One time I slept through a hailstorm that forced my windows open and wreaked havoc in my room—threw candles off my vanity and collapsed my curtain rod. Another time I slept through an entire 16-hour flight from New Jersey to Taiwan. I have no problem falling asleep anywhere, anytime.
Waking up, however, is another story.
It’s a serious struggle. I set 10 alarms on my phone and two on my clock starting at 6 in the morning and in 15-minute intervals so I wake up and fall back into a lighter and lighter sleep each time. I think it makes it easier to wake up for real at 8:30, mostly because I’m fed up by then.
But it also makes me cranky. So I tested out six alarm clock apps—most of which force you to take some sort of awake-and-thinking/moving person action to turn off the alarm—in an attempt to change my drowsy ways. Here are the notes I made before flipping the pillow and dozing just a few… more… minutes.
How: Stand up, spin around twice.
Pro: It’s cheat-proof. You can’t just turn your phone around in circles from your bed. You have to place two thumbs on the screen and hold the phone flat, so your wrists just won’t turn the way they need to lying in bed. Trust me, I tried.
Con: You’re essentially paying two bucks to make yourself dizzy AF. Kind of an adverse effect, because you’ll just need to lie back down to cure the dizziness.
Barcode Alarm (Free)
How: Scan any barcode to set the alarm. Scan the same barcode to turn it off.
Pro: This one is probably my favorite. I used it on mornings I knew I’d be hung over, because I’d have to get up, walk into the kitchen and scan a bottle of Bacardi—which gave me shivers in the a.m.
Con: I tried scanning a bottle of wine once, then cheated by putting it on my bedside table, then got tipsy and forgot that I was using it as my alarm clock, then took it to the trash shoot down the hall, then had to delete the app because I couldn’t scan the bottle to turn it off. I guess this is a pro if you’re really trying to wake up.
Mathe Alarm (Free)
How: Set a series of math problems—you choose the number and levels of difficulty. Solve said math problems to turn off alarm.
Pro: I honestly can’t think of anything nice to say about this app other than that it woke me up successfully. I’m a writer. Writers don’t do math.
Con: You have to do algebra in the morning. Like serious algebra. Like linear equations and shit. I couldn’t do that wide awake.
Step Out ($1.99)
How: Set a number of steps you have to walk when you’re alarm goes off, or take a photo of a destination you have to walk to. Walk those steps to turn it off, or walk to the place you took the photo and re-take the photo.
Pro: This app is like the FitBit of alarm clocks. It detects cheating, too, so if you fake walk by shaking your phone, it will only get louder and louder and LOUDER. And it will keep starting over your steps. I tried taking a picture of the hallway outside my apartment, which I do not recommend if you sleep naked.
Con: I couldn’t turn it off no matter how many steps I took. I swear, this time, I really wasn’t cheating. I had to finally delete the app because I was at a loss as to how to shut it up.
Snooze U Pay (Free)
How: Enter your payment information. To turn the alarm off, select “Stop.” Otherwise, choose “Snooze,” but you will have to pay.
Pro: Snooze and you pay. It’s as simple as that. You get five free minutes to start with but then it costs 99 cents for 10 minutes, $2.99 for 30 minutes, $5.99 for 60 minutes and $11.99 for 120 minutes. Who wants to pay for a few extra minutes of what will probably be shitty, anxious sleep?
Con: It doesn’t work. You can cheat the system too easily. Instead of hitting “Snooze,” just hit “Stop,” but make sure to add more follow-up alarms. So the multiple alarms function as your snooze without you having to pay up.
Memory Alarm (Free)
How: Pick a level of difficulty. Memorize the color pattern and repeat it.
Pro: It’s not math. So that’s cool.
Con: The problem is that this one doesn’t take much brainpower (mostly because I’d pick an easy level). So I’d just red, yellow, blue myself back to bed. You have to be willing to consciously screw yourself over in advance by selecting a tough level. I was not willing.