Perhaps I should begin by telling you that I don’t have sleep problems. I sleep soundly and well, but at times I can be awakened by slight noises. When I do wake up unintentionally, I can fall right back to sleep without difficulty. For example, here in Florida, we have a phenomenon known as the Space Shuttle. When the Space Shuttle comes in for a landing (typically at dawn for some reason known only to scientists with advanced degrees and chronic insomnia), it produces two loud sonic booms in quick succession. These sound remarkably like someone firing a double-barreled shotgun in your bedroom. The first time it happened, I left a forehead mark on the ceiling. Now, I wake up, look around groggily, and fall gently back to sleep.
Apparently, there are people in the world who sleep so soundly, they won’t wake up without severe provocation. I once had a roommate who had three alarm clocks placed at different locations around his room so that he had to get out of bed and shut them off, one by one.
Other people just find creative ways to fool themselves. Another friend of mine found that if he set his alarm clock ahead by 10 minutes, he could sleep for 10 more minutes before he had to get up. But he gradually increased this to 15, then 20 minutes. The last time I checked, he had his alarm clock set 4 hours ahead.
So alarm clocks have been due for redesign for some time, and lately there has been a flurry of activity, attempting to meet the needs of people who sleep soundly and those who wake easily. Two of my favorite designs, intended for sound sleepers, are Clocky and the Puzzle Clock.
Clocky and the Puzzle Clock.
Clocky is a battery-powered clock on wheels. When it goes off, it rolls off your nightstand and scurries around the room forcing you to get out of bed and catch it to shut it off. The Puzzle Clock has four jigsaw pieces in the top, which pop out when the alarm sounds. You can’t shut off the alarm until you find the pieces and assemble them correctly. I like these designs, but I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot of them, horribly mutilated, lying in the street outside of apartment buildings.
Like most people, I owned a traditional clock radio, which I despised. This is because in the morning it would just start blaring in my ear, waking me in a foul temper. If I set the volume too low, it wouldn’t wake me. If I set it too high, it pissed me off.
The first and second "Nature Sounds" clock.
Then, someone gave me a “Nature Sounds” clock. In the morning, it played the synthesized sounds of rolling surf or chirping birds. This was a vast improvement, waking me gently and effectively with no seething hatred. Unfortunately, it was poorly designed. The clock is tall, with a narrow base. The controls are located on the front in such a way that if you try to turn the alarm off, you knock the clock over, or push it off the nightstand. You have to use two hands, which means sitting up. So the snooze feature is useless, because you’re already fully awake.
Worse, the “Nature Sounds” clock was cheaply made, and developed a loud, annoying, electronic “POP” sound whenever the alarm went off. It sounds remarkably like someone firing a silencer-equipped .38 caliber automatic pistol in my bedroom. This wakes me up with a start, rendering the gentle rolling surf sound useless.
So I embarked on a search for a clock that would meet my particular needs. I found another “Nature Sounds” clock made by different manufacturer with the controls correctly located on the top. It plays soothing wind chime sounds with a gradually increasing volume feature, rousing me to consciousness gently.
It’s the perfect alarm clock, except for one thing. This week, it developed a loud, electronic “POP” sound when the alarm goes off.
I suspect that all electronic alarm clocks are made by the same giant corporate conglomerate, which has some factory in Malaysia, churning out cheap electronic clock guts at such economies of scale that they make huge profit margins for their investors. These investors become wealthy, and live in enormous, luxurious oceanfront mansions with expansive lawns, fancy cars and servants. But they all wake up feeling like shit, because despite their wealth, they can’t find a decent alarm clock.