Getting out of bed isn’t always easy — heck, even the biggest morning people among us have found themselves occasionally hitting the snooze button for 5 more minutes of restful bliss.
But what about when we sleep through our alarms entirely?
If you’re sleeping through your morning wake-up call more often than not and don’t know what to do about it, we’ve got you. Keep reading to learn why this might be happening and ways you can overcome it.
- Subpar sleep quality and not getting enough sleep are the leading causes of sleeping through your alarm.
- Irregular work hours, stress, and the presence of a sleep disorder are other possible contributing factors.
- Establishing a nightly routine that involves going to bed at a consistent time, regulating your diet, and avoiding certain stimuli can improve sleep quality and help you stop sleeping through your alarm.
- Changing the type of alarm you use or moving it out of reach can also help you wake up more easily and on time.
Several factors could be contributing to your inability to rise with your alarm.
You’re not getting enough sleep in general
According to Dr. Guy Meadows, co-founder and sleep specialist at Sleep School, the most obvious reason someone’s sleeping through their alarm is that they’re simply not getting enough sleep.
While this may seem like a no-brainer, there’s actually more at play than you might think.
We each have our own biological sleep need, which Meadows explains is the “amount of sleep you need to wake up feeling refreshed and able to go about your day.” According to a 2012 study, about one-third of American adults aren’t meeting this need.
When you don’t get the amount of sleep your body needs each night (generally 7 to 9 hours), you start to rack up what’s called a sleep debt. Much like that pesky student loan interest, sleep debt starts to build up over time and demands to be repaid. When it isn’t, your body can enter a state of sleep deprivation.
“When you’re sleep-deprived, you have a higher sleep drive, which means you are more likely to sleep through your alarm,” says Meadows.
The timing of your sleep is off
Another reason you may be sleeping through your alarm is that you’re not sleeping at the right time for your body, which Meadows says is just as important as the amount of sleep you’re getting.
“There’s something called the chronotype, which is the influence of genetics on our sleep timing,” he says. “Some people prefer to sleep a little bit earlier and get up a bit earlier, and some people prefer to get to bed a bit later and get up a bit later.
“If someone is sleeping through their alarm, it could be that they’re having to wake up at a time that goes against their natural timing.”
Much of the working world is set up to favor the “morning person,” which doesn’t always bode well for the night owls among us. Your sleep may often get cut short because you go to bed late and then have to wake up well before your sleep need is met.
Other contributing factors
Even if you’re getting *enough* sleep, you may not be getting *good* sleep. The quality of your sleep is linked to everything going on in your life, so making sleep a priority during your waking hours is key to getting a good rest when it’s time.
You could also be a heavy sleeper. Some research suggests that deep sleepers have more sleep spindles — a type of brain activity that happens during non-rapid-eye-movement sleep.
A 2010 study suggests that people with more sleep spindles can sleep through noise and other sleep distractions more easily than those with fewer.
Sleeping through your alarm could also be a result of a mental health condition, such as depression. Meadows points to oversleeping as a common symptom of depression. And just as depression can impact sleep, sleep can also impact depression.
“Poor sleep habits can contribute to the development of depression, and having depression makes an individual more likely to suffer from sleep-related issues,” he explains.
In some cases, a sleep disorder could be to blame for sleeping through the sound of your alarm.
Research suggests that 10 to 30 percent of the global population experiences insomnia. Meadows describes insomnia as a cycle of not sleeping, which can lead to sleeping through one’s alarm or even choosing to sleep longer once sleep finally comes.
Delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD) is another sleep disorder that contributes to sleeping longer than you may have planned. DSPD changes the timing of your body clock, causing you to sleep during the day and be active at night. Shift work is a common cause of DSPD.
According to Meadows, those with DSPD “are constantly incurring a sleep debt, which can cause a permanent state of jet lag and make it very hard to sleep and wake up at the right times. This can lead someone to sleeping through their alarm.”
Other sleep probs that may cause you to snooze deeper than you’d like include:
- obstructive sleep apnea
- restless legs syndrome
- parasomnias like sleepwalking
Don’t be alarmed
Keep in mind: Just because you’re sleeping through your alarm doesn’t mean you def have a sleep disorder. You could simply be experiencing the effects of too little or low quality sleep.
But if you suspect you do have a sleep disorder, talk with a healthcare professional. Once diagnosed, most sleep disorders can be managed with medication or through work with a therapist or sleep specialist.
So, what can you do to get a handle on things? Here are some ideas to try.
1. Get into the groove… of a routine
Do you wake up feeling groggy or disoriented? That’s what’s known as sleep inertia — and according to Meadows, a regular sleep-wake routine is its kryptonite.
“Because we have this internal body clock, humans are creatures of habit,” he says. “If you repeat [a habit] enough, your biology will know that’s what you do. Keeping all our activities on time is probably the most powerful piece of advice that we can follow — not just for our sleep but for our health overall.”
There’s an app for that: Using an app is a handy way to track your sleep cycle and establish healthy habits. Meadows recommends the Sleep School app, which provides education and tools to promote positive sleep behaviors. We’re also fans of these sleep-centered apps that can help you rest easy.
2. Break the snooze cycle
Ah, the snooze button. It may seem like a friend, but those extra few minutes of sleep it grants may be doing more harm than good for your wake-up routine.
Research suggests that constantly smacking snooze can cause sleep disturbances, which can wreak havoc on your body.
To counteract this, try turning off your alarm’s snooze option. If you’re using your phone’s alarm, limit the number of times you’re allowed to snooze. You can also use an alarm app that forces you to solve a puzzle or stand up to turn it off instead of snoozing.
3. Kiss stress goodbye
Stress and anxiety often feel inescapable, but learning to manage them can do wonders for your health — and your sleep.
Meadows recommends using breathing techniques or practicing mindfulness. He also suggests acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) as a tool for overcoming stressful situations or calming an anxious mind.
“[ACT] helps teach people how to behave. Often when someone can’t sleep, they struggle, they fight,” he says. “[ACT] gives them tools to help them slow down, pause, and consider how they would like to respond to themselves in the moment with kindness.”
4. Let the light in
“Light is really important for helping to activate your body clock to tell it that the day’s begun,” says Meadows. “That activates cortisol release and inhibits melatonin.”
Finding ways to increase the amount of morning light can help brighten up your wakeup. Using a light-simulating alarm clock or saying buh-bye to those blackout curtains can help train your body clock to wake up with the sun (simulated or otherwise!).
5. Relocate your alarm
It’s so easy to slap that snooze button when the alarm is within arm’s reach. Meadows recommends placing your alarm in a spot that forces you out of your bed.
“This means you have to physically get up to set the alarm off, which makes it impossible to ignore it or press snooze and gets you out of bed.”
6. Move it, move it
When building an overall routine, it’s important to include a regular workout schedule in your days.
According to a 2014 review, exercise can promote better-quality sleep, and better sleep can help provide the energy to get your body moving.
Regular exercise also gives your body a boost of happiness-inducing endorphins, so you’ll experience more pleasant waking hours as well.
7. Maintain a healthy diet
Having a healthy diet is good for you overall. But according to a 2016 review, certain foods and dietary patterns may contribute to better quality sleep, which can help you avoid sleeping through the alarm.
You don’t have to be a Master Chef to make a healthy plate. Start by adjusting your shopping list and trying some easy-to-make recipes. You can still incorporate your fave treats — in moderation, of course.
Don’t sleep on nuance
If you’re not seeing results right away, don’t sweat it. People respond to things differently depending on various circumstances.
Factors like the time of year, your work schedule, and simply the state of the world (we still see you, 2020) can all play a role in what may or may not work best for you. Take your time and be kind to yourself on the journey to waking up refreshed (and on time!).
If the same ol’ BEEP-BEEP-BEEP isn’t cutting it anymore, a new alarm may be just what you need to shake up your wakeup. There are a ton of great options out there that may make for a better morning than your basic iPhone fare.
Because research suggests that carefully timed light exposure can help reset your wake-up cycle, a sunrise clock can help train your body to get up when you need it to. Sunrise alarms like the Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock use light simulation and natural sounds to trigger your body into morning mode.
There are also alarms that can get you moving — literally. The Clocky Alarm Clock on Wheels is a popular option that lets you hit snooze once before it hits the floor and roams around your room, *bleeping* blaring. You’ll have no choice but to get out of bed to shut Clocky up right quick!
Establishing solid sleep habits isn’t just good for your nightly Zzz’s — it’s also good for your overall health and wellness. But good sleep health starts well before your head hits the pillow.
According to Meadows, good sleep health centers on creating a solid sleep-wake routine that includes:
- eating a balanced diet (including a healthy breakfast)
- exercising regularly
- boosting morning alertness with a shower
- taking care of your mental health
- going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
Avoiding stimulants, like caffeine, can also help promote quality sleep. This doesn’t mean you have to skip your morning cup o’ joe (whew!), but maybe don’t drink caffeinated bevvies for several hours before bed.
Putting down your devices at bedtime can also put you on the path to better sleep (and keep potentially harmful blue light at bay!). Instead, grab a good book or take a soothing pre-bed bath.
You’ve tried the tips and tricks above… but you’re still snoozing through your alarm or waking up groggy. What gives?
First, make sure you’re giving your body ample time to adjust. Meadows suggests that if you still aren’t seeing improvement after trying a routine for about a month, it may be time to speak with a therapist or sleep specialist — especially if sleeping through your alarm is starting to impact your daily life.
“When you’re immersed in a routine, it’s hard to see the small things that might be getting in the way,” he says. “A professional can help you to reorder your routine in a way that’s going to be more effective, or they might be able to find some other underlying mechanism is the cause, like depression or a deficiency.”
You might be sleeping through your alarm in the morning for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’re not getting enough sleep or the quality of your sleep isn’t up to snuff. In some cases, a sleep disorder like insomnia or sleepwalking may be affecting your ability to get up on time.
Whatever the cause, there are several methods you can try to change course. Establishing a routine, making healthy lifestyle choices, and finding ways to ease stress can all help you skip the snooze button and wake up refreshed and ready for the day.
If you’ve tried all you can and the problem persists, contact a healthcare professional. They should be able to offer insight or refer you to a sleep specialist or therapist.