Forget the Alarm Clock
June 2020 | Written by Mohan
Forget your alarm clock.
Why do we set an alarm? To wake up, of course. Without one you wouldn’t sleep indefinitely, forever. You would wake up the way you do on a true resting comforting vacation - naturally. In fact, if you ever spend a few nights camping or in nature of some sort, you will find that you wake up naturally feeling rested and refreshed.
We wake up due to light, our bodies’ chemical reactions, and external stimuli.
An alarm clock is necessary if we aren’t getting enough sleep. If you went to bed 9 hours before you had to get up, you would not need one.
We’ve all come to accept it, but even the name is something we should be suspect of. It’s literally called an alarm clock. The definition of alarm is an anxious awareness of danger. What a horrible way to start your morning by having the external stimuli wake you up and trigger some fear and fight or flight response in your brain. I don’t know about you but I used to wake up feeling an uncomfortable rush of adrenaline and slightly out of breath from my alarm clock. Perhaps I was setting it too loud.
Companies have come up with all sorts of ways to address this. Alarm clocks that gradually get louder. Ones that use light instead of sound. Ones that try to time it with your optimal sleep rhythm.
There is something to those products in that they aim to reduce your dependence on a sharp external stimuli and instead help you wake up more naturally or try to get better sleep.
The Aaram approach has us always looking for opposites, so that we can find balance. In this case, it’s somewhat obvious: the opposite of an alarm to wake you up is a reminder to go to bed (to start the process of arriving to sleep). It’s a commitment to not trying to feel fully rested, or trick the body somehow, but to actually getting enough rest. Eight hours of sleep, so probably nine hours in bed. If you normally get up at 6:30am, that means at 9:30pm you’re going to start your sleep rituals and try to get in bed.
Your wind down notification goes off. Because old habits die hard, you might find yourself in the middle of a Netflix show, or handling some last minute emails. It will take a few days for you to stop, really. But you can try now and make progress. So you write fewer emails, or maybe just do the unthinkable and turn off Netflix. It saves where you’re at in the show, don’t worry. You change your clothes, maybe put a few things away in your room, straighten the pillowcases, use the bathroom, brush your teeth, wash your face, grab a glass of water, and are physically in bed maybe 20 minutes after the bedtime timer began. Perhaps you read (an actual physical book, and ideally not something overly stimulating. News is not the right idea), or listen to an audiobook or meditation, or chat with your spouse. Your phone is not within arm’s reach.
Peeking at your phone during the night is like opening the lid when cooking something in steam. It’s like exposing old school photography to light. It’s moving during a long exposure picture. It’s trying to take a small sip of air underwater. There’s no way to just peek! You do real damage to your sleep cycle and process. For it to be worth it, the bar needs to be high.
Remember that this is when your decision making is at its absolute worst. It’s the end of the day, maybe you’ve had a glass of wine. You are truly mentally exhausted. Rely on the decisions you made when you were your sharpest self.