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The Ballad of the Runaway Hamsterdog

The Game Changer That Wasn't

Late last week, in a fit of wine-induced TREAT YO SELF, I bought myself a light-up alarm clock. Specifically, this Phillips Wake-Up Clock mentioned in this Gizmodo post, which sings its life-changing praises. 

I have wanted one every since I read that post, but could never bring myself to spend $70 on a damn alarm clock. That's what phones are for. Or husbands. Or cats. Or any one of the three alarm clocks down the hall in my kids' rooms that they all regularly sleep through. 

But then I would go back and re-read that post, getting an almost inappropriate amount of pleasure from dreaming about the life-changing power of the light-up alarm.

I am terrible in the mornings. Because mornings are terrible. Especially now, in the winter, when it's grey and cold outside and my bed is a deliciously warm cocoon. And it's so much nicer to burrow back under the covers and sleep jusssssst a little bit longer than to get up and confront the fact that I am a puffy-faced grease monster in the mornings, and stuck in a default mode of VERY VERY BAD MOOD for at least an hour after I wake up. 

A light-up alarm, I decided, was a worthy investment. I read comments and testimonials and reviews from my fellow night owls and morning haters that praised it to the high heavens. Just imagine! I might be able to just...wake up! And get out of bed like a normal person! Opening my eyes might cease to be physically painful and maybe -- OH JUST MAYBE -- I'll make through a weekday morning without being kind of a dick to anyone.

I'd actually added the clock to my Amazon wishlist pre-Christmas, like hint hint hint Jason Jason Jason. He did not bite, because he is TOTALLY a morning person who does not understand the struggle. If I would just...get out of bed? Like on time? Why don't I try that? 

He also pointed out that I usually pull a second pillow over my head at some point in the early morning, usually as soon as any light starts peeking through the curtains. How would I even see the promised "simulated sunrise" and I was just like, I DON'T KNOW, IT'S SCIENCE, STOP KILLING MY DREAMS.

My clock arrived on Friday and I don't think I've ever been so flipping excited about anything in my life. I rushed to our room and swooped my arm across the nightstand, knocking all the clutter off to make room for my life-changing magic science clock. I had a hair appointment early on Saturday morning so this was PERFECT! I usually sleep in a little bit on Saturdays but not this time! I was gonna get up and get ready and get places on time, maybe even early! 

On Saturday morning I overslept by 37 minutes because I'd set the alarm incorrectly and it never went off.

Okay, fine. We'll try a do-over on Sunday, even though I didn't technically have anywhere to BE, but again, was just really ready for the first day of the rest of my life as a reformed morning rage monster. 

On Sunday morning, I woke up 45 minutes before the alarm went off because Ike came in, poked me in the face and asked me "where that new clock came from."

On Monday morning, I finally woke up when the alarm actually went off. I sat up, looked at the clock and was consumed by the crushing disappoint of nothingness. The clock was illuminated but rather than feel bathed in the perfect light of mid-afternoon, I was just staring at a damn clock with some light bulbs inside. Also it was beeping and shut up shut up shut up with your stupid beeping! 

Okay, I thought. Maybe time to look at the instructions again. I determined I needed to up the intensity level, since our master bedroom is kind of big and cavernous. 

Yesterday morning, however, I realized in all my excited obsessive researching, I'd missed one key limitation of the light-up alarms. I wake up too late, and my room is already too well lit for the clock to have any real effect. We have black-out curtains but by 7:30/8 a.m. there is already light peeking through, and if the door to the bathroom is open, there are windows and a skylight letting in a ton of natural grey-gloomy winter light that the clock simply can't compete with. 

Jason, on the other hand, gets up at 5 a.m. When it is still completely dark. 

(I usually wake up as well when his [non-science-magic phone] alarm goes off, but HELL TO THE NOOOOO I am not getting up at 5 a.m. to work out like some kind of crazy person. So I pull another pillow over my head and go back to sleep. Then I wake up the second time an hour or two later, ready to start my morning in full-on Miserable Cranky Grump mode.)

And so, I have offered custody of my fancy expensive life-changing light-up alarm clock to Jason. I suppose there's a chance I'll wake up tomorrow morning at 5 a.m. transformed and invigorated by the glow coming from his nightstand, but I admit I've lost my faith in the magic science of it all. I mean, me getting out of bed at 5 a.m.? Come on now.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in bed, hiding under the pillows. 





okay, not trying to sound like a dick-genuinely curious here. How do you get your kids up and ready for school if you sleep til 7:30-8? Because if you could share how to make that happen in my house, I would be grateful! :)


My husband also annoying gets up at 5:30 am.....like the alarm goes off and he just jumps out of bed. Nuts. I could never do that ever ever ever.....I mean I could get up at 5:30 am but it literally takes me 30 minutes or more to not feel like I am moving underwater. Duke did a study a few years ago showing that women need more sleep than men and that it literally is more difficult for women to 'just wake up' than it is for men.


So return your alarm and just explain to everyone that angry morning mom is just science.

Olivia Enabulele

That's too bad. I LOVE my progressive light up clock. I bought mine over ten years ago (thus it's really ugly unlike the cool clocks these days), and it was life changing for me.
All previous alarm clocks scared the bejeesus out of me when they went off, so waking up to light was so much better than BEEP BEEP BEEP! I need to get up no later than 6:45 so I set it for that, and the light comes on at 6:15. I'm usually waking up by 6:20-6:30, well before the alarm sounds. The light is also nice for reading at bedtime since it's not too bright.


Does Jason have a fitbit? Because it has a vibrating alarm function that my husband uses to get up at 5 am, and it does not wake me up. And I greet mornings with the same enthusiasm you do.

Also, thank you for saving me $70.


Reading this made me want to enter full Troubleshooting Mode. I am sure you are just naturally Not A Morning Person and that is a real thing and probably can never be full "corrected". But if The Spouse's alarm is consistently waking you up at 5 AM....this reads to me in part like a sleep cycle issue. Being woken up, even if you go back to sleep, is likely to make it harder to wake up when you need to because your body has reset and is likely trying to put you in deeper sleep at that point. Is there any way for The Spouse to wake n' work out (better than wake n' bake!) where it doesn't wake you up? See what avoiding that reset to your sleep cycle does? It might take a week or two to determine if it makes a difference, but it could be worth a shot. I don't want anything to get in the way of his exercise game, but there must be a way to get him out of bed that doesn't involve waking you up.


I wanted one of those! I'm sad it didn't work well. You might try a Fitbit alarm. I find that the gentle vibrating to wake me up is much less startling than a noise and I wake up feeling more refreshed and less angry.


OMG! I could have written this exact same post! I too have that alarm clock (an earlier model) and it has done nothing. NOTHING. I sleep on my side. The side with my back to the alarm clock. So I never see it! And it isn't dark enough in my room. So I just use it as a really expensive snooze button machine.


I have a different version of that clock- mine is sort of a cone shape. It's functioning as a VERY nice radio right now, and I've developed the ability to sleep through really bright lights in my face.

However, once I'm up, I now need bright lights to stay up and get my mind in the 'getting ready for the day' mood. Dark hotel rooms with one measly bedside lamps make it really tough to get ready in the morning.

My biggest question, now, is really WHAT THE HECK IS UP WITH the literary almanac at 6:45 every morning on WAMU?! Garrison Keillor's voice puts me right back to sleep, every time.


I bought one of these but haven't set it up yet. I'm skeptical that it could help, but it's worth a try. I'm sorry it didn't work for you. As a person who wakes up everyday with 15 minutes until I have to leave for work (thanks narcolepsy) I sympathize mightily with morning struggles.

Sarah Lynn

Daylight saving time comes soon, and it will be even harder to get up. Maybe it will be so dark that the clock will be useful for a couple of weeks, but I doubt it.

Sydney McCabe

Now I want one of these magical science clocks. I have to get up for work at 6:30 Monday through Thursday, and 5:15 on Fridays (early breakfast meeting.) My phone alarm is the worst sound in the world.

It would help if I didn't stay up till 1 AM every night binge watching Netflix. But that's likely not going to change...


I just spent--no shit--$1100 on a steam cleaner because a breathless blog review convinced me it would make housecleaning a satisfying delight. Let's hope it doesn't leave me with a crushing feeling of nothingness. And wasted-moneyedness.


This might be completely off base for you but I thought I would mention it, have you been checked for sleep apnea?

I ask because I used to be completely non-functional in the morning the way you described. I would even force myself to sit up when the alarm went off and fall back asleep sitting up. I just thought it was normal because that is the way I have always been.

Then, at an appointment for a very sore throat with my doctor, he said "you have a stumpy neck, small throat opening, and you still have your tonsils. I would be completely stunned if you didn't have sleep apenea."

Several weird tests later I ended up on a CPAP and it has made a WORLD of difference. This whole "getting up in the morning like a normal person" is pretty awesome.

Just a thought.


When people post pictures of sunrises, particularly when they are on vacation, I'm like HAHAHAHAHAHA NOPE. Sunsets are dope. I'm all about sunsets! But sunrise? Why? It gets light and then what, you are awake at the crack of dawn. No thanks. Mornings are evil and should begin at 10ish. I am unfortunately dragged out of bed by my family at around 7am each day, though they are pretty smart and bring me a mug of coffee......

Jess | Fashion By Committee

This is, hands down, the most useful review I have ever read, because I ALSO read that article and was JUST ABOUT to convince my husband that we needed one of these magical devices. Buuuuuuuut I also failed to consider that our normal post-sunrise wakeup time would render the whole fake-sunlight thing completely useless. Um. Score one for me? Anyway, THANKS!


I started getting up early two weeks ago, and this is what the magic answer was for me:


Now when my alarm goes off every morning at 5:30, I have this thought in my head: Do the harder thing now so you can be happier later.

It's so simple, but it's what my little pea brain needed to latch onto to get myself going in the morning. So far so good!


I'm totally a morning person, but my spouse is not. His alarm goes off multiple times starting at 5 am. I usually get up at 6:30 with my phone. I have a song that wakes me, Joel plasket emergency's no where with you. Best wake up song as the first verse is hey good looking. I wake up with a smile everyday


I've been using the SleepCycle app, which wakes you up during an ideal part of your sleep cycle. Bonus fun part is getting a little graphic of how poorly you sleep! And it listens to you all night, like that's not super weird. Mostly I have learned that no one in my house lets me sleep past 6:30, and that is my biggest sleep problem- annoying family-like people.


I've never understood morning people. I physically/mentally/emotionally cannot function until at least 9:30.

Sue W.

Total morning person here. Always have been. I don't set an alarm and am generally awake at 5. Sleeping in for me is 5:30! Please don't hate me!


Amy. Do you possibly have ADHD, which is extremely heritable and which two of your mini-mes have, but which also FAMOUSLY presents differently in girls, especially highly verbal girls, such that many women make it well into adulthood before being diagnosed? Because for real this post is describing an ADHD thing. Also the posts about locking your keys in the car at various times and that time you ran out of gas. Just throwing that out there because on the internet I like to pretend to be a doctor. But for real. Maybe?


I frigging HATE getting up in the goddamned morning and I am a teacher. Work starts at 7:30 and I am still nursing the little one so I have to get up in time to top her off at 6:50 AM already ready for work. I hate my alarm clock so much I might set that ish on fire


Yeah, I think I left a comment on that post about how I had one of those alarms and it did nothing. Like, are all you people it worked for super light sleepers? Mine would flash light for like 10 minutes and then sound an alarm in case you didn't wake up at the light. I had that alarm for about 8 years. The light never once woke me up.


I just wanted to second the SleepCycle app. I love it and it only cost me $3.99.


My husband and I are exactly the same. He does not comprehend what is so hard about getting out of bed and usually gets up way before the alarm. He likes to get all judgy at the rest of us who need to hit snooze 10 times. He also likes to try and have lengthy conversations with me when I am not even out of bed and gets upset when I am not engaged. Of course, try to have a conversation with him after 8pm and the results are the same. I think people are morning or night people and no alarm clock or anything will change that.


Aw come on, people!!! All of this interesting insight into sleep and morning/night people has me thinking about tracking my sleep habits when this was not even on my radar before! Stop making me change for the better, Internet Strangers!

I am not not not a morning person. I am not really a night person either. It's to bed with me around 10 PM and I hit snooze from 6:00 - 7:00 AM every morning. I think it has to be do with my middle-of-the-night insomnia. Dammit, now I'm going to have to look into Sleep Cycle apps or a new fitbit to see if I can figure all of this out because MAN, I dream of being one of those people who gets up and takes the dog for a nice, long walk at 5:00 AM and then drinks a cup of tea quietly in the morning stillness. (I literally cannot see this ever happening, getting up in the morning SUCKS and I HATE IT and YOU CAN'T MAKE ME.)


I too have that alarm, and I DO have to get up before the sun is out, usually, but no matter how low I set the light, it woke me up INSTANTLY, so, no benefit from the gradual wake up science of it all. I waited too long to return, but still use it, sans light feature, b/c I really like to wake up to the bird call sound, vs. a beep. So, if you can live with a $70 bird call alarm, all may not be lost....


Morning people baffle me. I can't imagine springing out of bed at dark-thirty and merrily beginning the day. If Matt Damon woke me at 5:30 a.m. wearing nothing but a towel and asked if I wanted to join him in the tub, I would roll over and go back to sleep. (Okay, untrue - I would totally hit that, but in general, sleep = happiness).


Sorry it wasn't all you hoped and dreamed, but Amazon has a pretty decent return policy... getting your money back might soften the blow.


We should maybe switch husbands.

My husband and one of my children CAN NOT get out of bed in the morning. Even if they've had PLENTY of sleep. They need adjustment time, they need sleep timer time, they just don't want to move. It's so frustrating, because STUFF IS HAPPENING. Why must I be in charge of all the stuff that has to happen?

My older child and I shoot out of bed ready to rock n roll right away. Why would you want to linger? Time to get up and play! If you don't get up, everything later will be rushed and terrible!

In a perhaps ironic twist, he gets morning workout time and I...don't. Because I have to drive carpool (leaving the house at 7:30am). It's completely backwards.


My wife has Seasonal Affective Disorder, so light therapy is a huge part of our household. I have never liked the alarm clocks, but I hate ALL alarm clocks and even though ours (different kind) worked for me a little, I was still an angry person in the morning. We now have a sunlight lamp that stands over the couch. We sit under it while we drink coffee. That thing wakes me up far better.


Product lust followed by disappointment. I'm familiar. I heard an ad on a podcast for expensive dry shampoo and I was like don't do it, self! Remember how horrible the last one smelled and how it basically didn't work? My loathing of almost all perfumes/fragrances means I stick with the same small number of products for decades.


I've been wanting the light alarm clock for a few years too and have it on my Wishlist too.. So sorry it didn't work for you. I think I would have the same issues as you. I did get the SleepCycle app recently too and the nice thing about that is that wakes you up within a half hour range.. I think that works for me cause my body gets confused with different wake up times.. Good luck, I've never been a morning person in my life and probably never will be either..


I got one of those for Christmas and absolutely love the thing, so I'm kind of sad yours doesn't work for you. We live in a basement with not nearly enough windows though, so light is seriously lacking even during full-blown daytime.

The first day it woke me up maybe 10 minutes after the light started up, but after that it's always taken until the beep. I was disappointed until I realized that I was awake, not fumbling for a snooze button, and not growling at my husband to LEAVE. ME. ALONE! I don't have to get up early very often, but my OB is insisting on morning appointments starting in a few weeks and it's a long drive out there and... yeah, I'm really glad my light clock works for me because otherwise it would be miserable!

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