Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Hate Alarm Clocks

For a long time now, I've had the pleasure of living a life practically free of alarm clocks. This is good, because alarm clocks are one of the most stressful inventions ever invented by man.

However, I recently enacted a standardization of hours at the office, meaning instead of coming in when we feel like it everyone figures out a schedule that works for them, then attempt to stick to it. So, yesterday I woke up to an alarm clock for the first time in months. It was awful, and it reminded me that the last time I tried to return to the stressful world of alarm clocks I may have woken my worst enemy.

Last year, at around this time, we started gearing up for PAX East (as we are now) by having everyone come in early every day to get things out the door and off to Boston. So, I dusted off my alarm clock and started getting up at what Laura calls "normal human hours" for a while.

I don't know if it was the stress of the alarm clock, stress in general, my wonky sleep schedule, or just bad luck, but soon I began to suffer from my nemesis: cluster headaches.

Starting in high school, every few months to a year I'd start to feel a terrible pounding in my head which, at first, just makes it hard to concentrate on anything. Then, steadily, it builds into piercing, throbbing pain behind one of my eyeballs. This terrible pain lasts for an hour to an hour and a half, then goes away and just leaves me feeling nauseated for the rest of the day. The headaches return every day or so for a few weeks (a cluster), then they go away for 6 months. For years, like clockwork, I could expect them every spring and fall.

There is nothing you can do about these headaches. No medicine works on them, and pain medicine has no effect. Huddling motionless in a dark room makes it worse, and you can only jog around the block for so long before getting tired. The pain can get so bad that I, an otherwise fairly sane person, have beaten my head against objects and given myself a concussion in my desperation to escape the pain. Doctors are baffled.

It is, in short, my greatest fear, and one that I know I must face again some day. I'll never defeat it, I can only try to endure it. It is, in many ways, my nemesis.

That said, ever since I came to Tucson, I've only had one cluster period, over 18 months since my previous one. There have been many changes in my lifestyle since moving here that might account for the lowered frequency of the cluster headaches: a different climate, less humidity, a less stressful job, eating slightly better, and, of course, a lack of regular alarm clock usage. I used my alarm clock religiously in Louisiana, it being the only way I could wake up for classes and work every day.

The relationship between alarm clocks and my headaches may be spurious. I don't think that the isolated incident last year is enough to claim a direct causal relationship between them. That said, I have no interest in further experimentation. No, not even for science.

I will continue to set my alarm clock, though, since I have a self-imposed obligation to keep a reliable schedule at work. However, I'm hoping I'll never need to use it. Instead, I'll attempt the old-fashioned solution of going to bed earlier and waking up before the alarm goes off.

I hate alarm clocks.


  1. Those jarring "EHHHH EHHHH EHHHH" noises that old alarm clocks use to jolt you out of a sound sleep are indeed one of the worst things invented for the supposed betterment of mankind. Have you tried using your phone to set a soothing tone for wake-ups?

    1. I do sometimes. I had actually forgotten what m alarm clock's beeps sound like, but it's not too bad. Plus, I can actually adjust the alarm clock's volume, so it's not too bad.

      My phone's wake-up alarm plays Gonna Fly Now from Rocky, which is a pretty badass way to wake up. However, I honestly think it's the stress of knowing I have to wake up at a certain time that gets me more than the alarm itself.