Can’t Wake Up to Alarm Clocks? Here Are 5 Tips to Fix This

Can’t Wake Up to Alarm Clocks? Here Are 5 Tips to Fix This

It is extremely frustrating when you can’t wake up to alarm clocks in the morning. Notice I said clocks – plural. There are many people who simply cannot wake up in the morning no matter how many alarms they set or how loud and obnoxious those alarms are. This is something that interferes with your quality of life and is a major problem.

Perhaps you simply can’t hear your alarm in the morning because you’re always in a deep sleep cycle during that time and that’s why you can’t wake up to your alarm. Or perhaps you have a circadian sleep disorder such as  Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS), which delays your sleep by 2+ hours beyond what is reasonable by society’s standards.

Based on my recent blog post about the average bedtime for adults, the average adult goes to bed at 11:30 pm, so if you have DSPS, you will likely find you aren’t sleepy until 1:30 am or later. If you work or go to school during traditional hours, going to bed at 1:30 am or later is a huge problem.

Whatever the reason for your alarm clock struggles, it is my hope that this blog post will help you fix your inability to wake up to alarms – or at the very least, point you in the right direction to get some real help. 

1 – Melatonin Therapy

Melatonin is the fabulous sleep-inducing, light-sensitive hormone produced by the pineal gland as we are progressively exposed to less light in the evening and into bedtime. The less light our eyes detect, the more melatonin the pineal gland produces, making us sleepy at night.

If you’ve already tried the common suggestion of dimming your lights in the late evening and powering down all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime, maybe taking a melatonin supplement will help kickstart your melatonin production in the evening.

The appealing thing about melatonin supplements is that they are a cheap sleep treatment and are readily available on Amazon if you click here, or at any pharmacy, Costco, Target, Walmart, etc.

melatonin wake up to alarm

Please note: It is my strong opinion (and the opinion of my doctor, btw) that melatonin supplements should only be taken temporarily or for occasional sleep issues caused by temporary things like jet lag, daylight savings acclimation, the holiday season, back to school, etc. Ask your doctor about his or her opinion of you taking a melatonin supplement before you start on a regimen.

A melatonin supplement just might give you the jumpstart you need to get on a quality sleep schedule, though, so don’t be afraid to try it out. I’ve taken a melatonin supplement before – and I remember falling asleep quickly at a very decent hour. 

How Much Melatonin Should You Take?

Don’t default to the largest dosage possible. In fact, start low. The lower the dosage you can get away with, the better off you will be. Here’s a helpful melatonin dosage chart and 7 dosage tips from Dr. Bryan Tran, DO.

shift bedtime to wake up to alarm

2 – Shift Bedtime Gradually & Get On a Consistent Bedtime Schedule

Do you have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)? Or do you really just suck at being consistent and realistic when it comes to sticking to a reasonable bedtime? Either way, a lot of people find it beneficial to gradually shift their bedtime backward by 15 minutes per week until they are finally going to bed 7 to 9 hours before wake-up time. 

Being strict and persistent with yourself really comes in handy here. Once you reach your target bedtime, make absolute certain that you go to bed at that time every single night. Put yourself on a schedule of military precision and eventually, you will train your body to get acclimated to a normal bedtime that will allow you to get enough sleep and actually wake up when you alarm goes off in the morning.

Why Are Most People Able to Wake Up to an Alarm?

Most people (I know, I know… not you) easily awaken when their alarms go off because, by that time of morning, they are in a lighter phase of sleep. This is because they went to bed early enough. The body enters into longer light sleep phases as morning approaches during their last 4 hours of sleep, giving those “normies” a higher chance of responding to the alarm.

If you don’t go to bed until, say 2 am, and then try to wake up at 6am, you are delaying your sleep cycles, making it much more difficult to wake up to your alarm. You would likely still be stuck in one of the deep sleep stages (stage 3 or 4 in the image below) that make up more of your first 4 hours of sleep than of the last 4 hours. These are same restorative stages that most other people already surpassed earlier in the night.

3 – Get a Sunrise Alarm Clock

I’ve mentioned my super awesome sunrise alarm clock several times in other blog posts, but that’s because I can’t stop gushing about it. It has seriously changed my life and I know several people who agree with me. Not only do I have a good attitude about early mornings now, which is a miracle in and of itself, but I also have no issues waking up to this alarm even though it’s gentle. Why buy a military-style alarm that will only irritate you when a natural, simulated sunrise alarm fits the bill?

philips sunrise alarm clock

The reason this alarm works so well for me is because it gently probes me awake with a simulated sunrise that gradually increases in intensity over a period of 30 minutes as my wake-up time approaches. It’s as if I have my own personal sun next to my bed. I happen to be more sensitive to light than I am sound, so the sunrise light works wonders for me.

The nature sounds are also a pleasant change from the obnoxious beeping of my former alarm clock. I’d much rather wake up to chirping birds than beeeeeep beeeeeeeeeeep beeeeeeeeeepppppp!

4 – Get an Alarm Clock that Shakes the Bed

If you happen to be in a deep sleep cycle when it’s time to wake up, it is highly likely you will sleep through most alarms. This is where bed shaking alarms come in.

Those silly smartphone apps that require you to solve a math problem or scan the barcode of an item in your bathroom in hopes of waking you up are way too easy to sidestep. All you have to do is power off your phone and the alarm stops. I don’t think apps or alarms like those are effective, and are definitely not a long-term solution to the problem of not being able to wake up to an alarm.

bed shaking alarm

The Holy Grail of Bed Shaking Alarm Clocks

I have not used an alarm that shakes the bed because I love my sunrise alarm clock, but this one on Amazon comes highly recommended by someone I know who is hearing impaired and who also happens to sleep like a rock. Even if you are not deaf and are just a deep sleeper, I can see the value in giving this alarm clock a shot.

She’s been using it for years – since college, to help her get to class on time. She did mention that she tried a cheaper bed shaker alarm initially and that it broke after only a few months. She’s been using this one since 2012.

The bed shaker feature is an absolute must for my deaf friend, or else she will oversleep and miss work, appointments, flights… you name it. It has bright flashing LED lights too, which she told me also help wake her up.

5 – Visit Your Doctor & Sign Up for a Sleep Study

If you’ve literally tried everything to no avail, it’s time to visit your doctor and express your concerns. He or she might initially have you keep a sleep diary and try various treatments. If nothing works, they might recommend that you sign up for an overnight or 2-night sleep study to let sleep specialists assess your sleep habits.

sleep study wake up to alarm

A sleep study will give you an opportunity to figure out what is going on once and for all. You might even want to suggest to your doctor that you are open to doing a sleep study from the very beginning so that you aren’t playing Russian roulette with pharmaceuticals that aren’t a good fit. 

If you are at this stage of desperation, it is important to let medical professionals work their magic and see if they can come up with a solution that will work for you. This American Academy of Sleep Medicine article answers some FAQs about sleep studies.

I'm the owner of and an enthusiastic early riser. Let's discuss why that is... and maybe I can make you a believer in magical mornings as well!

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