Not solving the problem

Hiding the symptoms is profitable however.

Waking up. If you are like me, it is one of the most difficult task of the day. Everyday, I go to bed late, thinking it won't be so hard to wake up the next morning. But everyday I struggle. When the first light of the day enters my bedroom, it is only an excuse for me to tuck myself deeper into the blanket. I can't wake up, and the apparent solution is the alarm clock.

These days no one uses an alarm clock. Instead we have phones with more computer power than a GPS satellite. We set the time we want to wake up and in the morning it will ring and take us out of the magical land of dreams. The first day you set the alarm, you will wake up. The annoying sound of the phone and the vibration are unfamiliar in your dream. So it reminds you that: No, you are not gliding 1000 feet off the ground, with a chihuahua cheering for you. You are in fact asleep and it is time to wake up.

For me the problem occurs around a week into using an alarm. It doesn't wake me anymore. I recognize the sound, and willfully ignore it. Hence the invention of the snooze option.

When you hit the snooze button, usually it postpones the alarm for another 5 minutes. When the time runs out the alarm rings again, somehow it always feels like less than 5 minutes.

If you use an alarm, after sometime you get used to it. On good days, I still have the memory of waking up, turning it off, then heading back to sleep. On bad days, I wake up later thinking my alarm never sounded at all.

We live in the time where phone applications are in the lime light, so some clever people decided to tackle the problem. The theory is, if you engage in an activity that requires rigorous brain activity, you will have a harder time falling back asleep. In a sense it is true.

So one developer comes up with a new alarm that requires you to solve a puzzle in order to turn off a very loud sound. Suddenly it becomes very popular and people start paying real money to get their hand on this new marvel of technology.

The app has only one puzzle but it is good enough to stimulate activity in your brain to take sleep away from you. The more popular the app gets, the more clones come out. And each claim to be better then the others.

Some have very complex puzzles that you'd have a hard time solving even in the middle of the day. Some have an infinite amount of puzzles because the developer abstracted the application to receive new puzzle over the internet. For a monthly fee you get an advertisement free alarm that will never serve you the same puzzle twice.

But alarm apps are not limited to puzzles. With some, you have to shake the phone violently to get it to turn off. Another notable app claims to be therapeutic, it starts with a gentle melody to slowly wake you, and gently increasing the volume until you are ready to wake up. Needless to say, I never wake up to this one, or at least I don't remember turning it off.

A few weeks into using these apps, I deleted them all.

If you think about it, none of them solve the problem. No matter how violently or gently they wake me, I'd still need coffee to start the day, and I am not a coffee drinker. These apps are all trying to wake you up, but what they are really doing is trying to numb a symptom. They make it a technology problem by constantly renovating the UI, adding advertisement, but completely forgetting their goal.

They real problem is we don't get enough sleep. Can anything be done to help you get better sleep? Yes, and I don't have a definite solution. But if we can spend so much time trying to fix the symptoms, what would happen if we spend the same amount of time trying to get people to sleep better?

Maybe instead of trying to trick people into waking up, here is a scenario. I set my alarm to wake me at 7am. At 11pm the night before, It rings to notify me that my phone is going to be locked for the rest of the night. It won't let me unlock it unless I confirm that I am not supposed to wake up at 7am anymore. And it won't let me set the alarm at that time anymore just in case I am lying.

Maybe it won't work for everyone, but it is a step in the right direction. Having trouble waking up early shouldn't be solved by shocking you in the morning. Instead we should address the problem of sleep deprivation.

Now that this post is done, take a moment and think about all the problems we are not solving but simply camouflaging the symptoms.


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