5 Reasons You Always Sleep Through Your Alarm, According To Science
It's happened to all of us: The dreaded moment when you wake up and realize you slept through your alarm, messing up not only morning schedule, but also your entire day. It's inevitable that we'll find ourselves in that proverbial boat every once in a while, but if you find it happening to your regularly, it's important to figure out the reasons you sleep through your alarm all the time. While "not hearing it go off" is probably true, it doesn't really get at the root of the proble; indeed, while sleeping through your alarm can definitely have a negative impact on your role in work or school, it can also be a sign that something is seriously wrong with your health.
Sometimes when we have a hard time waking up in the morning, we know logically that it's because we stayed up too late watching Netflix the night before. Other times, it feels like we're chronically struggling to wake up in the morning. That's when it might be time to sit back and evaluate our sleep schedules.
Personally, I set about a million back-up alarms, so this issue rarely happens to me; when it has, though (because no one is infallible), I've always found myself in a total tizzy upon waking. I'm lucky, though, in that it's not a chronic problem for me. If you chronically sleep through your alarm, it may be time to dig deeper and figure up what's off about your sleeping needs.
Here's what might be going on — although as always, definitely get checked out by a professional if you need to. The Internet can only tell you so much.
1. Your Sleep Schedule Is Nonexistent
If you work a job with rotational shifts, are a student, or travel a lot, it's possible your sleep schedule is basically nonexistent. Even if you try to set your alarm to correspond with the golden eight hours of sleep, it's possible you're having a hard time waking up because your body has no idea what to expect from you. Getting enough sleep and waking up on time is largely about habit-forming: Training your body when to fall asleep and when to wake up. If your schedule is all over the place, your body just tries to grab sleep when it can, and doesn't necessarily care about that buzzing alarm next to your ear.
2. You Don't Get Enough Sleep, Period
So, this should be obvious, but it's worth reminding everyone: If you chronically sleep through your alarm, and it's leading you to miss obligations (or just have extremely stressful mornings) it's important to step back and evaluate your sleep schedule. Are you getting close to the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep The National Sleep Foundation suggests you get a night? Even if you've formed a habit of getting by on minimal sleep, that fatigue is going to catch up with your body no matter how many alarms you set.
Now, a lot of people don't have the luxury of having their evenings entirely to themselves (because of a second job, night classes, taking care of children, etc.), but it's so important to prioritize your sleep because it has a huge impact on your health. If you know deep down you're sleeping through your alarm because you're exhausted, it's time to reevaluate your sleep habits and see where you can squeeze in more hours of rest.
3. You're Dehydrated
I know this one sounds a little weird, but hear me out: If you're getting enough water (the Mayo Clinic recommends eight eight-ounce glasses per day, totaling about two liters) and drinking water before bed, it's normal to wake up feeling a huge need to urinate. This matters because it's a physical signal from your body that you need to get up and go use the bathroom, so your body will likely respond quicker to that need than to your alarm. Of course, when you urinate isn't an exact science, so you may wake up earlier than you need to, but if you get in the habit of staying hydrated and drinking water before bed, you're likely to see a change in your body's cycle.
4. You May Have A Circadian Rhythm Disorder
This one is a little scary, but still important to discuss: If you regularly sleep through your alarm, it's possible you actually have a sleep disorder. Our circadian rhythm dictates the way our internal clock connects with our brain and our body. This typically operates on a 24 hour cycle which corresponds to light and dark (basically, day or night) in the outside world.
When our internal clocks are thrown off, it can become impossible to fall asleep or wake up when we need to. Sometimes this happens because of travel, but if it's a chronic issue for you, it may be because you have an actual circadian rhythm disorder. Doctors can evaluate this based on clinical evaluation (keeping a sleep diary might be a good idea), so if this sounds like you, don't be scared! Seek medical attention and take it from there.
5. You May Be Depressed
For many people who experience depression, it can feel impossible to get out of bed in the morning. For some people, this means waking up on time but feeling too anxious, overwhelmed, or lethargic to start their day. For others, this can mean literally sleeping through their alarm because they aren't sleeping well at night, or that tthey're in such a state of exhaustion they don't register the wake-up noise.
No matter what the situation is, if you feel you may be experiencing depression, it's so important to see a mental health professional and get some support. Of course, sleeping through your alarm is not the only symptom of depression, but if you find yourself experiencing some other standard symptoms of depression, such as feeling anxious, restless, apathetic, fatigued, or excessively irritable, it's definitely a good idea to talk to a professional and see what they recommend.