Sleeping through an alarm and being late for work or classes happens regularly. Sleeping through your alarm often means you need extra sleep or better quality sleep.
To avoid sleeping through alarms, place your alarm clock further from your bed, so you’re forced to get up and walk to press the snooze button. You can also use a light-based alarm clock that wakes you up at the end of your sleep cycle. Change the type of alarm noise to a different one, so your brain is less likely to ignore it.
The priority is to ensure your sleep cycles are in the right place when your alarm goes off. The more sleep you get before this happens, the higher your PER protein levels. This is the natural chemical that wakes us up.
Why Do Alarm Clocks Not Wake Me Up?
Most people sleep through their alarms because they’re getting insufficient rest. They may not be getting enough sleep or failing to get quality sleep.
So, they sleep through their alarms because their bodies have decreased the amount of PER in their system. This is designed to put you to sleep, so your body can regenerate.
The protein called PER is crucial in the human sleep cycle as it ensures that you get good sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. This is why it is referred to as the genetic alarm of the biological clock.
This biological alarm clock makes the process of waking up more relaxing.
When PER levels are low, the body:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Drops the heart rate
- Slows cognitive functions
This is what makes us sleepy. When a person has a healthy, regular sleep schedule, the body will gradually increase PER levels in the hour before the body is due to wake up. Eventually, a cocktail of stress hormones is released to rouse us.
You may be sleeping through your alarm because your body knows better. It’s trying to help you get more sleep, with responsibilities (and your alarm clock) getting disregarded in the process.
Of course, aside from poor quality sleep, there are other answers to the question, “why do I sleep through alarms?”
Inconsistent Sleep Schedule
You may sleep through your alarm because of an inconsistent sleep schedule. This is common among people who work shifts with fairly irregular patterns, which can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm.
That leads to you being in a deep sleep cycle when your alarm goes off, allowing your body to ignore it.
Of course, a more clinical issue could be the presence of a sleeping or circadian rhythm disorder. Disruption or upset to our internal clocks can happen, of course.
Jet lag is the most common example of this disruption, but it’s temporary. When issues like this become recurring or crop up without cause, it could be a genuine, clinical disorder.
Just as people’s sleep schedules are personal, the time spent in deep sleep also differs. Some people are prone to light sleep and even wake several times a night. Meanwhile, others spend most of their time in deep sleep and are very hard to wake.
According to the American Physiological Society, this has to do with sleep spindles. These are a form of brain activity during deep non-rapid eye movement or NREM sleep.
The findings suggest that they act as a noise-canceling device, making it harder for a sleeper to be disturbed. That’s great for getting a good night’s rest, of course, but problematic if you need to get up with an early alarm.
How Do Alarm Clocks Wake Us Up?
Releasing a cocktail of stress hormones is something that your natural ‘alarm clock’ and external alarms (like those in iPhones and certain clocks) have in common. Unlike the natural process of waking up, alarm clocks cause a sudden and stressful wake-up process.
It’s not gentle and subtle, like the PER protein. Instead, it’s immediate and jarring. The noises that alarm clocks make are built to be stressful to our ears and bodies. In other words, they purposefully scare us awake.
This is also why some people wake up just before their regularly scheduled alarms. The human body likes routine and dislikes stress. So, it’ll adapt to a regular alarm by signaling you to wake up before it sounds.
This is a way to avoid the stress caused by a sudden, jarring noise pulling you from sleep. It’s also trying to ensure that your body completes a full cycle before waking.
I Keep Unconsciously Turning Off My Alarm
You may keep waking up to find that you have seemingly turned off your alarm while still asleep.
Are you a regular sleepwalker? Do you have reason to believe you have started to sleepwalk? If not, it’s unlikely that you were truly unconscious when you turned off your alarm.
Instead, it is far more likely that the alarm succeeded in temporarily waking you from a deep sleep. You then turned it off before essentially rolling back over.
This is good news because it can be combated far more easily than something like sleepwalking. In fact, it’s common to wake up in the middle of the night, though most people don’t remember.
According to the National Institute of Health, the average person wakes up roughly six times per night. However, some wake up more often, and many experience fewer episodes of wakefulness.
If your body is in the middle of a sleep cycle and your alarm triggers one of these periods of wakefulness, it’s likely that you turned off your alarm and went back to sleep without remembering.
How To Stop Hitting Snooze By Accident
Preventing this is about encouraging your body to come to a more alert state before you can hit the snooze button.
This could mean the following:
- Putting your alarm further away, so that you have to get out of bed to switch it off
- Changing to a new type of alarm
Keep in mind that there are very loud alarms that might give you a surge of adrenaline. However, they’re a stressful and often ineffective way to ensure you get up. A more modern, effective, and restful way to get up without hitting snooze is getting in a daylight alarm clock.
This is particularly useful during the winter months when the mornings are dark. These clocks work by simulating the increasing natural light of dawn to gently kick start your body’s natural alarm clock. This process starts 15-30 minutes before the scheduled wake-up time to ensure a gentle waking process.
How to Wake Up to an Alarm If You’re a Deep Sleeper
Deep sleepers will have the most difficulty waking up to an alarm, but there are ways around this.
In addition to switching to a light-based alarm, you can use natural bodily functions to wake yourself. For example, drinking 1-2 glasses of water before bed can ensure you get up fairly early in the morning.
Of course, there is a balance. If you drink too much water before bed, you could find yourself waking up in the very early hours to go to the toilet.
However, just 1-2 small glasses could aid your alarm in ensuring that you wake up by giving yourself motivation. It’s almost unheard of for adults to release their bladders without waking, even if they’re heavy sleepers.
Likewise, you could sleep with your curtains or blinds open to let natural light in as the sun rises. This may be enough to help your body enter a state where it can respond positively to your alarms. This will, of course, be more effective in the summertime when the sun rises early.
You could find a way to make waking up pleasant. Find something you enjoy doing to ensure that you have a good reason to pay attention to your alarm. The main point is to ensure you’re at the right point in your sleep cycle to avoid snoozing through your alarm and having a good reason to get up.