For many people, waking up is the hardest part of the day. Night owls often find getting up early in the morning difficult, even with an alarm clock. The idea of rising at an appropriately early time, on a daily basis, without one can feel like a pipe dream. Nonetheless, it’s possible, and studies suggest that it’s beneficial to your health.
It’s best to wake up naturally if you can, as this ensures your sleep cycle reaches its conclusion, allowing you to awaken more refreshed and recharged. Also, you won’t have the stressful blare of an alarm scaring you awake. People who wake up naturally are mentally sharper throughout the day.
However, alarm clocks are far more reliable for waking up on time. That’s especially true if you’re not an early bird. If you must use an alarm clock or are shifting your sleep routine, use gentler versions. Choose those with a sunlight emulator or soft nature sounds to awaken you to reduce the negative effects of a startling alarm.
Is It Better to Wake Up Naturally or With an Alarm?
As relatively new inventions, alarm clocks are effective, but they’re also a nuisance for our body chemistry.
We have many complex, interconnected mechanisms that regulate our sleeping and waking processes, and these were developed over thousands of years to ensure good results. In fact, our natural wake-up process begins over an hour before we open our eyes.
Alarm clocks, by contrast, cut through our sleep and disrupt our circadian rhythms by using stressful sounds to cause a sudden awakening. This is effective for ensuring we wake up exactly when we need to. However, it also causes stress and can leave us feeling groggy.
This is especially true if alarms wake us before we’re able to finish our natural sleep cycle. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep, so it may be time to reconsider how we wake.
There are pros and cons to waking up naturally or with an alarm. The best approach is to seek a middle-ground, especially if you are a night owl who struggles to get up without an alarm.
Benefits of Waking Up Without an Alarm Clock
When it occurs naturally, the process of waking up from a restful sleep is complex. Our bodies respond to the amount of light present, hormones, proteins, and biological rhythms.
The protein PER has a significant role in the natural wake-up process. In fact, one study found that it acts as a genetic alarm clock. Unlike the alarms on our phones and clocks, this genetic alarm clock is gentle, waking us up over the course of an hour or so.
Waking up naturally is an imprecise art at the best of times. Nonetheless, there are many benefits to working with your body’s rhythms, making it worthwhile, and many people sleep through their alarm anyway.
Completed Wake Cycle
Throughout the night, your body will go through multiple sleep cycles.
These are broken down into many stages, three of which include the NREM and REM stages. Each cycle will carry on for 90 minutes at a time, and you need 4-6 of these cycles to wake up refreshed.
An alarm clock is prone to waking you up in the middle of one of these cycles. However, waking up naturally ensures that you emerge from sleep at the finishing point of the cycle. No interruptions will mean better rest and regeneration, both physically and mentally.
So, you should feel refreshed when you wake up naturally. An alarm clock can leave you with that groggy, exhausted feeling when you are forced to wake mid-cycle.
Waking up naturally helps to preserve the soothing and de-stressing effects of sleep. When you have time to come around naturally, you’re more likely to find yourself:
- Mentally alert
- In a good mood for the day ahead
This can make it easier to deal with the rigors and stresses of the day. The benefits of minimizing stress, of course, are many and varied, both for your mental and physical health.
When you allow your body to wake up naturally, you’re ensuring that you get enough sleep. This is a considerable benefit since issues can arise from sleep deprivation.
According to the Institute of Medicine, losing just 1-2 hours of sleep regularly can impact everything from your mind to your heart.
Negative Effects of Alarm Clocks
With that in mind, rising naturally is a good idea where possible. The main (and perhaps only) benefit of using an alarm clock is the ability to wake up exactly when you need to, and that’s true even if you haven’t yet had enough sleep.
Exceptionally heavy sleepers, or those who are exhausted, may sleep through alarms, allowing them to wake up naturally later. However, most people will be woken by their uniquely stressful sounds, leaving them to deal with the harmful effects of an alarm clock.
Of course, using an alarm clock means missing out on the benefits of naturally waking up, as outlined above.
However, there are a couple more drawbacks to consider:
Interrupted Sleep Cycle
Unlike allowing your body to wake at its own pace, alarm clocks:
- Interrupt your sleep cycle
- Cause stress
- Cut short often necessary sleep
This can leave you agitated, groggy and make it hard to get through the day in a good mood.
Negative Health Effects
According to the Department of Behavioral Studies (Japan), the use of alarm clocks could be bad for your heart and health. The study found that waking naturally doesn’t cause serious rises in blood pressure and heart rate, that waking with an alarm clock does.
In fact, it can cause acute increases in older people and even increase the risk of things like heart attacks. Of course, these risks are less serious for younger people.
Despite this, there are some ways to retain the benefits of an alarm clock with limited negative side effects. For example, changing your alarm sound to something melodic and soothing may allow you to wake more gently, and that’s especially true when paired with a light source.
There are also sunrise alarms that mimic the increase in natural light caused by dawn to trigger the natural waking process manually. These are good compromises.
How to Wake Up Without an Alarm Clock
It’s always smart to wake up naturally if you can, which is better for your mood, body, and long-term health. Of course, it can be hard to wake up when you need to without an alarm if you are not a natural early bird.
Your circadian rhythms impact:
- When you wake up
- How much sleep you need
- When you have the most energy
Becoming a morning person when you’re a night owl is not impossible. However, it’s a long process that requires some lifestyle changes and perseverance.
The fastest approach to waking up earlier, without using an alarm clock, is to go to sleep earlier. This is easier said than done, of course, especially if you are a person who feels most energetic late at night. Nonetheless, the following steps can help.
Build A Nightly Routine
Decide on a routine that is reasonable and sustainable. Waking up without an alarm on time can be hard, so expect there to be a few mishaps along the way.
Go to bed half an hour to an hour earlier than you usually do, and try your best to relax for an hour before you go to bed. Avoid your phone and loud music or stimulating activities to make it easier to fall asleep.
Make A Morning Routine
Try to create an enticing morning routine. According to Gamification in Education and Business, incentives and rewards have a huge impact on motivation.
Adding some incentives to your morning routine (for example, an hour of video gaming or a favorite breakfast) could help you awaken and get up without the need for various alarms and a snooze button.
Transition With Gentler Alarm Clocks
With responsibilities to consider, it’s unlikely that you can stop using your alarm right away.
Instead, it’s wise to get a gentler wake-up call while you adjust. A sunrise alarm or a musical alarm sound with a bird song in it could take some of the stress out of your mornings.
Over time, you may find that you wake up before your regularly scheduled alarm. When this happens regularly, try switching it off to see if your body still wakes up on time.
It’s best to wake up naturally, as alarm clocks have drawbacks that impact your sleep cycle, mood, and health. With these tips, the transition should be smoother.