It’s been roughly a year since I quit using a morning alarm, and I have no intention of ever going back…
Why I Decided to Quit
I always had a pretty dysfunctional relationship with my alarm.
It didn’t matter how many alarms I set, what tones I used, how I spaced them apart — they genuinely didn’t wake me up. It wasn’t just that I kept snoozing… I actually didn’t wake up or have any memory of hearing it go off.
It was certainly irritating for my neighbors, and it wasn’t doing any good for me.
Not only that, but that damn ringing just made me angry every time I finally did hear it. Not just annoyed, but genuinely I-want-to-throw-something-against-the-wall angry.
What a great way to start the day.
The Decision to Change
The morning alarm obviously wasn’t working for me, but I was too scared to go cold-turkey with it. What if I way-oversleep and miss out on work? What if I end up wasting half my day in bed?
But something had to give — so I finally began experimenting with no alarm.
In the early days, here’s how I did it:
- I started during a season when I didn’t have any meetings scheduled before noon.
- I stopped using an alarm.
- I overslept more often than not. But I didn’t beat myself up over it — I knew what I was aiming for, and I knew it would be a process moving there. I developed the muscle of allowing myself to sleep until my body decided it was done.
- After a week or so — for one day only — I set a single alarm at a slightly earlier time (roughly one hour earlier than my then-natural late wake-up time).
- For the remainder of the week, I woke up whenever my body got up.
- A week or so later, I did the same thing: set a single alarm on one day, slightly earlier than I had been waking up.
- Gradually, my natural wake-up time shifted earlier and earlier, until I no longer needed the alarm aid.
Throughout this process, I also confronted the deeper issues that were interfering with my sleep patterns:
- I took on a more positive outlook and started looking for reasons to wake up. I looked for joy in the upcoming day. I kept a journal where I daily answered the question “I am looking forward to…” which was a game-changer for me.
- I acknowledged and began to address the uncomfortable things I didn’t want to deal with, the questions and challenges I was trying to avoid by sleeping.
An Honest Look At What My Mornings Are Like Now
Sometimes I oversleep.
But generally, I wake up around the time I need to.
👉 About 25% of the time, my mornings are tremendously refreshing.
👉 The rest of the time, they’re just mornings.
But compare this to how it was previously — when every morning was an angry flurry out the door… and it’s definitely been a step up.
When I do oversleep, it tells me one of two things. Either…
- I needed it (due to physical exhaustion), or
- I’m avoiding something. Something is off-kilter, and I need to address it.
Why I Love It
I think the #1 benefit is that I’m now more conscious.
I’m more conscious of my internal state — rather than relying on a clock and a buzzer to tell me what to do and when, I have to choose what my priorities are and how I’m going to handle them.
And as my consciousness increases, I become better at managing my mood. Because I’m more in-tune with what’s going on with myself. And because I have to enroll my physical self in whatever I do.
And I therefore am more aligned in what I do.
I mentioned earlier that when I oversleep, it’s usually an indicator that I’m avoiding something.
Once I recognize that there’s something I’m avoiding, I have to admit what it is and confront it if I want to get my sleep schedule — and my entire day — back on track.
My alarm-lessness doesn’t fix the problem for me — but it helps me see when there is a problem, which forces me to confront it, so that the problem doesn’t drag on, growing larger and larger until it bursts.
My Current Wake-Up Times
Where I used to struggle to drag myself out of bed by 8:25 to make it to work “on time,” I now wake up without prompting roughly around 7:30am, daily.
My aim is to shift that time a bit earlier — but for now, it works.
I do still use an alarm as security sometimes — for example, if I have an early appointment or flight to catch. But the exciting thing is that even on those days, I often wake up before the alarm. My body has become accustomed to listening to what I have going on in the upcoming day, and then doing what it needs to do to support that.
One more note. Whenever my wake-up time begins to creep a little later and a little later, there are two things I do:
- First, I adjust my going-to-bed habits. This is usually the leading culprit.
- And second, I repeat the process I used when first starting. I set a single alarm on one day for a slightly earlier time. If needed, I’ll repeat this again.
It’s certainly easier to make this kind of transition when you don’t have kids and when you work for yourself. But I still think it’s accessible to anyone. (If you find a way to make it work for your circumstances, I’d love to hear about it.)
My Advice For Anyone Who Wants to Try Going Alarmless 🔕
If possible, start on days when you can allow for the margin to fail (oversleep). For most people, this probably means the weekend. It’s important that you give your body the space to adjust, without becoming too frustrated or impatient.
1 | As you move forward, ask yourself why am I doing this?
2 | Think about what you enjoy about the morning. Think about what you’re looking forward to by getting up without an alarm.
3 | And talk to your body. I don’t mean this in any hippy-dippy way — but really, talk to your body. It is you after all, and it’s always there supporting you. Talk to it, and negotiate with it. It wants the best for you — it wants to support you — but you have to enroll it in what you’re doing.
1 | Have a plan for the morning and for the day. I’ve noticed that when I don’t have a sense of what my primary 1–2 goals are for the upcoming day — if I only have a vague idea of “working on” something — then I’m more likely to drag in the morning.
2 | Pay attention to how and when you go to bed. For me, this is the second-strongest determining factor in managing my wake-up.
3 | Try a sunrise light.
4 | Experiment, pay attention, find what works, and don’t beat yourself up while you’re learning.
Maybe Your Alarm is Wonderful
The no-alarm life isn’t for everyone, and I tip my hat to anyone who functions well with a morning alarm.
I didn’t. So I stopped using it (or rather, pretending to use it).
Your alarm is meant to be a tool. It’s meant to serve your life, and that’s the extent of why it’s here.
If it’s serving you well, great. But if it’s ruining your one precious life, there are alternatives.
The main thing is that you live well, and that you find the means to support you in that effort.
Each week, I do a deep-dive into the question of living meaningfully.
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