it's not ready to get up, perhaps you should listen to it. I really like the plan that says get up at the same time every morning, and let your body dictate what time you crash. So, if you're up late one night, you'll be a little sluggish the next day and go to bed much earlier.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:31 PM on January 25, 2007

My crazy son takes two no-doz after his alarm goes off (set 30 min early). He says by the time he hits snooze the third time he's rarin to go.
posted by bkiddo at 8:32 PM on January 25, 2007

I'm also totally not a morning person and most of my life I've found it really difficult waking up in the morning - even with multiple alarm clocks, getting to bed early, no caffiene, you name it. I'm just physically averse to the whole waking up at some unholy, undertermined-by-me hour.

I'll tell you what has worked for me though - two things. First, every night before bed, you have to tell yourself in a positive statement, "I will wake up and get out of bed at $hour." Say it like you mean it, not like you're trying to convince yourself. I think half the battle is being afraid of oversleeping, or dreading waking up the next day, or some combination of the two. It sounds kooky, but honestly, this has worked better for me than any device or anything else.

Second, I do use two alarms: one that I can snooze, and a cheapo analog dime store one that I can't. Cheapo one is set to go off at my absolute drop-dead-can't-sleep-any-later-than-this moment. That way, if I snooze alarm #1 too much, alarm #2 kicks in, and the reptilian part of my brain knows it's time to get busy.

YMMV. Good luck.
posted by brain cloud at 8:32 PM on January 25, 2007

This is what I do:

*Drink water before bed. I can happily drift back to sleep after the alarm goes off, but if my bladder is full, I'll get out of bed. (Sorry for the TMI.) And once I'm up, I'm awake enough to realize that I have to *stay* up. If I stay in bed, I can often convince myself that I just need five more minutes. That way lies madness.

*Set two alarms. The first is the radio. I set it to NPR: people talking wakes me up more than music. The second, my cell, beeps annoyingly fifteen minutes after Morning Edition starts. The radio just brings me out of deep sleep, the beeping means NO REALLY YOU MUST GET UP NOW.

*Leave my shades open. The slowly brightening room seems to bring me out of deep sleep gradually.

*The alarms cannot be within slapping distance of the bed.

*I go to bed at a reasonable hour. This was a hard, hard lesson to grasp, and I convinced myself it wasn't necessary for years. I'm a night person. I get interested in doing things at about 11. But I've worked out that in order to hop out of bed at 7 AM, I have to be in bed with the lights out by 11 PM at the very latest. No more reading. No watching TV. I can fudge this by half an hour a few times a week, but if I go to bed after midnight, I won't wake up on time, period. Every few weeks I'll try to convince myself that it's okay to stay up until 1:30 AM, and then I'll wake up with five minutes to spare and have to brush my teeth at work.

Frankly, none of my other tricks have half the impact getting to bed on time does. I sort of think it's probably this way for most people who have a hard time getting up, but staying up late is so FUN, we don't really want to give it up.

I've also had to accept that, in order to maintain a sleep schedule that allows me to work for The Man, I cannot go to bed at dawn on Saturday night. It's not a fun answer, but you kind of have to maintain a reasonable schedule all the time.

Good luck!
posted by thehmsbeagle at 8:42 PM on January 25, 2007 [6 favorites]

You can get alarm clocks that require you to solve a puzzle before the obnoxious loud noise will stop - I've seen one that semi-explodes plastic jigsaw puzzle pieces so that you have to pick them up and put them in the right places, and one that does a Simon-style flashing where you'd have to hit the right buttons in the right order (which changes daily). Either of these would require you to wake up pretty significantly to get the noise to stop, and I'm sure a quick google (which I'm currently too lazy to do) would find similar products.

I had good luck for a while with a strategy I read about on some blog. The idea was that you'd set your radio/music alarm for about an hour before you actually needed to get up, and set the volume so low that you can just barely hear it from bed. The idea is that if you're in a deep-sleep mode, the sound won't be loud enough to wake you. But as your sleep cycles to a lighter period, the same volume will be enough to wake you. In theory, you should get to one of those light periods sometime during that hour between when your alarm starts and when you actually need to get up.

Like you, though, I've found that the best way to get myself out of bed is to have something to really look forward to first thing in the morning, and even the best day at work will never make this grade. Sometimes I promise myself homemade pancakes or a stop at a cafe for breakfast, or I arrange to meet a friend for pre-work coffee. I often have to get up earlier than usual to make it to these activities, but I wake up with no problem because I'm excited for them.
posted by vytae at 8:45 PM on January 25, 2007

I have multiple alarm clocks and stagger them to go off at different times, so if I turn off one the others will wake me up again. By the second or third I'm usually ready.
posted by Anonymous at 8:46 PM on January 25, 2007

I use Jake's Alarm Clock (or a similar XMMS plugin) with a backup Screaming Meanie to ensure I get up. Idiot-proof operation, 115 dB of cardiac-problem caliber get-your-ass-up.
posted by phrontist at 9:04 PM on January 25, 2007

The problem with setting an alarm to the radio, I think, is that you tend to start listening to whatever is on, and then start relaxing again. Even if it's loud.

I am impossible to wake up in the morning. My solution is using my cellphone as an alarm, on it's highest volume setting. And then I throw it across the room so I have to stumble about and find it in the morning. Gets me out of bed.
posted by ninjew at 9:17 PM on January 25, 2007

I set my alarm clock ahead, as others have recommended. I also have it on radio and chose a particularly annoying station with caustic morning show hosts and atrocious music. And hey, it also takes me a half hour to get out of bed. I plan for this and accept it. I set my alarm earlier than I need and plan to hit snooze three times. Its like procrastinating -- if you know you are going to do it, and you plan for it, then it's not a problem.
posted by cubby at 9:18 PM on January 25, 2007

Along the lines of what vytae mentioned (the puzzle clock), you could try a clocky...it's a hide-and-go-seek clock that rolls away and hides after it goes off.
posted by johnsmith415 at 9:30 PM on January 25, 2007

I use Citrus Alarm Clock and really loud music. However, if it were just me, in my own little soundproof box, this setup would fail; I'd go back to sleep despite the loud music. But I have a roommate -- a roommate who (like anyone) would kill me if I blared music for more than a few seconds. Consideration for her will get me out of bed quickly when my natural inclination to sloth won't. Do you live with anyone? Can you convince yourself that your walls are so thin that your neighbors can hear?

This is a different tactic, but if you turn it up enough and it starts abruptly enough, I think you can hit a terror point where you'll be on the floor before you realize what's happened. This is probably not a really good idea for everyday use, but it's what I do on exam days (I recommend John Lennon's "Revolution" for this purpose, by the way).
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:34 PM on January 25, 2007

You might try varying the radio station to which you wake up. I have to do this about every two weeks... it seems that I somehow get "conditioned" to a particular station so it ceases to wake me up. Switching from pop to NPR (or whatever) usually fixes this-- it's all about making sure that whatever comes out of your alarm is a jolt.
posted by chickletworks at 10:36 PM on January 25, 2007

I've read about people who practice responding to their alarm. Set it and practice getting up over and over again, when you get home from work in the evening. Or spend some time on a day off practicing. You could resolve to make yourself practice X number of times for every minute you let the alarm sound in the morning before getting up. One good thing my father taught me (he grew up milking cows at 4am) was to AT LEAST sit up and swing your legs out of bed when the alarm goes off. Let yourself sit there for a while, if you need to, but just don't lay back down.
posted by keith0718 at 11:38 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Since you say you get up more easily in the summer, you could try some sort of light therapy. Get a light-box (or just any very bright light; experts vary on whether spectrum, intensity, or what is more important) and illuminate yourself brightly in the morning, say while you eat breakfast. At night, avoid bright lights for a few hours before bed, and if you get up in the night avoid any bright lights (get a nightlight for the bathroom, for example, instead of turning on the light). Do this for a while and it might encourage your sleep cycle to stay put.

Or it might not. From anecdotal evidence it seems that some people's circadian rhythms are much more sensitive than others' to light.

puritycontrol: I know of two, actually! One uses a headband with electrodes to monitor your sleep cycle and the other one is built into a wristwatch and works more mysteriously.
posted by hattifattener at 11:48 PM on January 25, 2007

Seconding a couple of thehmsbeagle's recommendations. I use a clock radio and a cell phone. The radio I set to go off about an hour before I need to get up, and have it tuned to a talk/news radio station (CBC) at a relatively low volume so I'm not jolted awake. Talk radio is much more effective at waking me up than music because I find myself becoming interested in and concentrating on what is being said, which helps to slowly wake me up. Music, on the other hand, tends to get tuned out. Having the radio playing for an hour before I need to get up means I have the option to hit snooze a few times, which I usually don't unless I find the current topic of CBC conversation to be inane.

My cell phone's alarm is incredibly loud and I need to get up to shut it off. Fortunately, by this time I am fairly awake. I also open my blinds before I go to bed for the sun's added assistance (which doesn't work so well in the winter, of course, but all the posters talking about sun clocks is getting me interested).
posted by good in a vacuum at 12:37 AM on January 26, 2007

I have a clock radio that makes a horrible sound - a sound that turns up as an alarm on a surprising number of TV shows and other media. It always gives me a start.

My rule of getting up early is to slide my legs out of bed and STAND UP as soon as possible. No `just 5 minutes more', no snooze function. I just stand up, and once I'm up I don't allow myself to return to bed.

The other thing that works is a detuned radio station that's only half coming in, all the S sounds coming through as a loud hiss. The distortion drives me crazy and I finally get up.

I've always wished a pox on DJs who play soft and relaxing music in the morning. Lying half awake, summoning the energy to rise, and a soft and lulling piece of music starts up and send you back to sleepy land. Terrible.
posted by tomble at 3:21 AM on January 26, 2007


You're not really in charge when the alarm goes off, your instincts and habits are. You need to alter those so that when they hear the alarm they leap you out of bed ready for action.

Do that by fooling them while you are in charge. At various points during the evening tonight, set your alarm for 10 minutes in the future. Get into bed, and pretend to sleep. When the alarm sounds, bounce up, switch it off, and go brush your teeth.

Enough repetitions of this, and before long when your real morning alarm goes off, you'll find yourself in the bathroom brushing your teeth before you're actually awake.

It's important then to keep it up for a good few months to let the habit "set". If you have lie-ins, it won't take. If you stick with it, it really will work. You're Pavlov's sleeper now.
posted by bonaldi at 5:35 AM on January 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

I'm a fan of the "go to bed at the same time every night and let your body dictate when you get up" approach. I don't use an alarm, and get up most mornings around 5 - 5:30.

I also have an exciting project I work on in the mornings, and that makes getting up appealing.
posted by Alt F4 at 6:02 AM on January 26, 2007

Agreeing with twistofrhyme, both on the alarm sound and the pet.

The radio is too nice, too easy -- a loud annoying noise will make you get up.

And the pet: I have two dogs. One of them sleeps in the bed and wakes up at 5:30 or 6:00 every morning and starts licking me and kissing me to get me up. It never fails.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:09 AM on January 26, 2007

On a mostly related note, I too have had this problem since I was a kid. My mother used to try any and everything to get me up for school (cutesy alarm clocks, old school clankers on a tin sheet, etc), nothing has ever worked and it's always been a bit of a problem.

Nowadays I have a job that gives me a bit of leeway with this (yay for remote access), but sometimes even still it can be an issue. Out of frustration I did a lot of digging and found info on an alleged but little known sleep disorder called DSPS. In essence, it has to do with people that have malformed circadian rhythms. Most people fall somewhere in line with the natural sunset/sunrise rhythm, but according to this info, some people's bodies refuse to conform to that schedule no matter what you try. I know many nights I'll be thoroughly exhausted and will just end up laying there until 2 or 3am trying to fall asleep. No fun. I've debated going to a sleep center type place, but the cynic in me finds it all a little bunk at the same time.

Anyway, food for thought.
posted by teemo at 6:21 AM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Maybe you're a bit spoiled -- "work isn't important enough to get me up" -- and an alarm clock will not work unless it alarms you.

If the thought of being late for work does not alarm you, how about trying a positive reason to get out of bed. Automatic thermostat to warm up the house before you get up. A coffee maker with a timer, preferably making some lovely aromatic coffee. Maybe a timer switch on a socket into which you have plugged a toaster, too, so you have hot breakfast waiting for you in the kitchen if you'd only get out of bed. Favorite music or video ready in a player in the kitchen.

But I bet your biggest problem, young man, is that you aren't going to bed on time. Give yourself eight hours. If you need to get up at 7:00, you need to turn the lights out and the brain off at 11:00.
posted by pracowity at 6:22 AM on January 26, 2007

What I like to do is close my eyes and set my alarm clock ahead several minutes (like 15ish), then put it down and walk away without looking at it. When the alarm goes off in the morning I know the clock is fast, but I don't know how fast, so I have to get out of bed.
posted by robinpME at 6:30 AM on January 26, 2007

There's a terrific (and very popular) post here by Steve Palina on his method for training himself to become an early riser. Essentially, the method is to go to bed whenever you feel tired, whatever time that might be, but to get up at exactly the same time every day, religiously.

The comments on this thread, and the comments in response to the blog post I linked to, make me think that there's probably not one method that will work for everybody. It really depends on your personality and your situation. But the factors that seem to recur most frequently are (1) routine and (2) having a reason to get up.
posted by bokinney at 7:14 AM on January 26, 2007

I have pretty good use with a halogen lamp on an appliance timer in addition to the alarm clock. It's a good way to see if a light system will help before shelling out the cash for a sunrise simulator.

Unlike a sunrise simulator, there's nothing gradual about this. It feels like a punch in the head and usually wakes me up before the alarm even has a chance.
posted by chairface at 7:56 AM on January 26, 2007

I live with someone like you. It's psychological. You need a reason to get out of bed. Once he found a different job, he had no problem getting up when his alarm went off.
posted by desjardins at 9:07 AM on January 26, 2007

Late to the party, but my 2 cents (or is that .02 cents? haha):

What really, honestly does it for me is the knowledge that if I don't get up, I will get fired. Try saying that to yourself a couple times before falling asleep the night before.

Other moderately helpful things include:
- Two alarm clocks (one to screech me awake, the other to tell me how much time has passed since the 1st one)
- Programmable thermostat that cranks the heat 30 min before I awake.
- Leave the window uncovered so I get as much morning sunlight as possible.

My cat is useless. Worse than useless. She snuggles up with me in the morning; makes me want to sleep in. Then again, she has an automatic feeder, so she knows not to bug me for food. My ex's cat, though... she's a great alarm cat. Feed em yourself in the morning and they'll make sure you get up!
posted by LordSludge at 10:42 AM on January 26, 2007

oh no, don't use the radio, the radio sounds nice and will lull you into a pleasantly informative doze. instead, set your alarm to its blattiest screech, the louder and more horrendous the better. place the alarm across the room, or better yet, in an adjoining room.

Seconding this. What you want is static/noise. And if your volume isn't already maxed, then you simply haven't been trying very hard.

Also, have a staggered, second alarm which is in the opposite direction from the first (so it is not convenient to snooze/disable them both in one trip).
posted by juv3nal at 10:54 AM on January 26, 2007

Or you might try this.
posted by LordSludge at 11:13 AM on January 26, 2007

nthing the advice about two alarms. I used to set the radio to NPR and have it go off 20 minutes before I had to be out of bed. I set a buzzing alarm (on the same clock) for the time I really needed to be up. The radio served as a warning before the real alarm. Of course now that I'm married, it doesn't work that way anymore. Ahh the compromises a guy has to make...
posted by advicepig at 11:28 AM on January 26, 2007

This light therapy lamp includes a dawn-simulator alarm feature and is $70 less than the price listed for the one in tigerbelly's link. (I'm using it for light therapy, not as an alarm.)

The alarm-copter in LordSludge's link almost makes me wish I needed more help getting up in the morning.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 12:15 PM on January 26, 2007

Damn, teemo, I gotta thank you for that link. I don't think it applies to the question asker (or maybe it does), but it sure helps me. I've never been able to fall asleep before 2AM, regardless of how tired I am or what (countless) tricks I've tried to adjust my sleep cycle. I've been to doctors (though not sleep clinics), and they've been no help at all. You may be skeptical, but I'm just glad to at least see this described in terms other than I'm not trying hard enough. I'm going to try the light therapy (thank you Zed_Lopez). I'll let you know how it goes.
posted by team lowkey at 1:27 AM on January 27, 2007

One other late-to-the-question trick:
If I need to wake up RIGHTONTIME for something important, sometimes I'll sleep at the opposite end of the bed, i.e., my head is at the end of the bed and my feet are where the pillows usually would be. It's just different enough that it's (weirdly) much much easier to wake up . . .
posted by oldtimey at 1:58 PM on January 27, 2007

I've used my computer to play music very loudly in the morning. Nothing gets me out of bed like waking up to Wesley Willis' "Suck a Cheetah's Cock".
posted by stavrogin at 6:53 PM on January 27, 2007

As long as we're throwing out unique alarm clocks, my friend uses a vibrating alarm clock that has a little puck dongle thing that he puts under his pillow. The puck vibrates and my friend says it shocks him and annoys him enough to get up.
posted by carpyful at 11:56 PM on January 27, 2007

To add to the list of unique alarm clocks - this one has a helicopter.
posted by zamboni at 8:40 PM on January 29, 2007

« Older How to put on a low-key indie wedding   |   If I swallowed a penny as a child, is it possible... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.