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How to choose your alarm

28-06-2010

Most of us rely on alarm clocks to get us up in the morning, but few are aware of the potentially damaging effects that the daily wake-up call can have on our overall sleep quality.

Being shocked out of a deep sleep is a distinctly unpleasant sensation, largely because it bypasses the natural cycle of sleep that the body is programmed to carry out, and prevents waking up gradually. A shrill or particularly loud alarm clock is the worst for this, and can cause increased heart rate and, if experienced regularly, higher blood pressure. When the body is woken suddenly from a deep sleep, the natural urge is to try and go back to sleep, which is usually not possible.

Starting off the day in such a way leads to ongoing tiredness, irritability and sluggishness – the calling cards of sleep deprivation. Repeating the process every morning can quickly result in wider health and wellbeing issues as the body fights to provide the necessary energy required throughout the day on a schedule of poor quality sleep.

So, that’s increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, low productivity, continued tiredness and generally dwindling wellbeing - all because of an alarm clock.

With good sleep hygiene an alarm clock shouldn’t necessarily be required, as the body is attuned to waking up at approximately the same time every morning. However, few of us can comfortably rely on such an arrangement, especially considering the demands of working life and consequences of an unexpected lie-in.

If the alarm clock really is an indispensable part of your sleep routine, as it is for the majority of us, here are some tips to ensure that it doesn’t start to impact on your sleep quality, health and wellbeing;

• Avoid ‘alarming’ alarms. Pick a gentle, relaxing melody as your alarm. This will help to make the transition from being asleep to awake as calm as possible.

• Try a ‘sunlight’ alarm. These devices work by gradually lighting up the bedroom, replicating the effects of the sun and waking you up naturally.

• Avoid radio alarms. In the same that you should steer clear of particularly shrill or loud alarms, avoiding a radio alarm means that you’re not at the mercy of a morning DJ who could realistically be playing anything.

• Vary your alarm. Even if you’ve settled on a pleasing and gentle alarm it is always a good idea to change it on a reasonably regular basis. This helps the body avoid becoming too accustomed to a particular melody, and prevents negative association.

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