Is an Alarm Clock Good for Sleep Health?

June 21, 2024 · John Gallagher
is alarm clock good for sleep health

Does an Alarm Clock Help My Sleep Health?

In an ideal world, everyone has the privilege of earning a full night of rest.

But for an estimated 33% of Americans, that’s simply not the case. One in three people don’t get the sleep they need each night — creating irritability, fatigue, and other consequences of poor sleep.

Alarm clocks have long been marketed as the long-standing solution to this problem. Set your alarm, often on your phone, and it will wake you up at whatever time you need. And if you need a few more minutes of rest, you’re only a snooze button away from returning to sleep.

Here’s the issue: alarm clocks can directly interfere with your health and interrupt  an otherwise healthy sleep pattern. They can prevent a full circadian rhythm, disrupt your sleep partner’s slumber, and prevent your body from experiencing the full benefits of restorative sleep — especially deep sleep.

Let’s dive into the concept of an alarm clock: why it works, when it might injure your sleep patterns, and how you can achieve the full effects of a good night’s sleep without one.

Sleep & Circadian Rhythms: Your Body’s Natural Sleep Health Processes

Your body is a complicated machine, one that works to equip you with the energy you need each day. Sleep is one of the main ways your body recharges, through stages that include light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Each stage of sleep plays an important role in rejuvenating your body while you sleep.

Your circadian rhythm, the 24-hour cycle that regulates rest and wake periods, is also an important component of nightly sleep. This natural cycle is influenced by a variety of different external cues, including morning light and evening darkness. Without a proper circadian rhythm, your body can experience challenges in recognizing when it’s time to power down and when it’s time to wake up.

These sleep components, your sleep stages and circadian rhythm, play a strong role in providing your body with the energy it needs. They also help to protect your cardiovascular health, digestive health, and physical healing.

Despite their benefits, alarm clocks can directly injure both your circadian rhythm and your sleep stages. They can wake you up at irregular times, interrupting or preventing a full REM stage. They can also directly impair your circadian rhythm, over time teaching your body to wake or sleep at incorrect times.

Pros of Using an Alarm Clock

Alarm clocks do offer a range of benefits, particularly for anyone trying to make the most of their sleep schedule. The benefits of an alarm clock can include:

  • Schedule adherence: Alarm clocks help you stick to a predetermined schedule. Whether it’s a busy weekday or a lazy weekend morning, they can help you maintain consistency in your calendar.
  • Time management: Alarm clocks greatly assist in time management. They allow you to reserve enough time in the day for activities like work, exercise, and socialization.
  • Avoid oversleeping: Alarm clocks help prevent oversleeping by forcing your body into a wake cycle at a set time.
  • Productivity: Start your day with a sense of purpose and productivity after you wake up at a specific time. This leads to better time management and helps you make the most of your day.
  • Protected sleep hygiene: Setting an alarm is often the first step in getting enough sleep. It can encourage you to fulfill your sleep hygiene routine and get to sleep at the same time each night.

Alarm clocks can also help to replace stress with determination, particularly for those people who might experience sleep anxiety. However, alarm clocks are also associated with a variety of negative consequences.

Cons of Using Alarm Clock

Alarm clocks aren’t without their drawbacks. They can disrupt your sleep cycle and wake you during the wrong portion of your sleep-wake cycle. Here are a few other negative consequences to alarm clock usage:

  • Sleep disruption: Alarm clocks disrupt your natural sleep cycle, sometimes interrupting deep or REM sleep and negating the biggest benefits to a good night’s sleep.
  • Added anxiety: For some, alarm clocks further contribute to resting anxiety levels. People who anticipate the sound of their alarm clock, particularly if they use a harsh alarm clock tone, can actually prevent sleep in the hours before your alarm clock is scheduled to go off.
  • Dependence: Over time, many people grow dependent on their alarm clock to regulate their full sleep-wake cycle. In the event that you sleep without an alarm clock, you might find it more difficult to achieve the sleep you need.

The snooze button on your alarm clock is another drawback. Even if you only use it occasionally, it can confuse your body as it attempts to transition from a period of sleep to wakefulness. Snoozing for a short period of time will only place you in a shallow level of sleep, without adding any of the benefits that a deeper level of sleep can afford.

Can an Alarm Clock Injure My Sleep Health?

In moderation, alarm clocks can offer some benefits to your schedule. They can somewhat protect the number of hours you sleep each night and help you lean into greater sleep accountability.

However, what you gain in sleep scheduling consistency you can easily lose in sleep quality.

Alarm clocks that suddenly wake you from sleep can be damaging to your health. Your body is especially vulnerable when you sleep, increasing the damage a loud interruption can make. For example, your blood flows differently when you sleep. Blood flow to the brain increases and your body pumps less blood to your extremities. Waking during this period of time can cause confusion and cognitive issues. You might also feel like you’re drunk or moving slowly.

How to Wake Refreshed — without the Alarm

We’re not advocating that you toss your alarm clock tomorrow. However, lessening your reliance on an alarm clock also decreases your risk for the drawbacks of an alarm clock.

Here are a few ways you can wake refreshed without an alarm clock:

  • Follow sleep health best practices: Eat a balanced diet, avoid stimulants like caffeine, get regular exercise, and balance work and social obligations to leave enough time for evening rest.
  • Establish a comfortable bedroom environment: use comfortable pillows and blankets, preserve a cool sleep temperature, and reserve your bedroom for sleep and intimacy if possible.
  • Avoid blue light: Minimize your use of electronic devices, particularly smartphones, for at least 60 minutes before sleep.
  • Track your sleep: Tracking your sleep with a sleep app or sleep journal can help you naturally identify when your body prefers to sleep. Follow your body’s preferred sleep-wake schedule to decrease your reliance on an alarm clock.

Try cutting down the number of alarms you use. Stick to two alarms: a warning and then an order. This cuts down on the jabs your body receives while encouraging discipline in your routine.

It becomes the first thing you succeed in, instead of being the first thing that bugs you enough to get a move on.

Changing the alarm tune from loud beeps of horror to gentle chimes or sounds inspired by nature can make the difference between waking up abruptly and getting up peacefully.

Try waking up to natural light. Position your bed accordingly and keep your curtains open. I know, it isn’t easy. But if you want to live long, you have to tighten up some aspects of your life. If you wake up before light has a chance to show up, smart lighting systems these days let you set them to light up when you want them to. It’s a worthwhile investment.

Speaking of tightening up your life, try sleeping and waking at the same time every day. This helps your body get accustomed to the new sleep schedule, making your body clock functional again. And yes, there will be exceptions. As a student myself, I know where you’re coming from. But all I’m saying is that some long nights can be avoided. And gaming isn’t any less cool if you do it when normal people are up and about.

Try getting eight hours of sleep. Look, I get it. You want those grades. You want a job. You want to get more time for that hobby of yours.

Or you just want to submit an assignment on time.

Whatever it is, cutting down on sleep isn’t the solution. I’m not going to preach, but the new routine that I find myself in has made me feel better about myself. Regardless of whether it’s because of the pandemic that keeps most of us at homes or not, eight hours of sleep is a drug you need to consume to believe.

An hour of meditation or exercise in the morning won’t hurt either.

Get a fitness tracker. Most of them let you track your sleep in addition to steps walked and calories burned. They even give you handy charts on the quality of your sleep, if you’re into that stuff. Their alarms consist of gentle vibrations on your wrist. They pick the right time for this by monitoring your sleep, helping you get up when you are closest to waking. Anything that doesn’t bore into your eardrums is an improvement. But smartwatches and fitness trackers take things one step further. An investment that will pay off in the long run.

Avoid snooze button

Get a better mattress - bedMATCH


The right mattress is another huge ingredient in the recipe for better sleep. In the same way that a bad mattress can keep you tossing and turning all night, a high-quality mattress naturally encourages your body into restorative sleep stages.

At Mattress Warehouse, we’re more dedicated than ever to pairing sleepers with the best possible mattress for them. That’s why we developed our patented bedMATCH sleep diagnostic program, which analyzes your sleep needs and recommends mattress options at every price point. It considers your height, weight, sleep position, and other key metrics to map your sleep profile and identify mattresses made to satisfy people like you.

No price haggling, no confusion — just mattress options made for you that you can afford.

Visit your local Mattress Warehouse to take bedMATCH for a spin yourself, or take the five-minute bedMATCH online quiz to browse mattress options made for you, right now.