How to Wake Up If You Keep Sleeping Through Your Alarm

How to Wake Up If You Keep Sleeping Through Your Alarm
Photo: Jeramey Lende, Shutterstock

The life of a “morning person” sounds so peaceful and organised. Imagine waking up on time — even early — to make breakfast, do yoga, plan an outfit, or otherwise calmly get ready for the day. Must be nice. The reality is that plenty of us wake up in a panic after oversleeping, completely tuning out our alarms until the last possible second, then rushing into the day in a frenzy.

So, how can you wake up on time if you keep sleeping through your alarm?

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep

Dr. Guy Meadows, co-founder and clinical lead at Sleep School, explained, “People often aren’t getting enough sleep during the night when they sleep through their alarm in the morning. Whether it’s one night or over the course of several nights, by not getting a full eight hours of sleep, you create a sleep debt that needs to be repaid.”

Sleeping a ton on the weekend does not make up for getting little shut-eye during the week. Your body will fight to reclaim its rest time if you don’t actively give it enough, so make sure you’re setting and sticking to a real bedtime.

Make a plan to go to sleep every night around 10 p.m., for instance. Starting at 9 p.m., get ready for bed. Relax. Read a book. Drink some caffeine-free tea. Do your skincare routine. Bust out the coziest pajamas you have. Put your phone down.

Commit, most importantly, to actually going to sleep when you say you will. Don’t stay up to finish a compelling chapter in your novel or scroll TikTok endlessly. Setting a schedule and sticking to it will help you form better sleep habits.

Know yourself and your sleep schedule

You definitely aren’t a “morning person” in practice, but you might not be one by nature, either.

Meadows said, “Additionally, some people could be sleeping through their alarm because they are sleeping at the wrong time for their chronotype, or natural sleep tendencies. Those who are naturally ‘night owls’ tend to stay up later at night, and, therefore, sleep later in the morning. When their alarm goes off in the morning, especially during the earlier hours of the morning, they are in a deeper phase of sleep than those who go to bed earlier in the evening.”

This is tough. The world does not work according to your personal needs. Your chronotype might lend itself to late-night productivity, but the boss at that job you have to clock into at 8 a.m. does not care about your body’s natural rhythms. Your kids’ teachers do not care, either, and neither does the friend you promised to meet for a morning jog or coffee date. The fact is that you have to wake up and exist in the world at the generally accepted times for productivity, whether that aligns with your body’s cycles or not.

Still, knowing yourself is a good practice. Understanding your body can at least relieve some of the disappointment you feel on days you don’t make it out of bed on time. Give yourself grace and try to do better tomorrow.

Consider other factors

It may be that you are someone who has “more sleep spindles” than a so-called light sleeper, which means you sleep deeper and don’t hear as much noise, Meadows said. There could be other factors impacting your ability to hear and acknowledge that alarm every morning, however.

“One of the common symptoms of depression is oversleeping,” Meadows said. “Therefore, if someone is sleeping through their alarm, they could be exhibiting signs of depression. Additionally, depression and sleep have a bidirectional relationship, meaning that poor sleep habits can contribute to the development of depression, and having depression makes an individual more likely to suffer from sleep-related issues. These sleep issues can affect the function of serotonin, which is the hormone that regulates mood.”

You should consider whether your mental health is affecting your sleep, and if you think you might be depressed or have another medical issue, consult a professional.

So, what can you do tonight to make sure you wake up on time tomorrow?

Beyond setting and sticking to that schedule we recommended, here are a few other methods to wake up on time:

  • Create a morning routine. Whether you need a shower, caffeine, exercise, or breakfast, start routinely indulging each and every morning. Give yourself something exciting to wake up for.
  • Wake up to light. You can leave your curtains open or use a sun lamp, but you need to have brightness to get you up and keep you up. This should be pleasant and natural, like sunlight. Remember your parent flipping on the overhead light to wake you up before school when you were a kid? That’s not the way to go.
  • Have an accountability partner. Make plans with someone else so you have someone you can’t let down. Take an exercise class with a friend, walk the kids to school with a neighbourhood parent, or visit a new breakfast spot with your partner. The embarrassment of potentially flaking on them only for them to learn you were sleeping in might just be a motivator for you. You could also ask an early-rising friend to call you or convince your partner to force you to wake up in the morning.
  • Change the alarm sound. Toggle your alarm to a different noise every night when you set it. The surprise of an unfamiliar sound can propel you up and out of bed. Consider a wakeup call, too. WakeUpDialer.com is a free option for a wakeup call that could rouse you with the sound of your ringtone.
  • Use an app. Meadows’ Sleep School has a “30-Day Sleep Essentials” course that teaches you how to establish a regular wakeup routine. There are also apps out there that sound an alarm until you complete a task. Alarmy, for instance, has a number of settings. You can choose to type complex sentences, solve a puzzle, or scan a predetermined barcode (like the one on your toothpaste) to get it to shut up. Engaging your brain like that should push you out of sleep mode, even if it’s a little annoying.

“Finally, if all else fails and you truly cannot wake up to your current alarm, I recommend setting several very loud alarms and placing the clock or phone out of reach,” Meadows said. “This means you have to physically get up to set the alarm off, which makes it impossible to ignore it or press snooze, and gets you out of bed.”

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