The Role of Alarm Clocks in Getting Better Sleep

Alarm clocks are a common fixture in most bedrooms, but do they actually help us get better rest? Let’s take a look at the history of alarm clocks and see what the experts think about their role in achieving healthy sleep.

How Morning Alarms Help Us

Alarm clocks have been in use for centuries because they solve a real problem—ensuring we wake up on time. Their utility is undeniable, and many of us would probably have a hard time making it to work every day without one.

Mark Muehlbach, Ph.D., F.AASM, R.PSGT, clinical director at the Clayton Sleep Institute in St. Louis, provides a little background on why waking up in the morning can be so difficult:

“Ideally, a person will wake on his or her own when they need to each morning. These are the people who set an alarm but wake a few minutes before the alarm sounds, as if their brain has an expectation to be awake at a certain time. On the other hand is the person who needs two or three alarms to wake them.

Our busy schedules and external influences like mobile phones, televisions, tablets, streetlights, neighborhood noises and a myriad of other stimuli can interrupt our sleep, which requires our bodies to demand more sleep and, in turn, lead to us waking feeling drowsy and tired.

For humans, it is not that difficult to override our internal clock: staying up late or having an irregular sleep/wake schedule can influence our internal clock and make it difficult to arise when we need to. Shift workers (those who work when the rest of us sleep) often alter their internal body clock, flipping and flopping their day/night schedules, and may need alarm clocks to wake them as they battle their internal biology.”