I believe my dreams. Say I'm dreaming about getting to the airport, or finding the room with the final exam I haven't studied for. When an alarm goes off, I snooze it: I am on a very important mission and cannot be interrupted. That is why I need this evil, terrible alarm clock app.
First I have to play a game of Memory. Then I have to put all those little numbers in order. Then I have to type that string of gibberish. And I'm only half done.
It's called I Can't Wake Up, and it's available for Android or iOS. Depending on how you set it up, it can be anything from a slightly more effective version of your current alarm clock to the digital equivalent of dragging you out of bed, throwing a bucket of cold water on you, and locking you out of your bedroom.
When the alarm goes off, you get a puzzle. As long as you are working on the puzzle, the alarm's music plays softly. The second you slack off, it gets louder again. Since I usually have a baby sleeping nearby, I'm extra motivated to keep working so the alarm stays quiet. Here's what my alarm usually looks like:
The app has eight possible tasks. The six I use in my everyday alarm are puzzles that don't take too much brainpower to work through, but they do require my attention. By the time I've worked through all six, there's a good chance I'm awake enough to remember that real life is more important than my dream mission.
But if I know I really have to get out of bed, I set an alarm that includes the big guns.
How to Make It Even Worse
The barcode task is the best and worst feature of this app. It will not let you rest until you have scanned the barcode it asks for. You get to enter your own barcodes, so you can pick the book on your bedside table, or the shampoo bottle in your shower, or the cereal box in your kitchen. You could also cut a barcode out of any label, and put it anywhere you want — your car's dashboard, perhaps.
You can make the puzzles harder, too. Each has a difficulty setting, so instead of playing Memory on a 4x4 grid, you could do a 5x6 grid instead. Or instead of the maths problems you see me doing in the video, you could have your alarm ask you to do long division and square roots.
You can ask the app to play music from your favourite (or least favourite) playlists if you choose to snooze after you work through the alarm. If you try to evade this by simply turning the alarm off, the Awake Test can save your bacon. This means the app will check on you five minutes after you said you woke up. If you don't drag the slider to "Yes, I am awake," it starts the alarm all over again.
You can also give the app the power to completely lock you out of your phone until you've finished the alarm in the advanced settings. You can also ask it to check for unfinished alarms on boot, in case you thought rebooting your phone would be a way back to bed.
In short, this alarm will be exactly as evil as you want it to be. I once had it go off at the end of a three-hour drive, after I had woken up hours earlier than usual to start a road trip. My early alarm worked fine, and I had a pleasant drive with lots of coffee, but then at my usual wakeup time of 7:30 my phone quit navigating and asked me to do the puzzles instead. (I stuffed my phone under a jacket and looked for a place to pull over so I could reboot the phone and get back to what I was doing.) This app is a miracle if you're a snoozer like me, but enjoy the most evil settings responsibly.