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Alarm clock blues

It's time to ditch the old beep-beep-beeper in favor of a gadget that's more humane, that knows how to pleasantly wake someone up. Or is it?

Credit: MIT

It's 6:20 a.m. "Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Slam." Sleep in peace for 9 more minutes, then repeat.

There has to be a more humane way to wake up. My snoozing habits drive my husband crazy, and unexpected power outages have ruined my morning ritual more than once.

I tried waking up to Howard Stern's radio show years ago, figuring that it'd definitely wake me up because the stuff he says would never naturally make its way into my early-morning dreams. When it eventually did, I went back to the traditional jarring beeps. The Shock Jock has since made his way to Sirius Satellite Radio, which I have only in my car, anyway.

So I've been toying with the idea of getting a new alarm clock--one that at the very least has a backup battery. But some tech innovator just might have come up with a better way to ease (quickly) into the early-morning start.

Credit: Innovative Sleep Solutions

Let's face it: no alarm clock is going to completely fool a heavily sleeping body into thinking that it's a leisurely Saturday morning after it has barely gotten the required seven (or is it eight?) hours of rest. But some innovators are at least attempting to come up with an alarm clock that isn't, well, alarming.

I've already ruled out the Clocky, invented by some geniuses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I don't care how fuzzy or colorful the clock is. Any alarm that runs away from you, making you actually chase it under your bed to turn it off, is not only alarming but mean.

Reuters on Wednesday reported about several new types of so-called bio-alarm clocks worth mentioning.

Three of them--the Sleeptracker by Innovative Sleep Solutions, the SleepSmart by Axon Labs and the Sleep Phase Alarm Clock by Axbo--are designed to wake you up when you are already sleeping lightly.

Sleep Phase Alarm Clock
Credit: Axbo
Sleep Phase Alarm Clock

The Sleeptracker and the Sleep Phase Alarm Clock, which you wear like a wristwatch, supposedly read "specific movements common during light sleep," according to Reuters. The SleepSmart, worn as a headband (sorry, couldn't find a picture), apparently tracks brain waves to detect how heavily--or lightly--you are sleeping. Each of these alarms is designed to sound when you're likely already tossing and turning.

While the concept of waking people up when they're almost up, essentially forcing them to either be fully awake or to get deeper sleep, is interesting, I'm not sure that such an alarm would go over so well, given that "sleep cycles vary from 90 to 110 minutes, so the bio-alarm clocks have a roughly 30-minute margin of error," according to Reuters.

And certainly, a couple's sleep cycles are not easily synchronized. My fear is that we'd actually get less overall sleep with one of these bio-alarm clocks, regardless of the quality.

BioBrite SunRise Clock Radio
Credit: BioBrite
SunRise Clock Radio

So that leaves a couple of really wacky wake-up ideas from the tech world. One is imitation sunshine, via the SunRise Clock Radio by BioBrite. Instead of repeatedly emitting a jarring beep, it pleasantly brightens the room, simulating the sun. While that certainly sounds pleasant, anyone who has lived with me knows that I can easily sleep until noon, regardless of how bright the sun is shining onto my face. Combine the SunRise with cheek and temple kisses, and we can talk.

The last item on the shortlist is the Wake n' Bacon.

"Frozen bacon is placed in the built-in oven the night before and starts sizzling 10 minutes before wake-up time," Reuters reports. And advertised on its site, "This clock gently wakes you up with the mouthwatering aroma of bacon, just like waking up on a Sunday morning to the smell of Mom cooking breakfast. Unless you're Jewish."

Wake n' Bacon
Credit: Matty Sallin
Wake n' Bacon

Sounds great in theory, but I'm pretty sure that I'd wake up hungry, not to mention annoyed that there are no eggs and toast and orange juice, and that I need to clean up bacon grease. Yuck.

Back to the beeps for now.