Waking up in the morning when standard alarms fail



I tend to sleep through alarm clocks. Is there a reliable way to wake myself up in the morning?

I've tried setting the alarm to beep, music, talk radio, various volumes, using multiple alarms and so forth, but I still seem to be able to sleep through the worst of them.

Please note that I'm not interested in ideas like pouring water on the bed. Soaking my mattress or pillows with water may wake me up, but then I'll have to spend too much time/effort drying everything.

So... Excluding ruining my bedding; is there a safe, reliable alternative to conventional alarm clocks without spending much money?


Posted 2014-12-17T02:17:12.177

Reputation: 3 928

Just build a Wallace and Gromit bed that goes off on an alarm.

– Justin – 2014-12-17T04:58:26.033

39Have kids. You'll never need an alarm clock again. – Sterno – 2014-12-17T13:46:00.753

1Psychological and self improvement problems aren't really in the scope of LifeHacks as I understand it, sorry apaul. – Jimmy Hoffa – 2014-12-17T16:25:29.827

11@Sterno I said without spending much money =P – apaul – 2014-12-17T16:48:13.400

2@apaul34208 Made an edit to make it more about alarm clock alternatives then about waking you up. – Jon – 2014-12-18T13:06:40.983

Are you 'sub consciously' switching off the alarms? or are you actually sleeping through it till it times out? – Nick J Adams – 2014-12-29T10:52:51.890

@NickJAdams The question has been edited to ask for alternatives to standard alarms. Apparently questions about "waking up" are off topic. http://meta.lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/1243/trying-to-save-off-topic-questions-with-a-new-less-broad-question

– apaul – 2014-12-29T16:54:24.027

1Become a firefighter... Spend time in the station and then set your alarm to tones and dispatch :) – L.B. – 2015-01-13T16:12:25.287



The priceless component in this operation is a simple plug timer:

enter image description here

The price on these can go from anywhere from $5 for simple rotary models to $30 for high end digital models.

The fun part is that you can plug just about anything into them and have it turn on when you're ready to wake up in the morning.

Some things you may already have at home that can be used to wake you up:

  • Electric leaf blower, hit yourself with a firm blast of air.
  • Space heater, make your bedroom uncomfortably hot.
  • Coffee maker, the best part of waking up is...
  • Bright lights or Strobe lights, for those that are sensitive to bright lights.

I saved the best for last...

  1. Take an old box fan
  2. Remove the front grate and the fan blade
  3. Replace the fan blade with an unbalanced load.
    • An off center block of wood should work
    • Or you can just break off a few of the individual blades leaving one or two on the same side
  4. Replace the front grate
  5. Attach it to the underside of your bed or to a bed post
  6. Set the timer and plug the modified fan into the timer

As you can probably guess the spinning unbalanced load will cause the whole contraption to shake and when attached to the bed it will shake the bed considerably. You can use most any old device with a sturdy electric motor, but a box fan also comes with a cage/housing making it a bit safer to use.


Posted 2014-12-17T02:17:12.177

Reputation: 3 928

14I'd love to see the face of somebody woken up by electric leaf blower! – James Webster – 2014-12-30T11:17:06.963

2I think I would avoid running a space heater when I was asleep. – Hurkyl – 2015-01-01T11:24:10.673


@JamesWebster: here is a (maybe) good approximation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnphFxH3FxM

– Olivier Dulac – 2015-01-02T12:45:57.323

@JamesWebster the leaf blower was more of a joke, it will definitely work though. – apaul – 2015-01-05T01:00:49.990

Yeah I realized, but I'd still like to see it! – James Webster – 2015-01-05T08:25:37.803


There's still a chance of ruining your bedding, if you have health problems (or poor control), but drink a significant amount of liquid just before bed time. Your bladder will very insistently wake you in the morning.

This will probably take some trial and error to get the timing and amount just right and avoid waking up too early or late, but as long as your digestive system is reasonably regular (and you're well toilet trained), this will both wake you and give you a good incentive to actually get up and moving.

Esoteric Screen Name

Posted 2014-12-17T02:17:12.177

Reputation: 343

3-1 quality of sleep will suffer. – Aquarius_Girl – 2015-09-14T00:46:22.080


I use an light-alarmclock which slowly wakes me using light which slowly gets brighter. It is amazing, every morning I wake up as if I were on holiday and the sun shines into the bedroom. Works every day, but I have the version with the build in radio just in case.

Lumie 300 Elite



Posted 2014-12-17T02:17:12.177

Reputation: 267

2An alarm clock isn't really a lifehack for waking up. – GimmeTehRepz – 2014-12-29T18:52:24.937

6Have you read my post? It is about a LIGHT clock, which by way of the stimulus in your eyes slowly wakes you up. In my experience, not many people know this even exists, so I thought it would be worth sharing. Obviously not so. – Floyd – 2014-12-30T09:42:51.640


I think this might be the most effective way:

enter image description here

Nathan Osman

Posted 2014-12-17T02:17:12.177

Reputation: 161


For truly hard to wake people, there are bed shakers: http://www.sonicalert.com/Sonic-Bomb-with-Super-Shaker-TM-p/sbb500ss.htm

enter image description here

The bed shaker portion (the part on the left hand of the photo) is put under the pillow or mattress or affixed to the bed frame. Think of the motel "magic fingers" on steroids when it alarms. It's guaranteed to wake even the dead.


Posted 2014-12-17T02:17:12.177

Reputation: 177

I have this clock. It does not wake me up. – Easy Tiger – 2017-01-18T11:12:54.393

The 'bed shaker' is small (about the same dimensions as a Guinness Surge thing, if you remember those) and beneath a single pillow it is virtually unfeelable (sp?) unless you are lying directly on top of it. The clock does have a tone dial, though, which lets you change the pitch of the 'meep meep' noise. That was surprisingly effective for a while. – Easy Tiger – 2017-01-18T11:21:57.787

1An alarm clock isn't really a lifehack for waking up. – GimmeTehRepz – 2014-12-29T18:52:46.180

9Bed shakers are. :) – RoboKaren – 2014-12-29T23:32:57.333

2Bed shakers and alarm flashers (strobe lights) were essential in my twenties when I.just.couldn't.get.up. – RoboKaren – 2014-12-30T04:00:21.743


Find out how much sleep you really need (for most of us it is about 8 hours) and go to bed that long before you want to get up. Get into a pattern of going to sleep at the same time most days and do not vary this pattern by more than an hour or so.

This sounds like an obvious sort of answer but it's the one that works for me.


Posted 2014-12-17T02:17:12.177

Reputation: 1 133


I have an app ("I can't wake up Free" for Android) that sets me puzzles I have to solve to snooze or cancel an alarm. I hate it very very much indeed, but it works. I'm always too groggy for even the simplest setting of arithmetic (and I'm a maths teacher!) so I don;t use that one, but easier puzzles still force me to be a bit more awake. I snooze once then get up. It has a setting that I have on to check I'm awake 10 minutes later after cancelling - I have 10 seconds to confirm I'm awake or it'll start the whole show again.

A word of warning for first use: It's not going to pick randomly from the tests you select, it will make you pass them all in order to cancel. First time I set lots up. I nearly had a heart attack from the stress! Now I just have two.


Posted 2014-12-17T02:17:12.177

Reputation: 131


Deaf people use alarm clocks that blink a desk lamp on and off about once a second until you hit the stop button. This is extremely annoying and hence very effective. (I had a college room mate who had one of these which happened to make a clicking noise as it switched the lamp on and off; I would be fully awake (and fully annoyed) by the 3rd click!)

niels nielsen

Posted 2014-12-17T02:17:12.177

Reputation: 439


This is not meant to be a sarcastic answer, but some people swear by banging their head on the pillow when they go to bed, e.g. seven times if they want to wake up at 7am. I wouldn't rely on this if it was really important to wake up at a certain time, but when it isn't it's worth a try for the fun of it and there might sometimes be an effect similar to placebo going on.


Posted 2014-12-17T02:17:12.177

Reputation: 230

1Have the downvoters tried this? Whenever I've tried it - which has never been as the only method when waking up on time is of great importance - it's worked! – h34 – 2014-12-27T23:19:24.463

1I didn't downvote, but I can see this presenting some issues when crossing time zones while asleep (e.g. sleeping during a flight or road trip). – Alexander – 2014-12-30T00:45:03.950


I sincerely doubt this works. I've never tried it, but I know enough about the science of sleep to know that this makes no sense at all. (I've published in JCSM)

– Shokhet – 2014-12-31T16:57:30.597

@Shokhet This does kinda work but not because your body knows when its 7am. If you have a working "internal clock" you can train you to wake up after a given amount of time (kinda). Banging your head onto the pillow is just one way of improving that memory element. Hopping 7 times for 7 hours of sleep would work too, as do any other ways of deepening memory. I've tried it, 80% success rate (for me), but my sleep gets worse with this technique. I suspect that I wake up during such nights more often and check the clock and fall asleep before memorizing the waking-up. – Angelo Fuchs – 2015-01-13T10:10:45.167

@AngeloFuchs Interesting. I didn't know that circadian rhythm could tell time the way we do. – Shokhet – 2015-01-13T19:37:27.250


Have a person use a (small, handheld) tazer/stun gun on you if you don't wake up after your alarm goes off - you will quickly learn to get up at the sound of your alarm.

and to make it truly a lifehack, the flash circuit from an old or disposable film camera will work wonders for this - charge it up, and then just use the leads from the single large capacitor to give a jolt to the person who can't wake up


Posted 2014-12-17T02:17:12.177

Reputation: 245

1That is super deadly – Anthony Pham – 2015-07-17T22:06:59.430