27 June 2007

Alarming Alarms

I found some crazy little alarm clocks over at ThinkGeek. One of them rolls away from you when the alarm goes off, forcing you to chase it around the bedroom to turn it off. The other launches a helicopter, which you have to retrieve and replace before the alarm stops.

Now, even though they made me laugh at first, the more I think about it, the more I can't stand them.

From a systems engineering perspective (or problem solving in general) they are solving the wrong problem, and doing it too late. They address the symptom (oversleeping), not the cause (fatigue). If you consistently sleep through your alarm, it's not because the snooze button is too convenient. It's something deeper, which even an army of mobile alarm clocks can't address. These alarms are clever in a twisted way, but they just can't be good for you.

Now, I realize my own experience with sleep is sort of unusual in America these days. Most of the time, I go to bed rather early (i.e. before 11), fall asleep immediately, and wake up easily. I understand that for chemical, biological, psychological, physiological or family reasons (or a combination of all 5), many people just can't do that. They have my sympathies.

But then there are those who just choose to deprive themselves of sleep, figuring their magic rolling/spinning/flying alarm clock will compensate for their behavior. To them, I say "Hey, here's an idea - how about laying off the caffeine, turning the TV off and going to bed at a decent time? You might have to do that a few nights in a row before you fully catch up, but missing a few episodes of The Daily Show won't kill you (and sleep deprivation just might)." Or better yet - how about taking a day off in the middle of the week and sleeping in or otherwise resting? (you can always watch The Daily Show online, afterall).


Kim said...

Interesting post. You make a good point about addressing the issue of fatigue. However, there is another issue that is relevant - for me at least. Though I am normally well rested (must have those 8+ hours!) I can get used to an alarm and start turning it off in my sleep. Most of the time I'll wake up on my own 10-15 minutes later, but an 'active alarm' could be helpful. Though a hungry dog happily sticking her wet nose in my face is pretty no-fail too.

Dan said...

Good point. I've even had alarms that are two quiet in the past, and I had to get rid of them because they just didn't wake me up.

The main point, of course, is that it's not always the clock's fault...

lisa said...

Hey Dan, I haven't used an alarm clock in years. I go to sleep when I get tired and usually wake up somewhere between 5am and 7:30am. I find alarm clocks a really harsh and rude way to start a day. I've had sleeping problems in the past and that was miserable, but somehow I just managed to conquer that. But really? Take a day off in the middle of the week?! Gasp!

Gabe said...

Amen my brotha! In fact, I took off today for that very reason. For some, Ambien is a God send. Although I think many more people could get to sleep if their employers didn't strees them out and overwork them. I think many people suffer high anxiety levels simple becasue of the place they work. I also believe it has something to do with the way you were raised. If you had parents that had outward signs of worry, you probably have a harder time getting your own mind to rest. And if you were raised that sleeping at odd hours was unacceptable (like napping in the afternoon) then you might also have a hard time going to bed when you want. I sure envy you my friend. It would be great to just fall asleep.