Sleep Solutions


It all started on a bright Sunday, I just could not get out of sleep despite being in bed for over 15 hours – yes , you read it right  – 15 hours.Not that I had done any brain/body-exhausting activity the previous day – the fact of the matter was that I just could not get up.I woke up and after some introspection on what really caused me to sleep so much , all evidence pointed to just one culprit  –

As i turns out , I had pressed the snooze button over 25 times that particular day. I pondered upon it a lot and even discussed the issue with a friend who was facing a similar sleep issue, and the conclusion was unanimous – the traditional alarm-with-snooze combo is inherently flawed in its design. Although the alarm tries to provide an excellent stimulus for you to come out of your sleep, it is rendered useless by the fact that it can be easily be postponed by virtue of the Snooze button. The temptation of hitting Snooze is so irresistible that it overcomes the motivation to wake up or stay alert. In other words –

Many people have come up with designs for alarms that consider factors like the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycle of the brain but overlooks the fact that they still possess a manual override.A classic case is the Wakemate which even I considered to be a marvelous solution to my predicament initially. For the uninitiated, the Wakemate  is a band- like device to be worn on your hand, that collects  data from your body , computes and figures out your REM cycle duration. The alarm is based on the logic that you are most likely to wake up at the end of your REM cycle. So it sends a signal to your mobile phone about 5-10 minutes before the end of your REM cycle , which then wakes you up on time. Again here, the fact that the mobile has a snooze button has been ignored completely, and the makers who put such incredible ideas to engineer an otherwise brilliant product, failed to realise their biggest competitor – human laziness.

I hereby propose a different approach based on the Skinner’s Theory of Operant Conditioning .  While most alarms work on the principle of negative reinforcement , where an alarm goes on till you are irritated to an extent that you finally wake up, working on a positive reinforcement based alarm would be much more desirable and produce the increased motivation to get up. Currently negative reinforcement is undesirable , which is what drives us to snooze. Instead, if you have an alarm that gives you an incentive to wake up and cancels that incentive when one presses the snooze button, in my opinion , the chance that you wake up would go up. A possible (but somewhat ridiculous) solution would be an alarm coupled to a coffee maker that starts automatically preparing coffee at the time of the alarm. If you press snooze/ do not wake up within a specified time, salt is added to the coffee.

Another approach is to convert the snooze button into an activity that lasts for time enough and is engaging enough to wake you up. For instance, your snooze button could be your shower tap, with motion sensors attached to it . Only if you go to the bathroon, stand beneath he shower and open the tap  will you be able to stop the noise of the alarm.

I hereby leave it to the reader to figure out which one works better , along with a request that if he/she  finds a solution, do let me know. I shall be indebted to you.

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