This post is part of Thrive’s “We Tried It” series, where Thrive employees experiment with strategies to improve their work and home lives, perform better and boost their well-being. Up this week: changing-up a classic morning routine.
Most people wake up to the sound of an alarm, and I’m no exception. Every morning my phone blasts a siren in my ear informing me it’s time to get up. It’s an abrupt way to start the day.
Recently I noticed that I was actually waking up before my alarm went off, and my morning routine looked something like this: wake up, look at the clock, see I had fifteen more minutes until my alarm was going to sound, then roll over and go back to sleep before being rudely awoken fifteen minutes later by the blaring of my alarm. It almost goes without saying that this left me feeling groggy and annoyed as I pulled myself out of bed, wishing I was still asleep. Having read how waking-up naturally is better for you because it doesn’t interrupt your sleep cycle, which leaves you with that half-asleep but wishing you were still fully asleep feeling, I figured it was time to say goodbye to my alarm.
For one workweek, I tried waking up every morning without setting an alarm. I did have a fail-safe though—a roommate whose alarm usually goes off around 7:45 a.m., the same time I normally get up, so I knew that I wouldn’t sleep through the day. Here’s how my experiment turned out.
Day 1: Setting an alarm for the morning is engrained into my nighttime routine, so not setting one last night felt not just weird, but unsettling. Even with the security of knowing my roommate wouldn’t let me oversleep, I still woke up at 5 a.m., then 6 a.m., then 6:30 a.m., glancing at the clock to make sure I hadn’t accidentally slept until noon. My last anxious clock-check was at 7:20 a.m., earlier than I usually get up but I figured I’d start my Monday with some extra time. Even with my clock-checking, I felt recharged and ready for the day, helped by the fact that I went to bed at 10:30 p.m. last night.
Day 2: I started clock watching around 6 a.m. Even so, when I naturally woke up at 7:10 a.m., I felt refreshed. It feels good to wake up when my body is ready to instead of rising at the command of an alarm.
Day 3: My morning stress level is way down. I didn’t watch my clock as much this morning as I did on Days 1 and 2, but the change went beyond just waking up naturally at 7:15 a.m. I went through my morning routine feeling relaxed and in control. I even had enough time to open a book, something I never have time to do during a normal morning.
Day 4: The second-to-worst case scenario happened: I was jolted awake by my roommate’s alarm at 7:45, a horrible way to start my morning. I had gotten so used to getting up on my own that the sound was shocking. I dragged through the morning with less energy than I’ve had for the past few days.
Day 5: Yesterday’s situation left me so stressed about oversleeping that today, I reverted to clock watching. I started nervously checking at 6:30 a.m.— not great, but still better than the 5 a.m. clock watching that happened on the first day of my experiment. I got out of bed at 7:10 a.m., still happy not to be woken up by the sound of an alarm.
Should You Try Getting Rid of Your Morning Alarm?
Waking up on my own helped me ease into my mornings better. A month later, I still wake up alarm-free. I decided to set an alarm every night just in case, but I’ve woken up naturally 10 to 30 minutes before it ever goes off. Plus, I no longer watch my clock in the morning. Instead, my body seems to know when it’s time to get up and start the day. I recommend giving it a try. Since making this change in my morning routine I feel more energized that I did before I ditched my alarm. On the one or two occasions when my just-in-case alarm has woken me up, I feel groggy for the majority of the day. It’s been eye-opening to see just how big of an effect my alarm has on how I function.
Next time you see you have 30 minutes before your alarm sounds, instead of rolling over and trying to fall back asleep, get up and start your day on your own terms. It revolutionized my mornings, it might do the same for you.