Vincent Cheung

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Alarm clocks are bad. How to wake up and feel better.

Waking up abruptly by the sound of an alarm clock is an inherently unnatural thing to do. Sometimes you can wake up after 8 hours and feel like crap. Other times, you can wake up after 6 hours and feel completely rested. The problem lies in what you're doing when you're suddenly woken up from your slumber.

I use a very simple, safe, and free (as in beer) system that I think works quite well and is more natural than suddenly waking up to a buzzer. I don't drink coffee. I don't drink soda/pop/cola (regularly). I don't need to use any sort of caffeine to stay awake. Disclaimer: I am not a doctor (yet) and while I'm an expert, it's not in sleep. What I can say is that this has worked for me for the past 7 years and throughout university.

Sleep is not just a single thing that happens to you at night. There are 5 stages of sleep and over the course of a night's sleep, you cycle through these stages, with each sleep cycle taking approximately 90 minutes. Stages 1 and 2 are considered "light" sleep, while stages 3 and 4 are "deep" sleep. The 5th stage is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is when you dream. When you wake up during "light" sleep, you wake up rested and feeling good. Conversely, when you wake up during "deep" sleep, you feel groggy and are more tempted to hit the snooze button.

The traditional alarm clock has a set time to wake you up, but you could be in any stage of sleep when that happens. Nature did not intend for us to wake up during "deep" sleep.

This guy claims to sleep in 90 minute intervals to attempt to wake up during "light" sleep. The problem with this is that 90 minutes is not a hard cut rule – every person's sleep cycle is different. Further, it's not like a person's sleep cycle is constant – it varies in length through the night and is affected by things like exercise, alcohol, and drugs. Even more, there's no guarantee that you'll fall asleep right away, so it's hard to set the alarm to wake you up in multiples of 90 minutes from when you think you'll fall asleep. Plus, if you wake up during the middle of the night, that'll kill this system. The end result is that you can still be woken up during "deep" sleep.

There are commercial products that attempt to measure your EEG and wake you up during "light" sleep. One product that I've seen, SleepSmart, makes you wear a headband or something around your head while you sleep. SleepTracker is a watch that claims to be able to read your brain's EEG from your wrist. The downside of course, is that they're expensive, you have to wear them (so they can be lost or fall off at night and of course, you will be laughed at by your friends and loved ones), and worst of all, if they measure incorrectly, you can be woken up at the wrong time.

I use a very simple system that can be done by even the most frugal of people. I can't remember when I first started doing this, but it's been at least 7 years. Here's what you do:

  1. Set an alarm to go off before the latest time you want to wake up.
    • Make the alarm really quiet radio or music.

  2. Set a second alarm to go off at the latest time you want to wake up.
    • This is your regular alarm that will wake you up no matter what.

The whole point is that the first alarm should be so quiet that it will only wake you up if you're in "light" sleep, like a whisper in your ear. Waking up in "light" sleep should leave you feeling more refreshed than waking up in "deep" sleep. The second alarm is the back up to make sure that you wake up in time :).

You can use two alarm clocks to accomplish this. I personally use a dual alarm clock that lets me do this easily (I didn't buy the alarm clock to do this, it just so happened that I had this alarm clock when I created this system or the alarm clock led me to create this). My alarm clock lets me set two alarms; I set the first to use the radio with the volume set low and the second alarm to buzzer. I have something that looks like this:
You'll have to adjust two things in this system. The first is when to set the first alarm. You can use the 90 minute rule to estimate when you'll be in "light" sleep and set the alarm accordingly. Alternatively, you can just set the first alarm 30, 45, 60, or 90 minutes early and hope that you're in "light" sleep during that time. The second thing you need to adjust is the alarm itself. You want it loud enough to wake you up during "light" sleep, but not so that it'll wake you up during "deep" sleep.

This is an easy to implement system that doesn't require you to drastically change your lifestyle, but can improve how you feel when you wake up and throughout the rest of the day. This is in contrast to some of the more drastic things out there that may actually be harmful to you.

My favourite is what I like to call, the "Wolf Sleep System". In his book, "Never Cry Wolf", Farley Mowat wrote that he was using a strange system that he swore by in which he tried to mimic the sleeping patterns of wolves. He would sleep for a short period of time, something like 15 minutes, then he would get up and crawl around on all fours in a little circle, and then go back to sleep for 15 min. and repeat. He claims that he had a girl in his bed once that was not pleased with his sleeping pattern and he gave up the girl rather than his sleeping system. I tried this system long ago, but didn't make it through the night. I did it maybe 2 or 3 times, but then I was like, screw this and didn't wake up until morning.

There's been a lot of buzz recently about polyphasic sleep, where you attempt to sleep less by spreading out sleep throughout the day with short naps. There have also been some warnings that this may be unhealthy and that it can reduce your ability to stay awake for prolonged periods of time, i.e. you'll need an emergency nap every couple hours.

I figure that my system can't be worse than just regularly using an alarm clock and doesn't require much effort on your part. It's worth a shot and if it helps you, more power to you.

Disclaimer: The techniques and suggestions presented here are not intended to be a substitute for proper medical advice. Vincent Cheung assumes no responsibility for any damages, injuries, or ailments suffered while using this system. Consult your physician before altering your lifestyle.

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166 Comments:

Sang said...

nice dude.

i'll be sure to try this system

varun said...

hi

I am going to try this thing tonight...sounds like a good idea.

Saw this article linked to on digg.com. Btw, I go to UofT as well (CS).

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the quiet radio alarm clock setting. I used to use an alarm clock with a regular buzzer. Scared the crap out of me half the time, woke up with a jolt, not fun. Then something odd happened, I learned to turn the buzzer off and go back to sleep without entirely waking up. Missed a lot of morning classes that way.

The quiet radio setting works perfectly for me though.

Rangi said...

very interesting article, nice work.

not sure how well it would work if you have a partner that gets up at a different time to you - any ideas on that situation?

.bruce said...

this is pretty interesting and cool.

I'm going to try this tonight!!

Anonymous said...

i did this before with my iPod, and it helped.

then i stopped, and felt worse. i'll try it again and see how much better i feel

suneo said...

Thats amazing. I'm definately going to give that a go. I just happen to have the right kind of alarm clock to do it too.

Anonymous said...

Good post, great idea. Irons out all the flaws in Glen Rhodes' article.

Steven Buss said...

I will definitely try this tomorrow morning. I used to keep my alarm clock next to my bed, but like the comment above my body learned to shut the alarm off without me gaining consciousness. I then switched to using a radio, but I found it more difficult to wake up to music and had to keep turning it up every couple of weeks. It eventually got to the point where my radio alarm would wake poeple in other rooms while I slept through the noise. Now I have my buzzer alarm across the room (So I can't just roll over and turn it off) and set to the loudest setting. It is a very abrupt awakening (side note: whenever I hear the buzzing of an alarm, it makes me literally cringe because I associate that sound with waking up) and I am always tired. Just last week, though, I managed to get up out of my bed, turn the alarm off, and return to bed without ever fully gaining consciousness which caused me to miss a test. I hope I can get this method to work, there's nothing worse than being tired all the time and being unable to sleep.

Anonymous said...

I've tried using your system too. I have always had problems waking up feeling refreshed. I'm glad it works for you, though for me it hasn't. I find hearing the quiet music induces dreaming in me, and the buzzer wakes me up in the middle of my dream. Which I find most irritating :) Very nice read though.

Brett Chang said...

i really liked this im trying it tonight

thisearly said...

just soyou know http://uberman.thedataprojects.net/
polyphasic sleep related wiki

Sleep Like a Wolf said...

IMNAL and TINLA (heh). joking, but seriously, I'm not a psychologist or MD either, but I have heard of studies showing that subjects that did not reach all of sleep's stages do not perform at their best (well, as much as I can remember from the lecture, in extreme cases this ranges from the subjects loosing touch with reality (only temporarily, thankfully), to literally dropping off to sleep where they stood). I too agree that this sounds like at least a rational idea (lol at the "wolf" sleep cycle ;), and I'll have to give it a try. Thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

Not a bad idea at all. I guess I'm not being original by saying I'll try this tonight as well. I have the same problem as one of the posters above who said he turns off the alarm clock without even realizing it...not fun...

Anonymous said...

This is the alarm clock I use. It rings once, and then is silent for 5 minutes. This lets you get up slowly, and also lets you put the clock far away from the bed, so you have to actually get up to shut it off. Very couple friendly.
http://www.now-zen.com/cgi-bin/orders/shop.pl

Anonymous said...

I have an alarm clock that turns on at low level then slowly increases in volume. Works great for me.

Eric said...

Oh man I cannot wait to set my alarm (for the first time in my life) tonight! I hope this works! Thanks for this post bro.

quigles said...

I'm 16, and have been doing an almost identical method to this since junior high.

Yet... I still have a problem waking up the morning.

Anonymous said...

Been using this system for years. Sharper Image Sound Soother. Not because I understood the light sleep deep sleep thing, but rather I am on edge most of the morning with a buzzer.

Now when I need to set the buzzer only, I automatically wake-up 5 minutes before it goes off. can't explain it.

Not a coffee drinker either but I do have several cups of tea each day.

thanks

Anonymous said...

I have been doing this method for a while, on an off... I use my TV's alarm and then my alarm clock as the second alarm. The TV is bright and has a low volume. I'd like to get some kind of automatic dimmer switch for my lights too.

dbpigeon said...

I'm trying this. thx.

Anonymous said...

My body clock rocks, I always wake up before my alarm, reasonably well rested.

My roommate had been using the dual alarm system for years. She uses the alarm feature on her cell phone, sets the first one for super quiet, and the second alarm for loud. It's cheaper than a zen alarm clock.

Anonymous said...

i actually sort of figured this out a while ago. I don't really care when i wake up for work, so i would set the music to be very low. The cool thing about doing that, i would almost always remember a dream i had in last sleep cycle.

Josh Davey said...

I use pretty much the exact same system but originally it was just to make sure I got out of bed and still have time to make it to class.

I go to Ryerson University and live in the residence. Because it only takes me 5 minutes to get to class I set my second alarm to go off 5 minutes before my first class. The first one is set to go off 1 hour before my first class so that I have the option of having breakfest and maybe even a shower.

Nilesh Babu Patel said...

i've been using this "methodology" for years now... it worked well... but i didn't know the significant of it... thanks for highlighting it... ;)

David said...

I have been using a similar system to this for 10 years now. The problem I have is that I use 2 loud alarms(buzzer) and struggle with snooze like functionality. I reset my alarm after I wake up for a few minutes later....

Anonymous said...

I use ambient music (like "Cliffs" by Aphex Twin) as my first alarm because they're soothing and fairly lengthy.

Princess Sarah said...

what's going on here?! this used to be my comment space :P

Anonymous said...

Vince, you should also be aware that REM sleep can occur randomly before or after heavy sleep, and waking up during this often leaves you confused or in a state of mild-lucidity when you fall asleep again. :)

Harmony said...

Thanks for posting this :) I've studied sleep a fair bit, just because it's so interesting, and all the theory adds up to support what you've said. I'm going to try it this week. It's pretty ingenious of you! Thanks for sharing your knowledge :)

Jenny said...

I've bought a Lumie Bodyclock Sunray, it's an alarm lamp and it works like this: You set the alarm to go off at 5am for instance. 4.30 the light starts to dim up and by 5.00 the room is flooded in light. By preparing the brain for waking up by this "simulated dawn" I find it is so much easier to wake up.

Doogie said...

As Jenny already mentioned, you should also use Light to wake up. I once read about a system that dimned the light up a bit, then turned it of again, then dimned it up a bit more, turned it of again, and so one until you are at full brightness light after say five circles. Add some nice music to this and you will wake up "lika a baby".

Anonymous said...

Oh god. Another guy spreading the blatant lie that you only dream at REM stage. I dream almost as soon as I close my eyes, just as you do.

Anonymous said...

Nice one!

I personally use a variation of that: I have a rice cooker that allows me to set the exact time at which I'd like my rice to be ready... so instead of the light music for the first step I use the fragrant smell and gentle bubbling of my breakfast rice :)

Vince said...

Ya, I've come across a number of references to light and its relationship to sleep over the past while. The problem is that it costs money and as a frugal student, the best solution is free :).

Beredon said...

I use WinAlarm with Winamp as my alarm. The volume is configurable, including fading from silent to maximum volume. I think this would work really well, I will be trying it out tonight.

Christine said...

I am blessed to make my own schedule with the company I work for. But sometimes I do still have to wake up at a certain time and it is VERY difficult for me to wake up by alarm any more. (And mine is a "wake easy" progressively-louder alarm)

This is an interesting technique to try but I'm pretty sure I will just sleep through the radio and snooze the buzzer at the end. But I'll try anything!

David Kaspar said...

Great disclaimer, very professional :-)

Anonymous said...

I have a "special" bedside alarm-clock/lamp (sometimes called a dawn-simulator) which works along the same lines as waking you up slowly, but with light.
You set the alarm, and how quickly/slowly you want to be woken up (e.g 30 minutes) and the light basically brightens gradually from nothing over this time-period.
The idea is that with curtains you create an artificial night, so the sun coming up in the morning can't wake you the way nature intended -- the lamp replaces this dawn.
I even replaced the bulb with a blue artists-bulb as the amount of blue-light getting to your retina causes your brain to produce the correct amount of serotonin for whether you should be awake or asleep -- related to Seasonal Affect Disorder.

I found it worked really well, though my wife hated it...

Rob said...

woohoo! I'm comment #40!!

Hemant said...

Really Nice!
Indeed I add one more thing,I make my phone usually on mild ringtone while sleeping, so even emergency calls don't wake me up if im not in light sleep :-)

But really good,
Thanks!

pickupjojo said...

If someone want this nice article in French :
- Click here for the translation

Thx a lot ! :)

Anonymous said...

I've been doing something similar for years, but use the TV in the bedroom as the initial alarm. It wakes on a channel 75% full of more or less static images, so there's little flicker.

I've found this helpful because of the additional light.

Prior to the "TV" solution, I would sometimes completely shut off the alarm, without being aware of it.

Now, it's very rare that I wake up "on the wrong side of the bed".

Anonymous said...

I use the "Just get your lazy ass out of bed" methodology. When it's time to get up, I actually get up instead of laying in bed like a sloth.

Try it.

Anonymous said...

LOL, reminds me of when I had a buzzer alarm clock that was going screwy. It would go off at all hours of the night. I would shut it off and reset. One time I woke up standing beside my bed with the alarm broken into a million pieces on the floor. I didnt remember destroying it, but there it was.

Anonymous said...

I found that a cellphone set on vibrate on a hard surface near me works too. I just never knew that I was waking during light sleep.

Anonymous said...

All this recent talk about how to get up in the morning...

Here's an idea: stop going to bed so late!

Anonymous said...

I use the BOSE Wave/CD Player as my alarm clock. It has an option to gradually increase to sound.


Posted by A.S.

hi2 said...

Now we need some advice on how to get to bed on time . please help me. it's a combination of lack of will power and messed up sleeping schedule. iv been using the get your lazy ass out of bed method but then im tired all day or sleep in the shower :(.

Anonymous said...

Will try tonight as well, great post!
Personally, I go through an alarm clock per month on average, due to me picking it up when it goes off, then hurling it into the wall on the other side of my room. .... All the while sleeping like a baby. This makes for a confusing start to the day: 'why didn't the clock go off... what time is.... HEY where'd my clock go?... Oh NO If the sun is any indication, I'm four hours late for work! WHERE'S THAT STUPID CL.....
Oh...'

Anyway. If this works, it'll save me an $8.99 monthly bill! WOOHOO!
...Or maybe it'll just turn my $8.99 per month into $17.98. Hmmm....

Harmony said...

I tried this last night. I don't have a dual-alarm clock, but I set my normal alarm clock to play the radio really soft 1 hour before I wanted to get up, and then I set my usual mobile phone alarm clock for when I had to get out of bed (has the added advantage of actually making you get up to turn it off).

Anonymous said...

I woke up this morning by the sound of my alarm in deep sleep mode, and i've felt like crap all day. I'll give this new method a go, and we'll see what happens tomrorow.h

Anonymous said...

This is too funny. This thread reminds me of my days back in college. I lived in the dorms Sophomore year, and my roommate and I had bunk beds. I was a horrible snoozer- it got to the point where I would jump down from the top bunk, go across the room to my alarm clock, hit the snooze button, and jump back up into bed and go back to sleep. I'm amazed I never broke a leg doing this. Still a snoozer, but not as bad.

Liquid Swords said...

Harmony,

Did it work for you?

Maple said...

Wow, I've been doing this for years now. It works great for me. Good to know it works for others to.

Slem said...

Jesus Christ I'd like this to work for me, yet I find myself with three alarm clocks going off at different times, and still I cannot wake up :/

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid (and had to be up at a regular time every day for school/work) I used to have one of those all-in-one midi stereo systems, which served as my alarm clock since it had the functionality to do so. I alwyas have been and always will be terrible in the mornings, so i used to set it very (very) loud to make sure it scared me into conciousness. Worked pretty well for a coupla months, not the most pleasant way to start the day but it did the job.

However after about 4 months I became accustomed to it, and got to the point where the relay in the stereo as it switched itself on, would be enough to wake me, and i'd be out of bed, and across the room in time to stab the power button before whatever noisy CD i'd set to play at an excruciating volume started up (about 5 seconds)

That worked good, by the time you realise what's going on you're awake, naked, and half way across the room, shivering slightly, and think "meh, I way as well go shower" .

Anonymous said...

my system involves haveing music low in the back round at all times of sleep and wake cycle. it seems that i wake up exactly at the right time and always feel good when i wake up. my alarm rarely ever is the device to wake me up. i wake up 1-2 hours short of 8 hours. some times as early as 6 hours(rarely). 3rd shift is 10p - 5am im awake from 1 - 2pm - 6-7am every day alarm is set for 2:16pm(usually up by then)
-dvishcharm

Brendon said...

Great post. You inspired me to share my method of falling asleep. It's a good thing I'm in the market for a new alarm clock. Maybe it should be a dual alarm.

Anonymous said...

Great read. I woke up today feeling much more relaxed.

Anonymous said...

Here's a technique I use:
When you go to bed, decide to wake up at a specific time, with intention. By which I mean, really mean it.
Believe it or not, your body is actually designed to do it. I've ahd partners who set the alarm clock and, as long as I intend to wake up at the same time, I always wake upa minute or two before the alarm, just so I can shut it off and not hear it.
It really works. You are designed to do this. Try it.

S. said...

I'll try either this or the "Bear Sleep System": I'll sleep through the winter. Way better than the "Wolf Sleep System" you talked about.

Anonymous said...

well you got on applegeeks well done :)

but yea good technique i already use 2 alarms but i think i use the main loud one to initially wake up and the softer radio music to tell me ok you got to go to work now, so maybe this is why my life is very tiring at the moment, so i will try this and hopefully might see an improvement,of course going out drinking last night and nto being able to sleep dosnt help either :p

Nick said...

I tried this last night, using my radio. Kept awake for hours by someone trying to start their engine on the road outside, I thought it was doomed. But it works! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The best solution to this is to unplug your alarm clock and put it in a box. If you need one, you aren't getting enough sleep. If you have to be at work at a certain time, you probably work too much. And if you don't have enough money after all this work, you probably spend too much.

Do a root-cause analysis on your life and you might find that simple changes (like not spending at the mall on expensive alarm clocks) yield huge gains since you also don't end up paying tax on all the money you earned to buy the clock, tax on the purchase of the clock, all the clothes you have to buy to "look good" at your job (and all the taxes on the clothes), etc.

Anonymous said...

I sleep a multiple of 90 min and I wake up much better. You must put your alarmclock far away, so you have to stand up. Never go back to bed !
Sometimes you will have to stand up a few minutes earlier, than you need, but use that time in other way than sleeping !
Since I do so, sometimes I wake up before the alarm clock rings. Although sometimes I have only 3 or 4.5 ours of sleep, I stand up easier.

Anonymous said...

My dad has been using this system for as long as I can remember. He sets his alarm really low and ussually a quite radio station (public radio). My mom across the way sets hers normally and he wakes up to hers if his doesn't wake her up.

Anonymous said...

I think it's really common sense, don't you think?

No one likes to be woken up by some annoying buzzer or loud music.

Personally, I alternate between waking up to low, mellow classical music and, when that gets boring, low volume electronica/techno.

Choose what music works for you, but don't listen to public radio as most of the breakfast shows out there are a nuisance at best, especially with the presenters' stupid fake laughter all the time.

Anonymous said...

I used to have an alarm clock like the one mentioned and I loved it. I used it in much the same way as the author, and found this to be an excellent system for waking up. I wish I could find another clock like that!

Anonymous said...

this is a great method, and cheap too... I am sooo going to try this tonight =D... thank you!

Anonymous said...

A nitpick - REM doesn't occur in deep sleep. When REM is occurring, polysomnograms record sleeping patterns similar to stage 1 sleep. It is almost always easier to wake from REM sleep than stage 3 or 4, so I'm pretty sure this myth is busted.

Vince said...

Well, I never said that REM sleep is deep sleep. I also didn't say anything about waking up during REM sleep because there's some debate about it, as yes, it does resemble the earlier stages of sleep in some ways, but also the later stages in other ways All I said was that it's better to wake up in "light" sleep than "deep" sleep, and I kinda glossed over waking up in REM sleep, which many believe is when you remember your dreams. If you happen to wake up in REM sleep, it should still be better than if you woke up during "deep" sleep.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note, make sure you keep the same wake-up time each day. That means seven days a week.

As a very frequent traveller and time-zone hopper I've found that the fastest way to get settled into a timezone is to get up at the same time each day. That includes weekends - which might seem strange to most of us (me included to begin with - 6:20am on SUNDAY????) but it really works.

As I understand it, we didn't evolve with a weekly cycle - we got up at the same time each day (+-6mins per day for the change in light during the seasons). Trying to mess with your sleep is seriously detrimental to your health, yet it's accepted that you "catch up" with sleep on the weekend. Be real, you can't.

Instead, even if you've been late to bed, have a nap in the afternoon the next day - but get up at the same time even if you went to sleep at three am...

This is key: Your body clock synchronises to your wakeup time - so don't pretend you've moved two thousand miles west every two sevenths of a week. You'll struggle for the rest of the week, and then do it again on the next weekend. I think most rich-country people live with constant jet-lag!

Make your wake-up time consistent and you'll feel much better in the morning and wake up much less painfully.

I do since I discovered this.

Anonymous said...

I used a Linux system for this some time ago.

set it to start playing MP3s very softly at 1/2 hour before the requirede wakeup time, then had a shell script that did this

start:
increase volume a little
sleep 2 minutes
loop to start

J.R. Kinnard said...

I will try this. I will try anything (even the Wolf Cycle!).

leslie said...

What has worked for me is odd - I tossed my alarm clock eight years ago and just decided I would start waking up on time. I only overslept once at the beginning of the process, but when I return from time zone straddling travel I do use alarms to make sure nothing important is missed just in case, but only if I have something crucial to do that morning.

Anonymous said...

just had a test on this very subject in Psychology 2 days ago (100!), funny I just came across this because I was getting ready to give it a shot myself, thx for the push! (oh yeah, REM is also called paradoxical sleep because it has elements of both types...)

-A- said...

saw this article on boingboing.com , im definitely going to try it.

avin
http://avinsamtani.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Just tried this today - it worked great! I've been hating alarm clocks for a long time, but can't trust myself to get up on time. I really just wanted to say thanks - this is so much nicer.

Anonymous said...

Waking up is the new cool!

I will try this. Thanks a lot Vincent.




Sam
http://mychopsticks.livejournal.com

MC said...

Hey this has been working for me for years, it's amazing how similar I have been doing it (low volume radio and loud buzzer). Great post.

Anonymous said...

A while back I discovered that I really hated any sort of light in the room in the morning as I would immediately wake up. (Apparently, being light-sensitive sleep-wise correlates with being a stay-up-late hacker...) So I got into a habit of completely drawing the curtains. Then I ran into a problem where I had tons of difficulty getting up and starting my day in the morning, to the point where it affected my job. I finally found a solution- it seems obvious but it has worked so far. Simply draw down your curtains, not completely, but to a point where the right amount of light comes in in the morning right around the time you have to wake up. I have had much better sleep ever since!! No alarm required!

Anonymous said...

I've done something similar to this on accident with my cell phone and regular alarm. My cell tone tended to be more pleasing to wake up to than my annoying alarm buzz. I never really gave it much thought, but I think you might be on to something...

Anonymous said...

Great Post Vincent. I will try this very soon. Thanks for the info and thanks for writing so well.

Travis Owens said...

I've done a fair amount of sleep homework and do agree this is a good idea as long as you realize the fact that your body sleeps in a pattern. Your body goes through a cycle of deep and light sleep which lasts around 2hrs 10mins each cycle. Ideally you want to wake up in the light part of the cycle, which happens in the first and last 15mins.

Each successive pattern is lighter than the previous and the sweet spot is after the 3rd pattern has completed, which is around 6.5 hours. Of course keep in mind this is 6.5hrs of sleep, which is not a measurement from when you ly down to the point you get up. Instead it's a measurement of when you fall asleep to the point your snooze alarm wakes you up.

Studies have shown (Google it) that getting less sleep, or too much (8hrs or more) is equally detrimental to your health, I was surprised about this fact myself. Keep in mind this research is still priliminary.

Back on subject, putting the alarm out of arms reach is a great idea as you actually have to wake up in order to hit the button. When I have the alarm on my nightstand, I often hit the snooze and never wake up, I've done this up to 3 snoozes in a row (10mins per snooze).

BTW, for a good alarm clock, Wallmart has one with 2 alarms (radio or buzzer), extra large text, adjustable brightness, battery backup & automatic time set (via FM waves) for only $22.

Eric Ch said...

Great tip. Thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...

liked the article...will definitely try. I loved the guy who crawled around like a wolf. NICE!!

HarrisEW said...

dude ive been using this forever and it works trust me.

Anonymous said...

This is good to know but a more efficent and natural way is actualy sun light.. well i mean i timded light with in the range of 5500K and let that fade from 0 up wards in intencity .. in a time span of 20min's and then ur body will actualy wake up by it self.. as we really are programed to do ..

Stevo said...

Hey man,

This system is quite good. I found it much easier to wake up on time and I don't feel sluggish either!

Great work!

Peace

Kristen said...

I've had dreams while falling asleep in the middle of class.

Does that mean I go through REM just by sleeping for 2 minutes when my professor is boring?

Vince said...

Some studies say that you can dream in any sleep stage, but it's more common in REM. Also, naps tend to not go through all the stages of sleep and are more enriched with REM sleep.

RHFOOTBALL said...

You know what would make me feel better about waking up? If Kevin Rosewere next to me!

Anonymous said...

You like the effeminate ones I guess.

Silleigh said...

I bought a BioBrite alarm years ago, because I can't stand the loud buzz of an alarm clock -- like waking up in the middle of a panic attack. The Biobrite slowly brightens your room over the course of a half-hour. It wakes you up because the light receptors in your eyes are what regulate your circadian rhythm.

But, having a rough time GETTING to sleep, I'd still sometimes roll over and shut off the back-up audible alarm (a soft sound), and oversleep.

Discovered the dual alarm method by accident when a button fell off the Biobrite, and I thought I wouldn't be able to reset it. I had an old, awful beeping alarm, and I set it across the room so I'd have to get up to turn it off. Then I found I could still reset the Biobrite by using a toothpick. Now I let the Biobrite slowly lighten the room until its quiet alarm goes off, and I set the awful alarm for 5 minutes after. Usually the dread of hearing the second alarm will get me out of bed to shut that alarm off before it goes off.

Kikishua said...

I have used three different methods - all equally successful.
1. Have a pet that demands feeding at a regular time. My cat used to punch me on the nose if I didn't wake and fill his bowl by 7am.
2. Voile curtains. This is my current method. I never, ever oversleep and wake up with the dawn. If it's summer and a bit too early I turn the tv on and doze for a short time. If it's winter and dark until later I have trained myself to be showered, dressed and out the door in 10 minutes.
3. Banging my head on the pillow. Don't laugh - it actually works for me (and presumably for the person who originally told me about the method). If I want to wak at 6am I bang my head on the pillow 6 times and say "6 o'clock" loudly to myself.

I haven't used an alarm clock for about 15 years...

shara said...

LOL, Kikishua, I read about the 'banging the head' method in a children's book once, (Five Children and It, I think, and no, it's not about the clown... :D) but never realized it was a valid technique. I'll have to try that sometime.

I'm definitely going to have to get an alarm that plays music and try this. There's nothing I hate worse than the sound of an alarm...I've actually found myself waking up just before it goes off and switching it off, and then laying down for "five more minutes" and oversleeping.

The best solution I've found so far is to have my mom call me on the phone fifteen minutes before I'm supposed to be out of the house...kind of embarrassing, and the phone is just as jarring as the alarm, but at least I've never unplugged it it my sleep.

Matthew Cornell said...

Thanks for the great post. Here's an alternative that I found both simple and highly effective: How to Become an Early Riser. The basic idea is to a) get up at the same time every single day, and b) go to bed when you feel tired. Worked great for me.

Anonymous said...

This article is very interesting. I already use this technique in a way. I just leave a small tv on my bed on all night, during the night it keeps me from falling too deeply asleep, so when my alarm clock goes off I am already in a "light" sleep, works great!

Anonymous said...

I sort of already do this. I set my alarm clock to the radio and find an area with no stations, so it's just white noise. Then I set it for two hours before I need to be at work, and wake up slowly over time. It's so much better than the typical punch-in-the-face screaming banshee wail most people use.

thewebguy said...

i have tried doing this for a while, but without the use of an alarm.

i know what times i need to be up in the morning, so i try to give myself at least 6 hours of sleep -- i know you can't time it perfectly, but if i have to be up before 8, i try to go to sleep at 1 am or earlier. that way i have an hour of overtime.

also - if i go to sleep especially late or feeling especially crappy i use the annoying nokia default ringtone to wake me up. i feel much worse when i get up when i have to do this, it's only for emergencies.

anyway, i typically have been waking up when i need to and feeling better on fewer hours of sleep when circumstances require it :)

Anonymous said...

Wonder if I need two alarms with two setting one for my wife and myself?

Marc said...

Hi Vince,

that really sounds like a good thing to me...im gonna try that tomorrow morning and get some feedback tomorrow evening!!

I usually used to get with damn loud music...that loud that my neighbours always are able to get any word that comes out of my radio :-)

So this makes really sense to me and im gonna try it for sure...thanks for that great idea :D

Anonymous said...

I have a very hard time getting up in the morning,but as of late I started doing something like this myself. First it was my cell alarm and my alarm and then one morning my alarm didn't wake me up,or something. So then I bought a new alarm and now that I use two and have them set for different times it works,but if I try to switch the times it's hard. The hardest part for me is trying to wake up on that first alarm. I thought I would try to trick it by setting the first earlier so that I could wake up where the first I actually goes off. Bad Idea because then I was just late for work lol.

Anonymous said...

nice article, think ill try it tomorrow if im able to find a radio-alarmclock ...

normal clocks used to squeeze the hell out of me in the mornings ... even i get up at the same time five days a week ...


@ the others: is here anybody who tried the system yet ? does it work ?



//btw: your article is linked at www.bluephod.net , a german blogsite ;)

Anonymous said...

Here's something that worked for me, when i could be bothered to do it: Having a hot bath (or shower) just before going to bed helped me to have relaxing nights rest and wake up peacefully and at almost the exact time i was thinking that i wanted to wake. Its worked several times, give it a try.

Anonymous said...

I use this product:

http://www.thegreenhead.com/
cool-stuff/2005/06/
progression-wake-up-clock-awaken-your.php

The light, sound, & smell slowly increase to gently wake you up.

Anonymous said...

it makes sense...thanks nigga

Anonymous said...

Your article was cool but I don't think it'll work for me. I sleep in a double-decker and it's a bit of a hassle to go up and down. I used to put it near my bed, but then I would just turn it off without waking up. So now I put it further away, and by the time i turn it off I'm nearly fully awake.

Ryan said...

I might try this but I doubt it will actually work. I mean, I will get up but I will still probably be dead-tired all day. However, it makes me feel better to read all these comments and see that a lot of people have the same problem as me.

The reason why I don't think it will work is because I always wake up at different times/different stages of sleep, but no matter what.......it's always hard to get out of bed, even if I wake up slowly and gradually.

I need to research and find out what I can do naturally to make myself more awake during the day.

I feel like this is a disease and it's driving me crazy. This is beginning to be a serious problem in my life. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

-Thanks
ryanjobe@gmail.com

Snoozester said...

You could also try this using an alarm clock that only allows you t oset one alarm. Make that the "light sleep" / quiet alarm. Then set up a wake up call (snoozester.com) on your home or cell phone instead of the loud alarm.

Anonymous said...

Or you could use the alarm clock function on your cell phone. Some voicemail services offer wakeup calls too. Check it out.

Anonymous said...

nice idea...but getting up during light sleep stage all the time isnt good isnt it....u get sleep that way...

Anonymous said...

i have had a serious sleeping problem for a long while now. a few years ago i used to be able to get up just before my alarm clock, but then i suddenly lost the ability. if i use an alarm clock now (even on its loudest setting on other side of room) i get up and shut it off without ever being able to remember doing it. i moved to other side of planet for 6 months a few months ago and for a short time had no problem with my sleep. but while over there i was drinking alot more rum than usual, and i would get up after i went to bed in the middle of the night (to sneak into a girls room of course). even with doing all this shit that wouldnt seem healthy - i still felt way better in mornings. i have yet to find something that works and have missed too many classes - i will try this music/duel alarm thing, i somehow forsee me shutting it off without knowing though :(

BlueBerry Pick'n said...

years ago, I bought myself a wonderful Sony CD alarmclock that had a 'second setting' for my backup alarm.

I had a wonderful ocean CD to wake me up 1/2 hour before the alarm went off. I loved it.

I just wish it didn't require messing with Automator to get my iCal to do it remotely for my iTunes & iPort.

of course, I'd be happy to just have another SONY product that HAD A DIM LIGHTING feature but a REALLY LARGE DIGITAL DISPLAY for my lame vision...

you'd think somebody'd figure out this 'loophole' in product design...

some sort of iPhone feature, perhaps??

I love me some MAC, baby!


Spread Love...
... but wear the Glove!


BlueBerry Pick'n
can be found @
ThisCanadian
"Silent Freedom is Freedom Silenced"

Joshua said...

Wow i guess you have done a lot of research on it before creating this blog. Its an excellent article. But i have not applied what you said caz i got Dermasleep patch before your posting. Now i don't have sleeplessness nights.I am getting proper sleep and in the morning when i get up i feel fresh. Thanks to Dermasleep.

Anonymous said...

i got a huge boner when i heard about this!

Lindsey said...

Apparently, I have way too much free time on my hands - after going through and reading the majority of the comments I have this to say:

*Great article - very well written. However, readers are far too critical.
*MOST DREAMS occur in the REM cycle - not all... and I believe Vincent stated that...
*This is an excellent recommendation (even if you may have heard it before...) to modify your waking procedures. But, I am in agreement when others said to just go to bed earlier. Personally, I wake up during the week between 6:50 and 7:25 and then I'm at work by 8 am - well normally... just last week actually, I slept in until 11 am after getting up and shutting off all 5 of my alarm clocks (which go off in intervals of 3 to 15 minutes, normally starting at 6:30) and don't remember a single one going off... Obviously, if I want to sleep so much, I should just go to bed earlier so I don't have to have the broken alarm clocks like others who've commented before me.
*This method seems as if it would work for a lot of people, and thanks to Mr. Vincent Cheung, it has become more widely known. Hopefully, someday with all of the sleeping techniques that have accumulated throughout the years, people will actually be able to sleep and wake up when necessary - whether they have to crawl around like animals to do so, or pay for expensive gadgets to help out, or just maintain a good body clock...

Personally, my sleep schedule is screwed entirely. Between babysitting my newfound roommates and going to work at a full time job during the week and a part time job on the weekends (hours always changing) - it's close to impossible for me to obtain a "normal" sleeping schedule. Actually, I've come to realize that (at least with my schedule) normal sleep is extinct.

GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE AND HAPPY SLEEPING... AND I GUESS KEEP TRYING THE DIFFERENT METHODS AND EVENTUALLY YOU'LL FIND SOMETHING THAT WORKS FOR YOU

AND TIE DOWN YOUR ALARM OR SOMETHING SO YOU CAN'T BREAK THEM... TAKE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES TOWARDS YOUR ANGRY WAKING HABITS WHILE YOU ARE STILL AWAKE!!

Rotem said...

Great advice, and you're right about the 90 minutes thing...

Actually it's only the average. Our sleep cycles are
anywhere between 60 to 120 minutes long.

I'm going to link to this post from my ecourse about
"How to Become an Energetic Early Riser" (at A-Sleep.com).

computer alarm clock said...

very interesting article, great idea.

SengAun Ong said...

Well, two alarms are like the snooze mode. It is not bad to have a backup but people will think it is a little strange if they see you doing it. http://tipskey.com/self_help/wake_up_on_time.htm

Anonymous said...

yeah, everytime I wake up (by my alarm) I jolt. When I wake up, I immediately jump out of bed and begin the 9-5 process...im going to try this though...nice article. thanks!

Anonymous said...

i dont wake up in the morning even with 4 alarm cloks nd dat iz jus mad i need a waii 2 wake up but i need help plzzzzzzz help me i beg u plz ! itz ruining mi lyf not getting up 4 work nd bein late :*(

Anonymous said...

Polyphasic sleep...I've tried it. For the first day or so it's amazing, and then all you can think about is sleep. And then you have trouble functioning...I did it for almost two weeks. Not a lot, but I was braindead. Not fun, don't reccomend it.

Anonymous said...

i have a vibrator alarm clock... it comes in a thin, styrofoam mattress and it goes off vibrating softly.. then it gets more and more intense until it is unbearable and it does not have a turn-off button so it keeps on going for 30 min. i set it 30 min. b4 i have to wake up so that i wake up 15 min early. this system is great for me but sometimes i just want to sleep in and pull my duvet off my bed and sleep on the floor.

Sleeping Dude said...

This is very interesting, I'm going to try it myself.

I've added the link to this article to my collection of How to wake up early resources:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I heard there was a way to do it with fluids. You drink a certain amount of water before bed, and you wake up at a certain time because you need to go. But this doesn't really work if you constantly run to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

SengAun Ong said...

I keep on coming back to this article by Mr. Cheung. Well, this time I agree with him on the polyphasic sleep. Perhaps it is applicable for just a few people.

PS: Just delete the URL in my previous entry because it was not a link. Display this instead:
http://www.tipskey.com/self_help/wake_up_on_time.htm

Anonymous said...

i didnt see anyone mention

a half an hour to an hour (everybody is different) before hitting the pillow ... start to unwind, for example dont fall asleep right after being on the computer or watching tv because your body confuses this with daytime and sunlight and you may wake up multiple times during the night thinking its time to get up

and of course get the reccomended amount of sleep

thanks this arcticle helped me soo much

Mari Carmen said...

Hi, I have linked this post in my spanish blog so I thought too much interesting what you're describing here.

I hope you dont disturb because of that.

My blog is --> http://realvsdream.blogspot.com/

Thanks and recards.

Online Alarm Clock said...

If you don't have two separate alarm clocks at home, you can turn on your laptop and then open this site in two different browser windows...voila ! You then have two separate alarm clocks you can set for two different times:

http://onlineclock.net

vyasa said...

I have no problem with waking up at regular time. I wake up between 2 am to 3 am once to pee. Thereafter I can not resume sleep for 30 minutes to an hour. If the break is more than that I may sleep off and be very late. Only in such cases I need to set alarm to wake me up forcibly. But you are too lazy to set alarm at that dead of night. Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Read this.. maybe you're like me...


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_sleep_phase_syndrome

David P said...

I have two alarms - one is my old watch, and is quieter than the proper alarm and a damn sight more difficult to turn off! That means if I hear it, I've got to wake up to figure out which button to press!

John said...

I've been doing this for about a week now, and ive been successful every time....only thing is that it doesnt actually make me feel awake and feel good when i wake up like its supposed to!...help?

Anonymous said...

too bad my dual alarm clock doesn´t allow setting of two different volume levels :(

Kev said...

I do something similar, but didn't really plan it around the "light-sleep" cycle. I have my regular alarm clock radio next to my bed that I use to pound the snooze button. I have my cell phone across the room with the alarm set to go off when I absolutely have to get up. I should probably switch it around though. The alarm on the cell phone starts out quiet and gets progressively louder.

Reynier Matos Padilla said...

Thanks for this post.

It's very good!

Zenkius.
http://zenkius.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

i'm confused. are we only supposed to sleep for 90 minutes? or every 90 minutes we wake up? i don't get it!

Anonymous said...

this really describes me. i'm in the marines and my roomate and i both fly, but our schedules always vary, so i don't have anyone to rely ,but myself. it's funny i'm a grown man in a corp that is the symbol of conformity, but yes this is a real problem when you have no recollection of turning off an alarm clock a few times a month. it's nice to know i'm not the only one, but for my job's sake i really hope somones insight will help. thanx.

2Perfect said...

Ooh that's weird. I thought I was the only one. I started doing this in Grade 12 (September 2006) so it hasn't been quite as long as you have.

How long before the loud one do you set the quiet one? It used to work for me in high school, with the quiet 30 minutes before the loud, and it worked especially well during the summer. But for some reason when University started it hasn't always worked :S I'm tired half the time.

Wakemeup said...

Very informative. I have a serious waking up problem in the mornings and I've tried many different things to help me wake up. I think a dual alarm clock is a great invention. I use at least 3 alarms, so a dual alarm would cover two of the regular alarms. Cool. I've been doing my research to find a way to help me wake up better. Look me up if you are interested.

PTCB Review said...

This is some good stuff. Thanks a whole lot for this article!

Carlo said...

Good JOb! :)

Anonymous said...

ha yeh i used to press the button without actually waking up, so i moved it far away but i just got better at sleep-button-pressing, so recently ive been hiding my phone in random places the night before so i actually have to wake up and find it in the morning. I think i might try this dual alarm instead tho eh... might even go sleep now... =P

Anonymous said...

i've done this before, and it worked, and i should probably start doing it again because im in the middle of summer school and i feel terribly tired every morning. i'd set my clock for 1 hour before i have to get up, and then set it for 40 mins, 25 mins, etc. and i'd want to wake up feeling refreshed before I have to get up, if that makes sense

Sleepy Paul said...

brilliant.

i've had wake up issues for too many years and have always failed the 90 minute plans....

this sounds like the answer - i always feel better when i wake naturally early than when my alarms goes!

many years ago i had an alarm the other side of the room - very quickly i mastered rollnig myself out of bed towards the wallnig 0- hitting snoose (or sometimes off) and pushign myself back rolling back into bed.

my sleep persona is my master (and an insight into inner child/subconscious drives) but i want the control back thank you very much!!!

The JR Pattoo said...

Ive only ever woken up feeling refreshed 3 times in my life and that was 3 days ago when i first read your article. I was always waking up groggy and have actually had a concussion from falling asleep in the shower one time. I was desperate for anything that would help and having to get up at 5:45, at 1am i was ironically searching how to wake up refreshed. I saw your article and set my first alarm to go off 30 minutes before i need to wake up (5:15) and made it very soft like your instructions said. The first day, i woke up to the 5:45 one feeling like i actually got sleep the night before. The second time i got results same as the first so by then im all excited and today we did not have school but i decided it best to wake up and get around even if i go back to sleep later, and i got up at 5:25 before my "last resort" alarm, and i felt amazing. I am bookmarking this and emailing it to all of my friends. Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

i tried this and many other things, i still wake up 3 hours after the alarms start, and feeling horrible. please email me any other solutions that actually work.
admin1@maktoob.com

Anonymous said...

I have my bedside lamp plugged into an outlet timer. I also have a regular radio alarm clock. I have them set for the same time and find that if I don't have to get up in a dark room(5am) I wake up much faster. I do want to try this method along with one of the gradual sun clocks(expensive).

Anonymous said...

You have some great suggestions.

I often feel The Lord God gently nudging me from time to time when it is time to get up.

But a great "trick" of waking up early and well is by simply getting enough sleep at night-
and that means early!

See You, xxx :)

Stefan said...

I've tried using your system too. I have always had problems waking up feeling refreshed. I'm glad it works for you, though for me it hasn't. I find hearing the quiet music induces dreaming in me, and the buzzer wakes me up in the middle of my dream. Which I find most irritating :) Very nice read though.

Jason Henley said...

I'm not sure on the timing, but there are alarm clocks out there now that basically do this for you now. I won't promote any here but they basically start out quite with lights, scents and sounds and slowly get louder and more intense.

I am finally going to try one since I can hardly drag myself up in the morning after plenty of sleep.

3rd Wave Inc said...

An alarm clock is a necessity in every household to keep us on time with our daily activities especially if you're always on the go.

Anonymous said...

i think this is a great idea :p

dakabn said...

What about light sleepers like me who waken at the slightest noise? Even if startled. Great idea. But remember some are light sleepers and will be woken by a quiet noise even in deep sleep.

grimnast said...

Dude this is like, revolutionary man! Looking forward to in depth coverage of actual alarm product.

Doug said...

Good suggestion, I'm going to try it on my son!

doc said...

I have been doing this for years. I have the radio come on quietly 15 minutes before I need to be up sometimes it wakes me up sometimes it doesn't but I figure somewhere in my brain I'm listening to it. then when I NEED to wake up I have the buzzer come on. now half the time I still hit the snooze for 10 more minutes but it's pretty much the process I have been using for years.

Marisa said...

I´me very pleased by your article. I´m psychologist and I have lots of patients who have sleeping issues because they just don´t understand basics of sleeping and they don´t have any sleeping habits.

bolt it said...

Interesting blog post thank you. A new born baby is also a good way of waking up regularly. LOL

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your system. I usually use two alarms; one on my phone with a loud ringer, and the radio on my alarm clock with max volume, to ensure that I will definitely wake up. However, most of time I hit the snooze button after waking up. This morning both of my alarm clocks didn't wake me up so I missed my morning class. >.< Then I came across this, I will try it tonight with the alarm clock radio on low volume, and my phone will be my back up alarm that will wake me up no matter what.

Nice Vibe said...

you are awesome O.O

Delva said...

this sounds really good! I have so much trouble with getting up every morning and I thought about getting one of those sleep trackers. But they are really expensive and I heard that they don'T always work properly...
So I think I will try your method ^^

Alex Deak said...

I actually found that a Phillips bright light works great. The light comes on slowly over 30 minutes before playing relaxing music. I wake up to the light before the alarm 99/100 times, but how far into the cycle varies, I assume by where I'm at in my sleep cycles.

Nishant Sharma said...

M surely trying this system tonight...
Sounds really good.
Thanks

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