Tips For Better Sleep

Alarm Anxiety is a Thing and You Probably Have It

May 2, 2023   By Jennifer Cook

It’s 4:50 am, and you’re lying in bed staring at the ceiling. The alarm is set for 5:45 am, so you can make it to an early morning meeting. You’ve had a restless night as there’s a lot on your mind. You look at the clock, turn over to your side and close your eyes. You wake up again in a startle and look at the clock. It’s 5:30 am. Ugh, you have 15 more minutes of sleep.

There goes your morning vibes.

Alarm anxiety is a fear associated with a lack of trust in your alarm. We have things to wake up for and places to be, and if that alarm doesn’t go off, it can ruin our whole day. So rather than trust that it will do its job, we toss and turn for the few hours before it’s set to go off — which causes stress and anxiety. 

This can also be in the form of worrying about false alarms or the literal idea that your morning alarm already went off without you being jerked awake.

This can happen to anyone and usually sets the tone for the rest of the day — here’s how to avoid alarm anxiety, so it doesn’t ruin your day. 

First of All, Let’s Define It Properly

Alarm anxiety is the fear of clock failure or the stress of not getting enough sleep before the alarm goes off. This is rooted in classical conditioning, which is when a conditioned stimulus (alarm tone) is preceded by an unconditioned stimulus (wake up). So our brain associates the sound of our alarm clock with waking up, and because this is in somewhat of a surprising way, it puts a lot of stress on our body. This can cause people to react negatively to it, according to Psychology Today.  

Sleep Coach Elina Winnel explains to PopSugar that an alarm clock forces you into an “alarmed” state when it shocks you awake each morning. This releases a big rush of stress hormones to start your day, which is not ideal. But how else would we wake up? 

It’s perfectly reasonable to incorporate an alarm system that helps you get your day rolling, whether you’re in high school or you need to be early to work for a presentation. What makes alarm anxiety a concern is how it might have long and short-term effects on your sleep and overall mental health.

Some suggest a move from sound-based alarm clocks, offering specific alternatives like light-based ones to get you moving. They argue that the use of jarring sounds can cause complications in relation to what sleep stage you’re in.

Sleep inertia, as it’s called, is affected by the alarms you set. The tricky part is that you can’t choose what stage of sleep you’re in when waking up. You wake up in the wrong one and end up sluggish, disoriented, and moody.

How to avoid it and improve sleep:

Change the Sound of the Alarm  

This is a big one. How often do you cringe when you hear your alarm clock sound like someone else’s ringtone? Oof. Try switching the sound of the alarm to something a little more pleasant and less “alarming.” For instance, a mellow song that gradually increases in tempo. Remember that when you wake up to songs you enjoy, you might grow to hate them (going back to classical conditioning). 

You can edit your alarm sound in the settings if you have a smartphone. There’s an option to choose songs from your music library or to buy tones from the App Store. Play around with it to find a sound that’s soothing for you. Switch it up every few weeks.  

Set Two Alarms If You’re Really Worried About It

Suppose you don’t trust your digital clock or the standard one on your phone. Back it up with a trustworthy app. Plenty won’t turn off until it knows you’re awake. For instance, Alarm Clock For Heavy Sleepers is an app for Android phones that makes you complete a puzzle before shutting off the alarm. (A little daunting but possibly effective.)  

Your Fitbit can also be used as an alarm and might be a good option if you wake up earlier than your partner. The device wakes you up by vibrating on your wrist (and we already know it’s okay to sleep with your fitness tracker). A Fitbit’s battery can last up to five days; just keep an eye on it if you decide to use it as an alarm. 

Another alarm alternative (or backup) is the Pressure Sensitive Smart Alarm Clock. It’s a floor mat that acts as a dual alarm. This handy invention never snoozes. You set a sound to wake you up in the morning, and it won’t turn off until you stand on it for five seconds. It quite literally forces you out of bed. 

This Philips Wake-up Light Alarm Clock is a best seller on Amazon and mimics sunrise in your room. Wake-up lights are clinically proven to help you wake up feeling refreshed and might be a soothing alternative to a blaring noise that jolts you awake. You can also set sounds in addition to the sunrise effect to birds chirping, ocean waves, or classical music.

Having two separate alarms can help put your mind at ease, knowing that something will wake you up in the morning.

Hide the Time

Have you ever gone to great lengths to hide the time display on the bedside table of a hotel room? You know, because on vacation, you don’t need to set the alarm and generally don’t need a neon red light blasting at you with four numbers when you’re trying to relax? 

Do the same thing when you’re at home and hide the time. Even if you don’t have a physical, digital alarm clock, put your phone inside the radiation-safe drawer of your night table or even under your bed. Avoid checking it every hour to potentially avoid stress from knowing how much longer you have until you need to wake up.

Practice Meditation or Deep Breathing Exercises Before Bed 

Eliminate stress before you go to bed. Try calming the body down to experience better sleep throughout the night. Meditation apps like Headspace or Calm talk you through techniques to help focus on breathing and ease oxygen flow to your brain. 

A study found that mindful meditation improved sleep quality and helped adults fight insomnia, fatigue, and depression. By focusing on your breathing, you’re bringing your mind to the present, enabling you to relax and ease into sleep. 

Meditation is also known to increase the production of serotonin, a chemical produced by the body that helps create a sense of relaxation.

Get a Full Night Sleep

Create a habit of getting seven to eight hours of rest each night. This amount of sleep helps your body maintain its immune system, improves its memory, and might even add a few years to your life. 

To create a sleep cycle, set a time where you put your phone in aeroplane mode to avoid distractions and settle into bed. Set a consistent time to wake up every morning and start your daily routine. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, avoid heavy meals close to bedtime or take a warm shower before bed. 

You might also want to lessen your exposure to social media and entertainment before bed. That means you should cut your time on apps like Netflix and Tiktok. Those trends and episodes can wait; your alarm won’t.

Of course, how could you not want to get seven to eight hours of sleep when your memory foam mattress and silky smooth bamboo sheets provide ultimate comfort? Try upgrading your bedding to maximize relaxation and improve your sleep.

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