Skip to main content

Need multiple alarms to wake up in the morning? Here's what could be happening, according to experts

·5 mins

Let’s say you need to wake up by 7 a.m. to get to work on time. So you set your first smartphone alarm for 6:30 a.m., your second at 6:45 a.m. and your third at 6:55 a.m. to avoid the snooze button. And you throw in 7:05 a.m. just to be cautious. Does this sound familiar? If you are clogging your clock app with all those morning alarms, you’re setting yourself up for a groggy morning, experts say. Hitting the snooze button for increments of nine minutes of sleep at a time does the same thing, experts say. For the last hours of sleep, people usually go in and out of the fourth and last stage of the sleep cycle, known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This stage is particularly important for memory processing and creative thinking, they added. Having that stage of sleep fragmented could impact that brain function. They recommend setting one alarm, allowing for deep sleep to continue uninterrupted until you need to wake up in the morning. Here’s how to train your mind and body to get out of bed after that first alarm goes off. Why do I have trouble getting up in the morning? Certain sleep disorders could be causing someone to have trouble waking up in the morning to one alarm, such as sleep inertia, which causes a difficult transition out of sleep. That may result in someone unknowingly turning off and snoozing alarms when first woken up. Most of the time, however, someone who needs multiple alarms to wake up in the morning is sleep deprived, experts say. First, try to get to any underlying issues that could be causing this problem. Are you actually getting the sleep you need? Not the amount of sleep you think you should get or that you want to get, but the amount of sleep that you actually need. And are you getting that on a nightly basis? Most adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but it does take time to figure out how much sleep you need. Experts recommend students use summer break to find how many hours of sleep they get naturally after a few weeks. For others, a long vacation could provide some helpful answers. Another reason someone may battle the alarm clock every morning is that they’re naturally a night owl, but their work schedule calls for an early bird. But there are ways to gradually shift your body clock and make early mornings easier, they added. How to wake up to one alarm If you have to wake up at 7 a.m., and the alarm starts at 6 a.m., you are getting an hour of bad-quality sleep, instead of just sleeping through until 7 a.m, experts said. While setting just one alarm is best, it might be hard to wake up to only one after using multiple alarms as your safety net, they added. Experts recommend testing out different alarm clocks, such as one that utilizes light or an alarm that makes you get out of bed to turn it off. Getting 15 to 30 minutes of sunlight in the morning can also help shift the internal body clock and is particularly important for those who are natural night owls, they said. It is also important to wake up and go to sleep around the same times each day. If you’re somebody who sleeps really well from 3 a.m. to noon, and that’s how you sleep on the weekends, but on Monday morning, you have to wake up at 6 a.m. to commute, that will be hard, they said. That’s earlier than your biology is prepared to wake up, and it’s going to be very difficult to get up. Experts recommend shifting bedtime 30 minutes earlier every few days, or an hour earlier once a week for those looking to change their biological clocks. Avoiding harsh lights and limiting screen time up to four hours before bed can also help promote the body’s natural melatonin production, they added. If someone finds they have woken up before their alarm goes off, experts don’t recommend checking the time, because doing so could make it difficult to fall back asleep if they start to worry about the sleep time they have left or the day ahead of them. Instead, experts recommend trying to fall back asleep until it feels as though 15 to 20 minutes have passed. If you’re still awake, then you can check the time and decide if you want to get up for the day, they added. If it’s close to your normal wake time, you might start your day a little early. If it’s in the middle of the night, you might go off and do something quiet, like read, and then come back to bed when you’re feeling more drowsy or sleepy. While some may be able to naturally wake up without using an alarm, it is not a realistic goal for everyone, particularly those who experience sleep inertia, or have naturally later biological clocks, experts said. ‘We never want to sleep shame people,’ they said. ‘In medicine, and in public health we operate on averages a lot of the time, what’s best for the most. But there are these biological differences, and we want to make sure that everybody is optimizing their sleep the best that they can.’