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?

  • 40
    Have kids. You'll never need an alarm clock again.
    – Sterno
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 13:46
  • 1
    Psychological and self improvement problems aren't really in the scope of LifeHacks as I understand it, sorry apaul. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 16:25
  • 12
    @Sterno I said without spending much money =P
    – apaul
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 16:48
  • 2
    @apaul34208 Made an edit to make it more about alarm clock alternatives then about waking you up.
    – Jon
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 13:06
  • 1
    Become a firefighter... Spend time in the station and then set your alarm to tones and dispatch :)
    – L.B.
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 16:12

10 Answers 10


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.

  • 17
    I'd love to see the face of somebody woken up by electric leaf blower! Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 11:17
  • 2
    I think I would avoid running a space heater when I was asleep.
    – user1526
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 11:24
  • 1
    @JamesWebster: here is a (maybe) good approximation youtube.com/watch?v=UnphFxH3FxM Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 12:45
  • @JamesWebster the leaf blower was more of a joke, it will definitely work though.
    – apaul
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 1:00
  • Yeah I realized, but I'd still like to see it! Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 8:25

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.

  • 3
    -1 quality of sleep will suffer. Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 0:46

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


  • 2
    An alarm clock isn't really a lifehack for waking up. Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 18:52
  • 6
    Have 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
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 9:42

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.

  • 1
    An alarm clock isn't really a lifehack for waking up. Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 18:52
  • 9
    Bed shakers are. :)
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Dec 29, 2014 at 23:32
  • 2
    Bed shakers and alarm flashers (strobe lights) were essential in my twenties when I.just.couldn't.get.up.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 4:00
  • I have this clock. It does not wake me up.
    – Easy Tiger
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 11:12
  • 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
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 11:21

I think this might be the most effective way:

enter image description here


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.


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.


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!)


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.

  • 1
    Have 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
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 23:19
  • 1
    I 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
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 0:45
  • 5
    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
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 16:57
  • @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. Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 10:10
  • @AngeloFuchs Interesting. I didn't know that circadian rhythm could tell time the way we do.
    – Shokhet
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 19:37

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

  • 2
    That is super deadly Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 22:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.