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Should I Use an Alarm Clock?

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Updated February 28, 2013

Should I Use an Alarm Clock?
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Question: Should I Use an Alarm Clock?
Answer:

It may seem hard to believe, but your alarm clock actually promotes unhealthy sleep habits. Following good sleep hygiene guidelines and making a few simple changes to your schedule may make that rude awakening a thing of the past.

Alarm clocks are a modern nuisance. We use them to get us up in the morning, and they are supremely effective. Unfortunately, they will get us up regardless of how much sleep we have gotten, and whether or not we are fully rested. Moreover, if we are sleeping with someone else or if we have children, we may have our sleep disrupted more than once during those early hours.

Ideally, you would be able to sleep as much as you need to. Each individual seems to require an average amount of sleep to feel rested, which may vary across a lifetime, and certainly is different from person to person. A simple experiment can be done to determine how much sleep you need.

For example, if you determine you need nine hours of sleep, then you would likely awaken feeling rested after nine hours of sleep, on most days. If we get less, we feel sleep deprived and are prone to naps and other health consequences. If given the chance, most of us can sleep longer if we go back to bed immediately after awakening, a concept called sleep inertia. However, if we have properly determined our sleep needs, this extra sleep wouldn’t be necessary.

Most people have constraints on their time, and must be up by a certain time. We can’t sleep in and be late to work or school. Therefore, how can we get the sleep we need and not have an alarm clock waking us?

It is a matter of simple arithmetic. If you find that you need nine hours of sleep and that you must be up by 6 a.m. to get to work, then you have to go to bed at 9 p.m. at the latest. It sounds simple enough, but a key part of this is keeping a regular sleep schedule: going to bed and getting up at the same time every single day, including weekends. Your body likes to keep regular schedules, as part of its natural circadian rhythm, and it will willingly accommodate your desire to get up provided you have gotten your sleep needs met.

Before smashing your alarm clock to bits, there are a few caveats to these guidelines. First, it is important that you properly determine and adhere to a schedule that meets your sleep needs. If you short yourself by not going to bed on time, you will oversleep. This requires a great deal of discipline, and most people will struggle going to bed at the same time daily, especially if it seems like an early hour.

However, by determining your sleep needs and meeting them daily, you will have healthier sleep. If you are able to stick it out, you may just be able to rid yourself of that alarm clock, years before your retirement.

Source:

National Sleep Foundation

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