As a child of the 90s, I grew up with a bog standard digital alarm clock and if I was lucky, it even had a radio.
However, as I grew up, mobile phones (cell phones) had all of the same functionality as the alarm clocks of old and you could even wake up to your favourite song so they were a sensible replacement for the now-defunct alarm clock.
Skip forward a decade and the pitfalls of using your mobile phone as an alarm clock are too widely known:
- Bringing a phone into your bedroom diverts attention away from your significant other in the very room when you should perhaps be devoting the most attention to them.
- Digital screens emit a lot of blue light and trick your mind into thinking that you should stay awake, so using your phone in your bedroom is going to keep you awake longer, make you sleep less and all the fun stuff that goes along with not getting enough sleep (obesity, diabetes, fatigue etc.)
- When your phone serves as your alarm clock, you are obliged to be holding your phone, literally from the second you wake up. It starts your day by reviewing notifications, starting work before your feet hit the floor and increasing your stress.
For the past 18 months or so, in a bid to get my phone out of my bedroom, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect alarm clock. For me, this elusive alarm clock has many features, but for me, the biggest requirement and the one that I find hardest to fulfil is that the clock must not tell you the time.
Sounds bizarre, right? I want a clock that doesn’t tell me the time? That’s right – perhaps more accurately, what I really want is an “alarm box”; something that has the functionality of an alarm clock, without the clock. Here’s my reasoning: when I wake up in the middle of the night, there are two possible outcomes:
- I recognise that I still have lots of sleep ahead of me. I go back to sleep.
- I recognise that it’s almost time to wake up and I start getting frustrated because there’s no point in going back to sleep, and even if I did, I’d be waking up just a few minutes later anyway, which is even worse for you, and I’m grumpy and mad and fuck this day.
To this day, I fail to understand why people want to know what time it is in the middle of the night. To me, you’ll either be able to go back to sleep or get grumpy/frustrated and be more tired throughout the day.
On the contrary, if you don’t look at the time (this is what I do now), you just go back to bed and assume that there’s still lots of night left. Even when that’s not true, it doesn’t make me grumpy or mad; I just wake up as I normally would.
The perfect alarm clock
Here are my specifications for the perfect alarm clock:
- It must be inconspicuous and unobtrusive. It should blend in to most environments.
- It must not display/tell the time, even upon request.
- It can be controlled by an app – after all, anyone who wants this wants it because they have a phone that they’re trying to remove from their bedroom.
It would be nice if the alarm clock also had features like:
- Waking up to natural light, like the Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock.
- Monitoring and reporting on your sleep, like the Sleep Cycle app. Since my phone won’t be in my bedroom anymore, it would be nice if it could monitor my sleep and report it to my phone, via the HealthKit API for example, to enable reviewing and trending my sleep patterns.
I’ve found a few things that come close, but the lack of time-telling capabilities seems to be the biggest obstacle. If you’ve found an alarm clock that meets these needs, I’d love to hear about it. I’m desperate to get my phone out of my bedroom!