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Sleeping through your alarm may be caused by a disrupted sleep routine, a health condition, or heavy sleeping. With treatment or lifestyle changes, waking up can become easier.
When it comes to mornings, there are often two types of people: those who always hear their alarm (and sometimes even wake up before the ringing begins) and those who regularly sleep through the deafening noise.
Perhaps, even if you do hear your alarm on occasion, you find it hard to resist hitting snooze.
So, why are some people seemingly incompatible with alarms? And is there any way to avoid missing an important wake-up call in the future?
Read on to find out.
If you don’t actually hear your alarm, you could just naturally be a heavy sleeper.
According to Dr. Guy Meadows, co-founder and clinical lead at Sleep School, research suggests that deep sleepers have more sleep spindles, a form of brain activity during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.
These sleep spindles “act as a noise-canceling device,” says Meadows.
“Therefore, people who are able to produce more sleep spindles may be hard to wake because they can effectively cancel out the noise that is attempting to disturb their sleep.”
But plenty of other factors can cause a deep, deep slumber.
Your sleep routine
“Whether it’s one night or over the course of several nights, by not getting a full 8 hours of sleep, you create a sleep debt that needs to be repaid,” Meadows explains.
“Those who are naturally ‘night owls’ tend to stay up later at night, and, therefore, sleep later in the morning,” he says.
“When their alarm goes off in the morning, especially during the earlier hours of the morning, they are in a deeper phase of sleep than those who go to bed earlier in the evening.”
And that can be a recipe for disaster if you have an early wake-up call.
Your general health
“Certain medical conditions can make it harder for some people to wake up in the morning,” says Hussain Abdeh, clinical director and superintendent pharmacist at Medicine Direct.
“For instance, cardiac rhythm sleep disorders stop you from developing a regular sleeping pattern, which can mean that you go into a deeper sleep that is harder to wake from.”
Mental health should be taken into account, too.
“One of the common symptoms of depression is oversleeping,” notes Meadows.
People who are depressed “can often be too anxious or lethargic to get a good night’s sleep,” adds Abdeh.
When they do finally nod off, they may have just a few hours until morning and easily sleep through their alarm.
Similarly, stress and anxiety can cause worry that leads to sleep deprivation and a lack of motivation to get out of bed.
Interestingly, Meadows points out, “depression and sleep have a bidirectional relationship, meaning that poor sleep habits can contribute to the development of depression, and having depression makes an individual more likely to suffer from sleep-related issues.
“If you’re finding it increasingly difficult to get out of bed… you may want to talk to a mental health professional about the symptoms of depression,” he says.
Talk therapy with a trusted therapist can help you explore long-term solutions for the challenges in your life. If you need immediate support, the following resources are available 24/7:
Build a better routine
Building a better routine can work wonders, whether you accidentally oversleep or find it difficult to get out of bed in the mornings.
“By going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, it becomes easier to wake up in the mornings and start your day,” says Meadows.
Plus, Abdeh notes, not only will a consistent bedtime and wake-up time “help you to fall asleep more easily, but it will also mean that the quality of your sleep should improve.”
Of course, to ensure you’re getting enough sleep, this may mean going to bed earlier than you usually would. Most people need between 7 and 9 hours.
If you’re finding it hard to get in bed an hour or so earlier, try moving your bedtime up in more manageable increments, such as 15 minutes per night.
If you have a medical condition that makes sleeping or waking more difficult, visit a doctor for advice and treatment options.
Boost your sleep hygiene
Practicing good sleep hygiene before bed is also important for decent shuteye.
Eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and exercising regularly can all help you sleep better.
“Having a motivation to get out of bed is another great way to avoid oversleeping,” Meadows says. “Try setting up a morning coffee with a friend, attending a morning session of your favorite exercise class, or going to a new breakfast spot with your partner.”
Buy a new kind of alarm
If your routine’s improved and you’re still sleeping through your alarm or lacking the motivation to get up, you might need a more innovative wake-up call.
Meadows recommends setting “several very loud alarms and placing the clock or phone out of reach.”
This, he explains, “means you have to physically get up to set the alarm off, which makes it impossible to ignore it or press snooze.”
There are also special alarm clocks designed for regular oversleepers.
For example, you could buy one with an extra loud setting, one that runs around on wheels if you hit snooze too many times, and even one that’s built into a rug and requires you to stand on it to turn it off.
If you use your phone as an alarm, consider downloading an app like Alarmy or Sleep Cycle. They can wake you up during a lighter sleep stage or set you on missions that involve getting out of bed in order to turn off the alarm.
Finally, there’s the power of light.
“Whether it’s leaving your bedroom curtains open or using a sunrise lamp, waking up to light could make a difference in your ability to actually wake up and, more importantly, stay up,” says Meadows.
And yes, you can even buy a special light therapy alarm clock that slowly increases the amount of light it emits to gradually wake you up.
From natural brain activity to mental health issues, plenty of factors can lead to oversleeping.
But with the right medical support, an optimum sleep schedule, and a unique device, you can alter your sleeping habits and avoid missing that all-important wake-up call.
Lauren Sharkey is a U.K.-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraines, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.