Posted by Yohannes Zewde
Fingernails loudly screeching down a blackboard, the shrill tones of the Emergency Alert System all sounds: few things are as obnoxious as an alarm clock. Human beings have survived for most of our history without these confounded noisemakers—-why would you need one now? The answer, of course, is that everyone else has one, and it would look bad if you were the only one wandering into the office two hours late. But like momma said, just because everyone else in the world is doing it doesn’t mean you should. Waking up naturally is much easier on you, as your body will slowly adjust from deep sleep to a calm awakening. Here's how to separate yourself from the alarm clock without quitting your job or dropping out of school.
1) Determine what time you need to wake up on most days. Make this your sleep goal.
2) Use your alarm clock to wake up at approximately that same time each morning. Our bodies’ physiological processes are governed by the circadian rhythm, a cycle that in humans is closely adapted to the 24-hour day. You will get used to waking up. By training yourself to wake up at the same time each day, you “set” your circadian rhythm.
3) Figure out how much sleep you really need. Anyone about 13 and under needs about 7-10 hours of sleep each night. Individual sleep needs vary, however. Getting adequate rest is the most obvious way to help you wake up when you want.
4) Go to bed at approximately the same time every night. Once you know when you need to get up and how much sleep you need, you can determine what time you need to go to sleep. While you may initially find it difficult to go to bed at the same time each night, if you make an effort to do so it will become easier over time.
5) Wean yourself off the alarm clock. After as little as a week of using a regular bed time and wake-up time, you should be able to wake up at about the correct time without your alarm. The more consistent your schedule is, the better, but even if you occasionally go to bed later or earlier than your usual time since you want to watch tv, your body should still feel ready to get up at your set time.
View your sleeping environment and decide what you can control. Awakening can be triggered by external cues such as light and sound; hence the effectiveness of the alarm clock. These triggers can override the circadian rhythm.
Light: Your mind will respond to light and bring you out of sleep. Leave your curtains or blinds open to wake up with the sunrise. Close them if you need to sleep later. Adjust the positioning of your bed to catch the light at the right time—you may need to move your bed occasionally since the sun will strike your room at a slightly different angle as the seasons progress. If you are camping, locate your tent so that the sun will hit it unobstructed (make sure there are no trees, hills, etc. that will prevent the sun from hitting your tent early in the morning). Remember that the sun rises in the east; in the northern hemisphere a south-facing orientation will receive more sunlight, and in the southern hemisphere a north-facing orientation will get more, but unless you are trying to wake up when the sun is high in the sky, you will still want to face to the east to catch the sun when it rises. As stated earlier, the position of your bed will depend heavily on the time of the year, and the time you want to wake up. If you need to get up before the sun rises, putting the lights in your room on a timer can also help, as this may not seem as disruptive as an alarm clock.
Sound: Noises (such as that pesky alarm) also bring you out of sleep. Identify what sounds regularly occur around where you sleep—and when they occur. Trains, automobiles, animals, and other people going about regular tasks can serve as waking cues. You can take advantage of this by noting what wakes you up and when. Consider leaving your window open to capture more sounds.
Temperature: Your sleeping body is very sensitive to temperature. If you turn your heat down at night and have a timer on your thermostat, you can set the heat to come back on about an hour before you want to wake up. Assuming you were at a comfortable sleeping temperature all night, this should prompt you to awaken. You can also use temperature in conjunction with light, since sunlight hitting your bed directly will warm you up. You may even be able to choose what blankets you use so that you will be comfortable throughout the night (your body temperature drops after midnight), but begin to get too hot as your body temperature naturally rises (regardless of external temperature), toward the end of your sleep cycle. If you want to take a brief nap outside on a hot day (when you are camping or backpacking, for instance), you can choose someplace to sleep where you will be in a shadow initially, but where you will eventually be in the sun.
Smell: If you drink coffee regularly, the easiest way to use smell as a trigger to awake is to put your coffee maker in your bedroom and set its timer for just before when you want to wake up. Smell is not generally a reliable way to wake up, though, so use this in combination with other methods.
Feeling: Drink a tall glass of water before going to bed. You will find that you wake up very promptly.and will occasionally have to wake up and use the bathroom, so you'll be up at least 30 minutes before target time.
Recognize that scientists have been unable to prove that the "mental alarm clock" can or should work effectively. Still, many folks swear by it. Others report that it makes them tensely look at their watch every 30 minutes to make sure they don't oversleep. If you want to experiment, follow the steps below:
1) Determine what time you need to wake up. Unlike the method above, this method does not require that you wake up at the same time each morning. Scientists have discovered that about an hour before a person expects to wake up, the body begins releasing a relatively high concentration of the hormone adrenocorticotropin into the blood. They believe that this may prepare the person to wake up. If this is true, you need only prompt the release of this hormone at the right time.
2) Note the time when you go to bed.
3) Calculate the number of hours before your intended wake-up time. If possible, try to sleep for a multiple of about 90 minutes; your sleep cycle repeats in approximately 90 minute intervals (this will differ from person to person). You can use this to your advantage, as it's easier to awaken from the lighter part (the end) of your sleep cycle.
4) Envision your wake-up time. As you lie in bed, think about the time at which you want to wake. Visualize a clock with that time on it, and visualize yourself getting up at that time. You may even find it helpful to tell yourself out loud, “I will wake up at (the desired time).” While this may sound silly, controlled experiments have revealed that many people can use these techniques to successfully and regularly awaken at the correct time without using an alarm or other external trigger. How the brain manages to keep track of the hours is unknown.
5) Use your alarm clock as a backup. If you have an alarm clock available, and you absolutely must wake up at a certain time, it is best to set it to shortly after you normally wake up just in case this method doesn’t work. Additionally, using an alarm clock may also help you to wake up before the alarm goes off because you will truly expect to awake at that time. This strong expectation should prompt the release of adrenocorticotropin. While adding this step doesn’t really free you from the alarm clock, you may still be able to enjoy awakening without the harsh jolt of the alarm.