Last Updated on February 10, 2024 by Louise Carter
For many of us, waking up is the hardest part of the day. Night owls often find getting up early in the morning difficult, even with the assistance of an alarm clock.
It’s healthier to wake up naturally if you can because this ensures your sleep cycle reaches its natural conclusion, allowing you to awaken refreshed and recharged.
Also, you won’t have the stressful blare of an alarm scaring you awake. People who wake up naturally are usually mentally sharper throughout the day.
Of course, alarm clocks are more reliable for waking up on time, especially if you’re not an early bird. Try using an alarm clock with a sunlight emulator or nature sounds to awaken you.
Is It Better to Wake Up Naturally or With an Alarm?
As relatively new inventions, alarm clocks are effective but disruptive to our body chemistry.
We have many complicated, interconnected mechanisms regulating our sleeping and waking processes developed over thousands of years to ensure favorable results.
Our natural wake-up process begins over an hour before we open our eyes.
Alarm clocks cut through our sleep and disrupt our circadian rhythms by using stressful sounds to cause a sudden awakening. Although effective, alarm clocks cause stress and can leave us confused.
This is especially true if alarm clocks wake us before we finish our natural sleep cycle. One in three adults doesn’t get enough sleep, so it may be time to reconsider how we wake up.
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’re a night owl who struggles to wake up without an alarm.
Benefits of Waking Up Without an Alarm Clock
When it occurs naturally, waking up from restful sleep is complex. Our bodies respond to the amount of light present, hormones, and biological rhythms.
The protein PER has a significant role in the natural wake-up process, with one study finding that it fulfills the role of a genetic alarm clock.
Unlike the alarms on our phones and clocks, this genetic alarm clock is gentle, waking us up over an hour.
Waking up naturally is an imprecise art. Nonetheless, there are benefits to working with the body’s rhythms, and many people sleep through their alarm anyway.
Completed Wake Cycle
Throughout the night, the body goes through various sleep cycles.
These are broken down into stages, three of which include the NREM and REM stages. Each cycle lasts 90 minutes, and you need 4-6 cycles to wake up refreshed.
An alarm clock can wake you up during one of these cycles.
However, waking up naturally ensures you emerge from sleep at the finishing point of the cycle. No interruptions will mean better rest and regeneration, both physically and mentally.
When you wake up naturally, you should feel refreshed. An alarm clock can leave you feeling groggy and exhausted when forced to wake mid-cycle.
Waking up naturally preserves 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.
When you allow your body to wake up naturally, you’re getting 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 negatively impact your brain and heart health.
Adverse Effects of Alarm Clocks
The main (and perhaps only) benefit of using an alarm clock is waking up when necessary, even if you haven’t 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 awoken by their stressful sounds.
Of course, using an alarm clock means missing out on the benefits of naturally waking up. There are also a couple of additional drawbacks to consider:
Interrupted Sleep Cycle
Unlike allowing the body to wake at its own pace, alarm clocks:
- Interrupt the sleep cycle.
- Cause stress.
- Cut short sleep.
This can leave you agitated and groggy, making it hard to get through the day in a good mood.
Adverse Health Effects
According to the Department of Behavioral Studies (Japan), using alarm clocks can harm the heart.
The study found that waking up naturally doesn’t significantly raise our blood pressure and heart rate compared to waking up with an alarm clock.
It can cause acute increases in older people and even increase the risk of heart attacks. Of course, these risks are much lower in younger people.
Despite this, there are ways to retain the benefits of an alarm clock with limited adverse side effects.
For example, changing the alarm sound to something melodic and soothing may allow you to awaken more gently, especially when paired with a light source.
Sunrise alarms also mimic the increased natural light caused by dawn to trigger the natural waking process.
How to Wake Up Without an Alarm Clock
It’s always better to wake up naturally, which is good for your mood and long-term health. Of course, if you’re not an early bird, it can be difficult to wake up when you need to without an alarm.
Your circadian rhythms impact the following:
- When you wake up.
- The amount of sleep you need.
- When you have the most energy.
Becoming a morning person when you’re a night owl isn’t impossible. However, it’s a long process that requires specific lifestyle changes and perseverance.
The fastest way to wake up earlier, without an alarm clock, is to sleep earlier. This is easier said than done, especially if you feel most energetic late at night.
Nonetheless, the following steps can be beneficial:
Go to bed half an hour to an hour earlier than usual, and do your utmost to relax for an hour before bedtime. Avoid phones, playing video games, and stimulating activities to make it harder to fall asleep.
Create an enticing morning routine. According to Gamification in Education and Business, incentives and rewards significantly impact motivation.
Adding incentives to your morning routine, like a delicious breakfast, could make waking up easier.
Gentler Alarm Clocks
With responsibilities to consider, it’s unlikely that you can stop using your alarm immediately.
Instead, a gentler wake-up call is recommended while adjusting. A sunrise or musical alarm sound with a bird song could reduce morning stress.
Over time, you may wake up before your scheduled alarm. When this happens regularly, try switching it off on a non-working day to see if your body still wakes up on time.
It’s better to wake up naturally because alarm clocks have drawbacks that impact your sleep cycle, mood, and health. With these tips, the transition should be smoother.