Alarm Clocks Really Bite

By Marc Williams

I despise alarm clocks.

Dr. Rubin Naiman, a sleep and dream expert, suggests that an alarm clock is a distributor of self-inflicted agony, and I couldn’t agree more. He refers to our reliance on alarm clocks as “tail-biting,” a reference to Dr. Seuss’ Sleep Book.

[Sleep Book is] a story about a character in a bedtime story. It’s about one of Dr. Seuss’s enigmatic little creatures, the Chippendale Mupp, who is featured in his classic “Sleep Book.” The Mupp is a sharp-toothed furry fellow with an impossibly long tail. As a part of his bedtime routine, this weird little beast bites down hard on the end of its own tail.

2011-08-11-Screenshot20110811at11.48.06AM.pngSeuss informs us that:

His tail is so long, he won’t feel any pain, ‘Til the nip makes the trip and gets up to his brain. In exactly eight hours, The Chippendale Mupp Will, at last, feel the bite and yell, “Ouch!” and wake up.What a revealing parable about the alarm clock as a self-inflicted pain in the rear!

Naiman suggests that sleep is undervalued. On one hand, many of us simply don’t get enough sleep. After all, the alarm clock is designed to interrupt our slumber–if our sleep patterns could end naturally we’d have no need for alarms. However, most of us either stay up too late, wake up too early, or both, so we punish ourselves every morning with an alarm. Naiman also points out that our lamps, phones, clocks, and other items we keep at our bedside “tether us to the waking world,” a phenomenon he calls “getting down on the wrong side of the bed.”

I imagine this is something that many teachers and students deal with, especially BLS students who are simultaneously juggling school, a career, and a family. For us zombies who keep very late hours, Naiman’s first recommendation is obvious: an earlier bedtime. However, simply getting an extra hour or two of sleep isn’t the only way to combat tail-biting:

[Practice] a mindful approach to sleep. When you slip into bed, focus on the treasure of tonight’s sleep, not tomorrow’s waking. Instead of thinking about what you will do in the morning, surrender to the mystery of the present night, enjoying your swim in the sea of sleep with its wondrous dream fish. Instead of awakening in the morning to an alarming “ouch!” — practice coming to gently and gradually, intentionally carrying the serenity of sleep and the enchantment of dreams with you into your new waking day.

Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?

2 responses to “Alarm Clocks Really Bite

  1. That does sound dreamy. We’ve been consciously trying to get to bed earlier, and it has made quite the difference in our lives.

  2. Dawn Humphrey

    I have developed a ‘sleep routine’ to ensure that I make the most of the small amount of time I can actually lay down. I have ‘white noise’ on my iPod that I play to fall asleep. I used to play Spa music until my Audiologist daughter advised that my brain is listening/interpreting the notes rather than drifting off, thus I reverted to the white noise. I wear a sleep mask. Sure, it looks stupid, but who is looking anyway? The mask blocks out the morning light that artificially attempts to wake me up. I taper all eating/drinking before bed, not to avoid getting up, but to promote my body shutting down. All my windows have room darkening shades. Again, the light stimulates your body to wake even if you need more sleep. Promote your own comfort: In the summer, I have a ceiling fan that gently stirs the air. In the winter, I have a mattress warmer that gets my bed toasty warm before crawling in. Finally, I treat sleep as the luxury that it is, ensuring my bed is comfy donning high quality linens and my bed clothing suits my desires and body temp; from slinky nightgowns to wool socks-its my choice and I deserve to sleep well in order to perform at the highest level academically and in my career. BTW – as you can tell, I am a night owl!