What Your Alarm Clock Says About Your Personality

Which of these six types best fits your morning preference?

woman and dog sleeping in bed
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Perhaps you have previously determined whether you are a “night owl” or a “morning lark,” but have you ever considered what type of alarm clock person you are? What does your alarm style, and how you react to it, say about your personality? Can how you wake reveal features of your sleep? Discover which of the six alarm clock types best fits you and what it might mean about your sleep.

Variety in Alarm Clock Features

From the traditional, stand-alone models to those integrated into smartphones, all alarm clocks perform the same basic function—to prompt an awakening to end sleep.

Enhanced technology may even have a variety of additional features.

Beyond a simple buzzer, modern alarm clocks now allow a variety of new options. It is possible to set more than one alarm. It is easy to select distinct music or various sounds to wake to and even degrees of intensity. Some alarms attempt to wake you from light sleep when you start to stir—based on perceived movement—and others may even ease waking with a simulated sunrise.

What might your alarm preferences say about you? If you wake easily with a gentle tune, like Vivaldi’s Spring, does this mean you have slept better? What if you require an alarm sounding like a nuclear blast going off at nine-minute intervals for the better part of an hour? Does that make you a bad sleeper? These varying styles might highlight personality traits, but they may also reveal characteristics about your sleep patterns, quantity, and quality.

Consider each of the following six types and which best fits your morning preference:

The Early Bird

The Early Bird wakes daily in the wee hours of the morning, often when the house is quiet and before the sun has risen. These awakenings may occur from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., even if the alarm clock is set to go off later.

Is it possible to wake too early?

Though the early bird catches the worm, even the worms might sleep until a certain hour. There is something particularly frustrating in waking before the alarm goes off. These early morning awakenings may shorten the total sleep time and cause insomnia.

Though rarely present in circadian disorders like advanced sleep phase syndrome—affecting one percent or the population—there are other potential causes. In particular, depression and obstructive sleep apnea are associated with early awakenings. The last hours of the night are often when REM sleep predominates and this may lead to airway muscle relaxation and worsened sleep apnea.

If an awakening occurs near morning, it may be hard to return to sleep. The Early Bird may be resigned to this fate and simply start the day earlier than intended, getting out of bed and turning off a still silent alarm.

The Natural

The Natural is the person who nearly everyone else hates. Almost as regular as clockwork, The Natural wakes right on time (and perhaps even a minute or two before the alarm is set to go off).

Even without an alarm, the wake time would come naturally and precisely. Their sleep needs have been met by getting adequate time in bed.

The Natural falls asleep quickly, gets back to sleep easily after waking in the night, and wakes in the morning feeling refreshed. There is no hesitancy in getting up as the desire for sleep has been fully met. The Natural feels well rested, awake immediately, and is ready to start the day. Children are often in this category.

The Gentle Riser

The Gentle Riser is the individual who, however reluctantly, wakes immediately as the alarm goes off and climbs out of bed. The alarm is turned off and the day is begun. There is no opportunity to hit snooze. The time for sleep has ended. There is work to be done. It is time to get up.

This is not a moment of joyful rising, but a matter of necessity. Perhaps after a cup of coffee, the day can start in earnest. It would be nice to sleep in a little, but The Gentle Riser cannot indulge in such desires, at least not during the workweek.

The Hibernating Bear

The Hibernating Bear is characterized by a reliance on the alarm clock’s snooze feature with repeated delays in waking. It can be hard to wake some people and recurrent alarms, of increasing intensity, may prove necessary.

The Hibernating Bear prefers to keep sleeping. It is hard to wake up at first. It may take a few attempts to get the day started with several false starts. Much like a bear emerging from a long winter of hibernation, these individuals have to be eased into wakefulness. There may be a “last chance” time to get out of bed that is observed with the knowledge that one more activation of the snooze will lead to tardiness or truancy.

The Hibernating Bear may be grizzled by a poor night of sleep—inadequate hours, sleep disorders impacting sleep quality (like sleep apnea), hangover effects from alcohol or sleeping pills, or delayed sleep timing. If allowed to sleep later (and longer), The Hibernating Bear can wake more easily with improved mood and daytime function.

The Neutralizer

The Neutralizer hears the alarm and responds promptly—abruptly turning it off rather than hitting snooze and going back to sleep. This may lead to oversleeping with inherent consequences.

Much like The Hibernating Bear, the reasons for persistent sleepiness at morning may include inadequate total sleep time, sleep apnea, and delayed sleep phase syndrome. In order to avoid this tendency, it may be necessary to set alarms on multiple clocks or even place the alarm clock across the room. By needing to get out of bed to turn it off, it is less likely that The Neutralizer will simply go back to sleep.

The Unwaking Dead

Finally, there are the unfortunate ones who are best described as The Unwaking Dead. These folks are nearly impossible to wake when the alarm goes off. Teenagers and adults with delayed sleep phase syndrome often are found in this category.

Not only is the onset of sleep delayed (or insomnia occurs), but sleep offset also occurs later. These night owls may naturally fall asleep at 2 a.m. and not easily wake until 10 a.m. If the alarm is set for 7 a.m., to get the affected person to school or work, it can literally be like trying to wake the dead.

Awakenings may be brief and quickly followed by deep, impenetrable slumber. Fortunately, morning sunlight can help to reset these circadian patterns and make it easier to wake the person (making the alarm clock more effective). Otherwise, multiple alarms, reinforcement from others in the household, and even a cold glass of water may be necessary to wake The Unwaking Dead.

Impact on Health & Relationships

Though personality may play a role in some of these preferences, it seems that the nature of the sleep obtained also impacts how a person feels in the morning and how they might respond to an alarm clock. This preference may vary from one day to the next or at various stages in life. Some characteristics may be enduring. It is also possible for sleep disorders to develop that impact sleep quality.

There is no right or wrong way to sleep. Someone can be satisfied and perfectly happy as The Early Bird, The Hibernating Bear, or even The Unwaking Dead. If you get sufficient hours of rest and function well during the day, the timing of sleep can vary as can your use of and response to the alarm clock.

This variation can be well tolerated. There may be no impacts on your health or well-being, though the social impacts may be troublesome. This is especially true if your preference conflicts with others in the household, your spouse or children, or your work demands.

Unfortunately, we are not always the best judges of our own impairments when we don’t get adequate sleep to meet our needs. Consider your own alarm clock type as well as that of your bed partner—or even your children. The impacts on your everyday life may be surprising.

If you feel like your difficulty waking in the morning is a problem that deserves further assessment, consider consultation with a board-certified sleep specialist to explore this issue. Sleep disorders ranging from insomnia to circadian rhythm disorders to sleep apnea can be effectively treated and the pains associated with the alarm clock may be absolved.

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