Why Do I Sleep Through My Alarms?

When it comes to natural sleep habits, generally there are two categories or two chronotypes, as they say: either you’re an early bird or a night owl. 

Each of us has our own circadian rhythm, i.e. our own natural sleep cycle that the body follows. Early birds are the people who usually don’t have any issue getting up in the wee hours of the morning, while the night owls are the ones who usually don’t have any problem staying up until the wee hours of the morning. So while the former group wakes up, the latter group prepares for bed. 

Sure, these are the two extremes of either staying up too late or rising really early, but as this Harvard article suggests, “most people fall somewhere in the middle.” Even if these chronotypes might be hardwired, and we either lean towards one or the other, it still doesn’t mean that we can’t have some control over our sleep patterns. 

Now, people who constantly ask the question: why do I sleep through my alarm every day?, usually fall into the category of night owls. They find it pretty difficult to wake up in the morning. 

But is there a way to stop this? Can you train your body to stop sleeping through the alarm clock? 

Sure there is. Let’s take a look at why you do this in the first place and how you can start hearing your alarm clock and stop hitting the snooze button. 

Why Do I Sleep Through My Alarm?

There are several reasons why you might not hear your alarm clock.

Our sleep cycle is generally consistent in two parts – the REM (rapid eye movement) phase and non-REM phase of sleep. There are also five stages in the sleep cycle – in the first two stages, you’re in light sleep and it’s quite easy to be woken up. However, soon after that, you start to drift more and more and to fall into what’s called “deep sleep.” These are the stages three and four and these are the stages in which your body tries to gather energy for the following day. Hence, they’re the hardest to wake up from. 

When this happens, your body is still in the state of so-called “sleep inertia” – you know, it’s that feeling of heavy limbs and disorientation just upon awakening, and the crushing desire to just go back to sleep.

You’re Naturally a Heavy Sleeper

Yes, there are people who just find it really easy to stay asleep, even if there’s a loud noise in their immediate surroundings. 

This might depend on certain brain rhythms called “sleep spindles.” Their occurrence varies across the population – certain people naturally generate more sleep spindles than others. 

If you’re a heavy sleeper, chances are your brain produces more of these spindles, and consequently, makes it harder for you to hear your alarm in the morning, even if it’s a really, really loud alarm.

Inconsistent Sleep Routine

An inconsistent sleep routine is very common in this day and age. Whether it’s shift work, the blue light glare from our digital devices that meddles with our sleep cycle, stress, sleep disorder, or a mental health issue – all of this can affect your sleep patterns and sleep habits.

If you don’t get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, then you probably try to catch up on sleep by sleeping more or late into the day.

And if this happens often, you’re likely to train your body to be in deep sleep in the hours when most people get up. This, in turn, results in either repeatedly hitting the snooze button, either literally or in your dreams, because you’re definitely not hearing it as a wake-up call. 

You’re Battling a Sleep Disorder

Sleep disorders, as their name suggests, are neurological conditions that affect your sleep in different ways. They often mess with your sleep cycle, making it either hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or hard to wake up in the morning.

Sleep disorders like sleep apnea, for example, really affect your sleep quality and prevent you from developing a consistent sleep pattern. And that, in turn, means that you might actually be in a state of deep sleep, which is much harder to wake up from, in the early morning when you need to get up and go to work.

Also, certain medications, like sleeping pills for example, can affect your sleep pattern and make it really difficult for you to hear the sound of the alarm. Beta-blockers fall in this category, too – these are medications that help regulate your blood pressure. In fact, one of their most common side effects is daytime sleepiness and having a hard time waking up. 

You Have Mental Health Issues

The connection between sleep issues and mental health issues is a tricky one. Basically, one gets exacerbated by the other, and in the end, it’s really hard to tell which one caused the other. 

Depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder – all of these (and more) can cause disturbances in your internal clock, thus either causing oversleeping or undersleeping and difficulty falling asleep.

Depression is particularly notorious for making people oversleep and not really care for the alarm clock, as they often have little to no desire to get out of bed. 

If you suspect you’re suffering from a mental health issue, it’s really important that you seek the appropriate help. This will not only help you hear your alarm clock the next day and stop you from hitting snooze in the morning, but it’ll also help you deal with a host of other debilitating symptoms. 

What Is the Best Way to Stop Sleeping Through My Alarm Clock?

Even if you’re the heaviest of sleepers and a sworn night owl, it’s still possible to find ways in which you can wake up more easily in the morning and actually manage to hear your alarm clock, for the first time in a long time.

Develop a Better Sleep Routine 

A good sleep routine is not only helpful for getting you through the morning, but also for your overall health. 

And achieving it is technically simple. You just need to go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time, every day. When you do this repeatedly and it develops into a habit, it becomes much easier to wake up and get out of bed in the morning (and also much easier to go to bed at a time that’s healthier for you, in the first place). What’s more, you’ll feel much more rested and will be better able to keep feelings of wakefulness throughout the whole day.

To ensure you’re really getting good quality sleep, make sure you get around 7-9 hours of sleep each night – which is to say, enough sleep each night. If you’re a night owl, it’ll probably mean you’ll have to go to bed earlier than what you’re used to so far. 

If you find it hard to fall asleep earlier than usual, that’s okay. You can try to move your bedtime for 15 minutes per night, each night earlier than the one before.

Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is a set of habits that help you fall asleep faster and sleep better, in general.

This includes the maintaining of a regular sleep schedule, which, in turn, means developing consistent sleep patterns and getting enough sleep, the things I mentioned in the previous section.

Another element of sleep hygiene is improving your diet, exercising regularly, and drinking enough water in order to stay hydrated throughout the day. Of course, it should go without saying that all of these things should be done for the benefit of your overall health, and not just for better sleep (although good sleep is important for your health).

Keep in mind that when evening comes you should keep away from caffeinated beverages, like coffee, carbonated beverages, mate, black tea, or energy drinks. Also, don’t exercise too much before going to bed, because you’ll end up being more awake. 

Do something that relaxes you before bed. Read a book, listen to some relaxing music or nature sounds, do some bedtime stretches or bedtime yoga (definitely not power or vinyasa yoga). 

You should also avoid using your digital devices at least an hour before going to bed. The blue light emitted from them is actually pretty notorious in how it meddles with your circadian rhythm and postpones your bedtime. Sure, blue light in the morning is great when it tells you to stay awake, but at night, it’s just very confusing for your body.

Motivate Yourself to Get Up Early in the Morning

If you want to prevent yourself from oversleeping, then try to motivate yourself better. Set up a morning meetup – it can be breakfast or just having coffee before work with a loved one, like your partner, family member, or a close friend. 

You can also try to set a morning goal or task that you want to do. If you enjoy a specific type of exercise, set it up in the morning, for example.

Get a New Alarm Clock or Change Your Alarm Sound

If none of these things work, then maybe you should just buy a better alarm.

Yeah, sounds too easy, right? But sometimes, the simplest solution is the best one. 

If you happen to hit the snooze button a little too often, then maybe your alarm is not convincing enough! 

What you can do, besides changing the alarm clock altogether, is to only change the alarm sound. Also, you can put a very loud alarm and put the phone or the clock somewhere you can’t reach it easily, so you’ll be forced to get out of bed (presumably, you won’t be bold enough to return to it immediately). 

There are pretty innovative alarm clocks out there, specifically made for people who tend to oversleep and who don’t take their alarms very seriously. 

For example, there is an alarm on wheels (also called the “runaway alarm”) that goes around the room once it starts ringing for you to get up. These often have super loud features for the heavy sleepers among us.

If you prefer to use your phone as an alarm clock, then you can perhaps download apps like Sleep Cycle or Alarmy. These are apps that work as smart alarm clocks that analyze your sleep patterns and wake you up when it’s easiest for you to wake up, that is, in a light sleep phase. 

Use the Power of Natural Light

This one is also pretty simple – just leave your blinds or your drapes open before you go to bed at night and then, voila! – you’ve got a stream of natural light barging in the next morning, waking you up. The sun doesn’t have a snooze button, right? 

If your bedroom doesn’t get much light, or you need to wake up when it’s still dark, then maybe it’s a good idea to invest in a sunrise lamp or sunrise alarm clock, devices designed to emit the light of the sun inside your room, whenever you need them to. There’s also something called a light therapy alarm clock which is designed to gradually increase light intensity (so it mimics the morning sun) and thus make waking up easier for you.

Natural light is immensely helpful in waking us up in the morning – and keeping us awake throughout the day. I mean humans have sworn by it for centuries, millennia even, right?

Conclusion

As you were able to see from this article, there are several reasons why one can regularly oversleep and repeatedly hit the snooze button on their phones or alarm clocks. 

However, there are ways to combat this and to actually develop a healthy, consistent sleep schedule for which your whole body will be more than thankful. 

All you need is a bit of will, a bit more patience, perhaps a slightly better alarm clock, and you’ll be back on track in no time.