Rise and a Not-So-Bright Shine

Imagine you have fallen into a deep and peaceful sleep. You feel as if you are floating on a cloud with dreams as tranquil as can be. With the silence of the night, you lay peacefully resting, preparing your mind and body for the next day. All of a sudden you hear an agonizing screech like the wail of a banshee (A female spirit who possesses a very loud wail/screech which warns of an impending death). You jolt awake to find out that such an alarming disturbance is your alarm itself, ruining your precious moments of rest. What an interesting way to start your day.

Alarm clocks have been around for centuries. Dating back as early as the fifteenth century, people have used alarm clocks to help them wake up in the mornings.With alarms being around for such a long period of time, along with the vast amount of people using them, one could say that waking up to an alarm clock has become a tradition. But one of the world’s largest traditions may actually be more of a bad habit because waking up with an alarm clock can be hazardous to one’s health.

According to the National Institute of Industrial Health in Japan, being suddenly awoken by a loud noise has a negative impact on your heart. When one hears a jolting noise, such as the one that comes from an alarm, their body tends to respond with the “fight or flight” response. Waking up to this “fight or flight” response can cause a surge of adrenaline which, from a resting state, can cause a decent amount of stress on the body. This stress on the body can lead to an increase in one’s blood pressure. Both chronic stress problems and blood pressure issues can arise as a result of prolonged exposure to morning alarms, and they both have the tendency to worsen over time.

How exactly does an alarm clock cause so many problems? The answer to that is simply two mechanisms in the body that everyone possesses: the sleep cycle and the circadian rhythm. The body’s sleep cycle is a cycle estimated around ninety minutes long that takes a person through three stages of non-rapid eye movement sleep or NREM sleep. These three stages gradually become longer, and the body slowly falls into a deeper sleep the further one progresses through these three stages. Research says that the third stage of NREM sleep is the deepest stage of sleep, and being woken up during this stage is what leads to fatigue or grogginess. After the third NREM sleep stage, the body then transitions to rapid eye movement sleep or REM sleep and then back into NREM sleep. Towards the beginning of the night, the amount of time spent in REM sleep is very little. However, as the night progresses the amount of time in NREM sleep begins to vary greatly, and the time spent in REM sleep gradually increases. When one is woken up naturally, without any disturbances, they awaken in the first two stages of NREM sleep which are the lightest stages of sleep. Since a person’s sleep cycle is inconsistent with time, the ability to coordinate an alarm to go off during a light sleep stage is nearly impossible, ultimately resulting in the health issues mentioned before and just overall tiredness.

The second reason why alarm clocks cause problems with a person’s health is because alarm clocks have a high tendency to interfere with a biological, twenty-four hour clock inside of us that differentiates between the time to be awake and the time to be asleep. This clock is known as our circadian rhythm. Outside of just knowing when one should be awake or asleep, one’s circadian rhythm can have a large impact on other bodily functions such as eating/digestion and hormonal releases. With that said, when your circadian rhythm says it is time to be asleep, it triggers your body to release hormones which make you feel tired or sleepy. When it says it is time to be awake, your body begins to wake up. When using an alarm clock, your body is forced to wake up at a time it is most likely not ready to wake up at, throwing everything out of balance. Since the circadian rhythm controls so much more than just going to sleep and waking up, research states that a disrupted or very irregular circadian rhythm links to certain disorders such as diabetes, depression, and bipolar disorder.

In conclusion, although alarm clocks are very popular and have been around for many years, there is little to no benefit from using one. Even though there are many issues that can come along with using an alarm clock, it would be very difficult to find a healthy alternative of waking up on a daily basis because many people have either school or work that tends to start early in the morning. The circadian rhythm or sleep cycle can be compared to that of a fingerprint because everyone has a different rhythm. Even with everyone having a different rhythm, the circadian rhythm is highly affected by light and darkness. In fact, one of the healthiest ways to wake up in the morning is by natural sunlight because instead of a loud cry from an alarm waking you up, your circadian rhythm is kept in sync, waking you up when your body is meant to wake up. This could potentially tie into the theory of starting school later in the day. Starting school later in the day may help students keep their circadian rhythm on the right track which could improve attention and focus, overall improving in-school performance. Although alarm clocks can disrupt the biological clock in our bodies, it can be “reset” which can help avoid some of the many health issues that come along with an irregular circadian rhythm. The best way to keep your biological clock running smooth is to only use alarm clocks when truly necessary. Take advantages of the weekends where you have nothing to do in the mornings and take the time to allow your body to get the sleep it needs. It may just keep you healthy!

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