January 21, 2011
When I was twelve or thirteen my parents got me an alarm clock. It was one of those newfangled digital ones with a radio in it too. I’m not sure what exactly prompted this. I know it wasn’t my birthday or Christmas. It might have been the morning I locked my bedroom door. My mother told me to open the door and I said, "I can’t open the door in my pyjamas." When she asked, "Why can’t you open the door in your pyjamas?" I replied, "Because I haven’t got a door in my pyjamas!" Fortunately being grounded didn’t prevent me from staying up late in my room and learning more dumb jokes by watching Benny Hill, but that’s another story. At first I tried using the radio to wake myself up, but the problem with that is I’m a pretty heavy sleeper and my mind would just incorporate whatever song was playing into my dream. And believe me–nothing will give you nightmares like Journey’s "Open Arms". So I switched to the regular alarm which was this loud buzz that was so disturbing it would get me going quicker than a bran muffin and a double espresso.
That’s when I discovered the "Snooze" button, although this is one thing I’ve never quite understood. Who invented the snooze button, and why? If you’re planning to get up at a specific time is it really a good idea to have a button that’s going to let you go back to sleep for another five or ten minutes? In college, in fact, everyone I knew, at some point or another, would, while suffering from a severe hangover following a night of diligently studying, keep hitting the snooze button until they’d slept through all their classes. To this day I’m not sure whether I learned to hit the snooze button in my sleep or whether my roommate was conscientious enough to do it for me, but I remember once getting up for an 8:00am class only to find it was three o’clock in the afternoon. But the thing I really hate about alarm clocks isn’t the alarm so much as waking up in the middle of the night, or what I think is the middle of the night, and seeing that the alarm is going to go off in about ten minutes. I want to get as much sleep as I possibly can, but I know it’s going to take me at least nine minutes to doze off again, and then the alarm will go off and I’ll be groggy the whole day.
On the other hand it is kind of nice sometimes to wake up in the middle of the night, check the alarm clock, and find that I have at least three more hours to sleep. The potential down side, though, is that I might not be able to get back to sleep for two hours and fifty-nine minutes. And alarm clocks which cause you to wake up suddenly have been linked to heart trouble. In most cases it’s enjoyable things–deep-fried food, sweets, alcohol, vegging on the couch–that are linked to heart trouble, which is why it’s a nice change that something nobody enjoys–being woken up by an annoying alarm clock–is as well. Unfortunately I don’t think my boss is going to take being heart-healthy as an excuse if I come walking into work at three in the afternoon, no matter how alert and well-rested I am. Waking up in the middle of the night I also often think of a story my father told me about how he woke up in the middle of the night once and thought he was having a heart attack. Since this made it hard for him to get back to sleep he lay there quietly and waited for the end to come. I asked him why he didn’t wake my mother up and ask to be taken to the hospital. He told me that he figured he at least had some chance of surviving the heart attack. I said, "You think that’s bad? Try telling her first thing in the morning that you can’t open the door in your pyjamas."