Alarms Don’t Wake Me Up! Help! — Solved in 8 Ways

Alarm clocks with a chaotic background.

When alarms don’t wake me up, that signals big trouble, but other sites want me to just drink some water and go to bed early. Here’s how to *really* solve your alarm issues.


The days are long and the mornings start early. Well, at least they are supposed to start early. But alarms don’t wake me up every time I need them to. Anxiety about any event before noon causes me to panic. Is this a familiar story to you?


Your internal monologue cries out: “Alarms don’t wake me up and tomorrow is a big day!” You plunge into anxiety, tossing and turning, the works. As a result, you fall asleep even later. You won’t get much sleep, but if your alarm works you’ll at least be able to make that 7 AM appointment. If. It. Works.


There is no need to panic, you can solve this. No, we aren’t going to tell you to quit the caffeine or to head to bed at the average American bedtime. We’re also not going to tell you to have a cup of water. You want alarm clocks that work, not a lifestyle judgement. Don’t worry, we’ve got 8 solutions to your alarm wakeup problems that will help fix your alarm, not trash your life choices.


Problem 1 — Your Alarm Is Losing Power 

Problem 2 — Your Alarm is Too Quiet 

Problem 3 — You’re Becoming Hard of Hearing 

Problem 4 — You’re Hearing Your Alarm, But Turning it off Unconsciously 

Problem 5 — You Aren’t Getting Enough Morning Light 

Problem 6 — Your Partner is Turning Your Alarm Off 

Problem 7 — Your Alarm Clock is Being Muffled 

Problem 8 — You’re Using the Wrong Sound 

Alarms Don’t Wake Me Up! — Final Thoughts


Problem 1 — Your Alarm Is Losing Power

Depending on the style of alarm you are using, you could be losing power in the middle of the night. For plug-in, digital alarm clocks even a quick power outage can completely reset your timer.


Luckily, most of these alarm clocks have backup battery slots in place. Since the battery shouldn’t be used often if your alarm clock is plugged in, you probably feel secure that won’t happen to you. Unfortunately, batteries expire in 3-12 years, depending on the type and materials used to make them.


To check if this is the reason why you can’t wake up to an alarm, just unplug your alarm clock. If you see it start to flash 12:00, that means the backup battery has expired and needs to be replaced.


Alternatively, there’s a large chance you’re using your smartphone as an alarm clock. In this case, your phone might be losing power in the middle of the night. Even if your phone looks like it has a full battery before going to sleep, it could power down at 30% battery life or so due to battery health issues.


Due to this and many other issues with using phone alarms, we recommend that you use a dedicated alarm clock.

alarm clocks banner image with colorful clocks and a gray background

Problem 2 — Your Alarm is Too Quiet

“Sometimes alarms wake me up and sometimes alarms don’t wake me up.”


Sound familiar? It could be because your alarm is too quiet to wake you.


How loud does an alarm clock need to be to wake you up?

"Your alarm clock should be at least 60 dB to force you awake on a consistent basis." Quote from in reference to why alarms don't wake me up sometimes.

In Germany, areas are considered noise polluted if they surpass the wake-up noise level threshold of 60 dB. However, researchers C. Maschke, K. Hecht, and U. Wolf published research that suggests sound levels as low as 48 dB can also wake people, depending on where they are in their sleep cycle.


If your alarm clock is under 60 dB, you might be waking up to it when you are at the right stage of the sleep cycle and/or well rested, but not when you really need it.


To counteract this problem, get a louder alarm clock.

bright alarm clock banner

Problem 3 — You’re Becoming Hard of Hearing

It might be hard to admit it, but the problem might have less to do with the loudness of your alarm and more with the changing condition of your ears.


Even if it isn’t noticeable in everyday life, you might have started losing the ability to hear noises in the higher frequency ranges. While tone issues typically do not present a problem until you get older, the process of losing your ability to hear high-pitched noises starts is ongoing throughout life. By the time you are 18 years old, you are likely to not be able to hear tones in the 17,400 Hz range.


Alternatively, you are starting to lose your hearing in your everyday life and haven’t admitted it to yourself yet. Maybe you’re able to adjust TVs and phones to suit your needs and have ample context clues during conversations. But you cannot turn up your alarm tone while you’re sleeping.


In either case, there are a couple of important steps to follow to get you back on the right track. First, you should consult a hearing specialist to assess your hearing health. (Maybe you just have a wax buildup!) Next, consider getting an alarm that vibrates or has some other mechanism for waking you up.

colorful clocks and blocks on a gray background, breaker

Problem 4 — You’re Hearing Your Alarm, But Turning it off Unconsciously

“Wow, that noise is annoying!”


You roll over.


You turn off your alarm.


You go back to bed.


You never notice.


Congrats, you’ve killed your day, missed the important meeting, and made a horrible decision that you won’t be able to remember without even having the joy of being a bit drunk.


The first possible solution is to just move your alarm clock away from you. Your alarm clock should be placed out of arm’s reach. In other words, your alarm clock should be at least 4 feet from your bed. This way you have to at least stand up to turn it off.


Another solution is to add an extra level of conscious thought to your alarm clock turn-off method. Even though we recommend a dedicated alarm, if you are using your phone alarm, some apps can be set up to require you to do math puzzles or otherwise engage your brain before the alarm goes off.


A more radical solution would be to use an annoying alarm clock. There are alarm clocks that move, that shock you, that require you to stomp on them, etc. before they quit sounding in your ears. The sky is the limit when it comes to how agitating an alarm clock can be.

[As ClockHug grows and “matures” there will be a concentrated effort to bring you more content that describes things like annoying alarm clocks, help you find the very best ones on the market, and even build your own. To follow these developments, be sure to bookmark this page or follow ClockHug on Twitter. Thanks!]

clocks and pink blocks breaker

Problem 5 — You Aren’t Getting Enough Morning Light

There’s nothing worse than a morning.


Birds. Work. The sun shining in your eyes.


Unfortunately, it turns out that the last one is essential for our natural rhythms and internal body clock. Seeing light, if even for a little bit, can help average people get out of bed to their alarm (if it is set for morning hours).


While most people can crack their curtains just a tad to get more natural morning light in their room around alarm time, this isn’t the case for everyone. If you need to wake up before sunrise, for a night shift job, or even in a room with a Western-facing window, getting adequate natural light in your room won’t be as easy. Don’t even get me started on those nasty Scandinavian winters!


Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to make your own light. First of all, there are special alarm clocks that emit light in the morning. If that doesn’t entice you, you can also plug a specialized natural light into a plug timer so your room will have bright light at the same time your alarm goes off.

another breaker with a gray background, clocks, and blocks

Problem 6 — Your Partner is Turning Your Alarm Off

Lucy goes to work at 8, Marcus goes to work at 9.


Lucy’s alarm goes off at 7 when the couple planned to have breakfast. It’s early, though, and lounging in bed just feels great, so Marcus decides to just lay in bed for a bit and scroll through his phone, reading a ton of great ClockHug articles.


It seems like only a minute later, but somehow Marcus finds that it is already 10 AM and he has 8 texts from his boss waiting on him. Ouch! Even though he hadn’t intended to, he fell asleep again.


Alternatively, maybe Lucy lays there through her alarm or tries to snooze it, irritating Marcus. He, not able to convince Lucy to get out of bed, turns off the alarm. They both fall asleep until his alarm goes off. 


If you and your partner need to wake up at different times, you must be responsible for separate alarms. Even if you need to get up at the same time, you should have your own personal alarm so you can be responsible for your own fate.


Out of respect, the earlier rising partner can use a vibrating alarm as their alarm so only they are awoken by it.

breaker featuring a bright background and neon pink alarm clocks plus some widgets

Problem 7 — Your Alarm Clock is Being Muffled

Here’s another issue caused by using your smartphone as an alarm. Muffled sounds.


The tendency to use your smartphone in bed at night can cause you to fall asleep while it is by your side. This can cause alarm issues in several ways, with the most predominant ones involving the muffling of your phone:

  • You roll over on your phone during sleep, muffling the speaker.
  • The phone falls on your soft bed, pillow, or blankets, which muffles the extra vibration part of the alarm.
  • The phone falls on the floor, possibly becoming disabled or too far away to hear, or even muffled by your soft floor.


Once again, alarms don’t wake me up, or anybody for that matter, if they are not producing noise at an adequate level.


To solve this issue, buy a dedicated alarm or practice better sleep hygiene (fat chance, I know!) by not bringing your phone into bed with you.

breaker with widgets, pink shapes, and alarm clocks

Problem 8 — You’re Using the Wrong Sound

Here’s something strange: Being shocked awake by sounds isn’t necessarily the best way to force ourselves awake.


According to an Australian study on alarm effectiveness, melodic wake-up sounds are actually more energizing than the traditional beeping, bells, or buzzing you’re probably used to.


Getting awoken by lighter sounds helps us enter the day in a more relaxed state as opposed to one that is jolted and afraid, determined to assess danger and solve the immediate problem of a potential threat.


Even if you’re skeptical this will work for you, it’s worth a try on a weekend for a trial run. Choose an alarm clock with a peaceful wake-up sound or one that allows you to choose your own music to wake up to. If you must use your smartphone, try changing the alarm tune to something peaceful.

breaker with pink alarm clocks and a bright green background with streamers

Alarms Don’t Wake Me Up! — Final Thoughts

Alarms don’t wake me up sometimes, and WOW is that embarrassing! It happens to all of us from time to time, but there are things we can do to reduce the chances of it happening on any given night.


So, what’s your trick to waking up to your alarm every time it goes off?

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3 Responses

  1. I completely agree! I’ve been struggling with waking up to alarms for years, and it’s so frustrating. I’ve tried a few of these methods and they actually work! The one about using a consistent sleep schedule really made a difference for me. Thanks for sharing!

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