Bob went hunting some place between Alice and San Diego this morning. That’s about 90 minutes from Portland so he had to be up at 4 to be there when the deer got up. That’s 4 in the a.m.
Although we both set alarms, I am the faster waker. I’m the faster going to sleeper, too, so it is probably easier for me to rouse when my T-mobile phone plays its little tune. Bob watches TV after I turn over, checks the house a few times, texts Bobby if he isn’t home by midnight, hustles the dogs in and out of the house, and THEN falls asleep. My sympathy to him because I am merrily snoring and usually don’t wake unless there’s a canine Armageddon in the yard.
Years of drinking myself to sleep perverted my ability to sleep and wake naturally for a while. One of the gifts of sobriety-an early gift-is the ability to fall asleep and wake relatively happily. I used to drink myself to sleep, believing that I couldn’t possibly sleep without alcohol. It quieted the voices in my head. In the last 4 or 5 years of my active alcoholism, I passed out most nights and came to instead of waking most mornings. Who would have thought that getting rid of alcohol, working the steps and living a day at a time would be a better sedative than any chemical? Not me, that’s for sure.
These days, I rouse as soon as the alarm goes off. The first thing I do is hit the snooze button. I have two separate alarms in two different tones with separate snooze intervals. I can weave my alarm into my sleep unless I trick myself.
I have found that the very best sleep occurs right after the snooze button is hit. It nudges out the sleep I get after I startle awake at 3:30, realize I’ve got another hour to sleep, and fall back to sleep. There’s something about the sleep that I cling to as the night slips away that makes it more desirable.
I don’t remember our parents’ using an alarm clock. I suspect that years of waking early enough to milk cows and feed livestock trained our dad to wake before dawn. One of my toddler memories is of sitting beside him reading Golden Books while he read the newspaper and the rest of the family slept. He may not have needed an alarm clock, but I would be sunk without one.
The Greeks built one of the first alarm clocks, a water-clock where the raising waters would both keep time and hit a mechanical bird that triggered an alarming whistle. In 1787, Levi Hutchins in New Hampshire invented the first mechanical alarm clock so he could wake for his job, but the ringing bell alarm on his clock could ring only at 4 a.m. Antoine Redier patented the first alarm clock in France in 1876; Seth Thomas patented a mechanical wind-up alarm clock that could be set for any time a year later.
The U.S. suspended clock manufacture in 1942 so that plants could devote resources to the war effort. By 1944, worker absenteeism attributed to “my alarm clock broke” forced a pooling arrangement overseen by the Office of Price Administration and several clock companies started producing new clocks.
General Electric produced the first alarm clock with a snooze button, marketed them as Drowse clocks, and provided them for a 5 or 10 minute snooze interval. Alarm clocks generically permit a 9 minute snooze. Clock historian Jay Kennan offered a plausible explanation as to why the 9 minute interval is used.
By the time GE added the snooze feature in the 1950’s, the mechanic parts of a clock had been fixed for some time. In order to keep the existing gear configuration, engineers would have two choices: they could either rework the mechanics or set the snooze for a little over 9 minutes or a little more than 10 minutes. Ten minutes were deemed too long so clock makers decided on the nine-minute gear, believing people would wake up easier and happier after a shorter snooze.
According to USA Today, more than a third of American adults hit the snooze button every morning an average of three times. 57 percent of adults between 25 and 37 are most likely to hit the snooze button. Only 10 percent of Americans over 65 regularly use their snooze button.
Most sleep specialists and motivational counselors decry the use of the snooze button. Sleep doctors say that we become more tired if we try to extend our sleep because we trip up the REM’s associated with deep sleep. Motivational counselors say that when we delay rising, we set ourselves up for procrastination in other things. I like the advice of Charles McPhee who was a CBS Radio talk show host and self titled “Dream Doctor” until his death in 2011.
According to McPhee, snooze buttons can train you to remember your dreams. We dream most deeply in the early morning hours as I have noticed when I hit the snooze button. If you want to remember your dreams, he suggests that you lie still and work back in your mind to what your were just dreaming. If you can piece together the outline of a dream, write it in a notebook by your bed. This can train you to recall your dreams.
I like his next suggestion the best though: Then go back to sleep and repeat the process each time the snooze alarm buzzes.