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I usually set my alarm really loud so that I will definitely wake up. Usually that is accompanied by disorientation, headaches, etc. However, I read about 'completing the sleep cycle' and that it allows for more fulfilling sleep, along with easier waking up, so I started finding ways to implement that.

One way that occurred to me: what if I set my alarm to 'endless mode' but lower the volume to around 30%? I read that it is very difficult to wake a person in deep sleep, but it becomes easier in light sleep. In this way, when I am in deep sleep I won't wake up, but when I transition into light sleep, then the lower volume will be enough to wake me up.

Is this a good technique?

  • 1. I dunno. Have you tried it? Does it work for you? ❧ 2. Why not instead use SleepBot on a smartphone or tablet, plus its "smart alarm" feature? SleepBot is freeware. (Tip: It's safer not to recharge any device while you're asleep. If you turn motion tracking off but smart alarms on, SleepBot won't power up your device's accelerometer until the early morning, which saves energy.) – unforgettableid May 17 '16 at 16:29
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    @unforgettableid - I would post that as an answer, with appropriate disclaimers if that is or is not your product. Your comment has been flagged as "answering in comments" and could be deleted. – JohnP May 26 '16 at 16:04
  • @JohnP: 1. I wanted further information from the original poster (OP), and still hope that s/he will edit the question and provide this further information. – unforgettableid Jun 3 '16 at 17:35
  • @JohnP: 2. SleepBot might be a good solution for the OP; or it might not. For example, s/he might not own a smartphone or tablet. If s/he doesn't, I can suggest options. (The iPhone 4 includes security holes which Apple will never patch, but the iPhone 4s is upgradable to the latest iOS and is available used for less than 150 USD. Or perhaps the OP can buy dedicated waking-up hardware, such as a clock radio or clock radio with CD player. Such hardware might be able to provide very-gradually-increasing alarms, like SleepBot can, and/or very-gradually-increasing light.) – unforgettableid Jun 3 '16 at 17:36
  • @JohnP: The OP's original question is this: "Is setting your alarm for a long duration at a lower volume a good way to ensure you wake up in light sleep?" I can't answer that original question, so I don't think I should post an answer. I could post a different question with self-answer, or someone could post a different question and quote my words (with attribution) in their answer. – unforgettableid Jun 3 '16 at 17:42
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I think it would help after the first few times, but lose effectivity as you become used to the less noise. I would think to put your alarm on extra early, and your alarm steadily getting louder would work. If you are in no rush to wake up, then as you get closer to natural wake up time, the alarm would be more likely to rouse you. The headaches probably are just caused by not enough sleep, erratic sleep patterns, and etc. Your best weapon would be to sleep better.

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How deep the sleep is depends on the sleep cycles. This overview from shows, that the deepest sleep stages 3 & 4 only happen during the first half of the night. The second half is mainly REM sleep. However our brain is highly active during al these cycles.

Sleep hyponogram from wikipedia Image source: wikipedia

Because even at night there are noises and plently of stimulants for the brain, it needs a gatekeeper which decides which stimulant to get through. This is the job of the thalamus. So if you hear your alarm or if you don't depends wether the thalamus "decides" that it is an important noise and therfore should be recognized by the cortex (2,3) One example of that gatekeeper function are Mothers with newborn children. If their child does tiny noises they will wake up, no matter which sleep cycle they are in, because the thalamus recognizes the child as important. On the other hand cars which are passing by on the outside street, which are even louder that noises from the child will not wake up the mother.

To answer the question: most likley your alarm will not be as important to you as your newborn child, but if it's important for you to wake up with your alarm, you will even with 30% less noise, no matter of your sleep stage. However disorientation and headaches will not get less. Probably you are in a deeper sleep cycle when your alarm goes of, to change that you should alter the time you go to bed. A roughly estimate is, that you need 90 minutes to get one full cycle of sleep. So try to get 6:00 or 7:30 or 9:00 hours of sleep. Read more about sleep hygiene here or in the link of Adamawesome4.

  • This is almost a really good answer. Could you provide a source for the graphic? Also, a reference to support the claim that the hypothalamus is the gatekeeper would make it solid. – Carey Gregory Jul 3 '16 at 15:58
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    thanks @Carey Gregory, I just recognized a mistake. It was the thalamus, not the hypothalamus. The latter regulates hunger and water/salt homeostasis and takes part in hormone control loops. – KTB Jul 3 '16 at 17:08

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