By Vladimir Marchenko
Smart alarm clocks are getting more and more popular among the devices for everyday
use. However, there are still a lot of questions about why you need one and how they
function. Furthermore, not many people know about the models present on the market and what are the pros and cons of each of them. After this review you wouldn’t have a single question left about smart alarm clocks, so let’s begin.
History of alarm clocks
Throughout the centuries, people have been guided by various signals from around the
world to wake them up. It could have been sunrise, birdsongs and animal screams, ringing bells of the town hall, or muezzin prayer call. There even existed a device called “fire clock” in Ancient China. It included a burning incense stick placed horizontally on a
supporting stand and metal weights hanged on the threads with specific intervals. Before going to sleep people would light a stick from one side. Once it was burning through the threads the weights would fall down onto a metal plate producing a sound. Such a sound used to be a wake-up signal for all the inhabitants of the house.
During the Industrial Revolution (around 18-19th centuries) in the UK and Ireland there
appeared knocker-uppers — people who used to walk around the working-class neighbourhoods of London and Edinburgh and knock on the windows with long sticks in order to wake people up. Due to the implementation of “working hours” it became necessary for people to wake up at a certain time. Knocker-uppers were using ratchets
and even straws to shoot peas at their clients' windows. A famous knocker-upper Mary Smith from London claimed that she could reach the 4th floor of the building by shooting from the straw.
Knocker-uppers existed in the UK almost till 1970th, even though by that time the
mechanical alarm clock has already been invented in the USA. As a rule, old people (who
sleep less than usual) and people with insomnia and other sleep disorders were hired as
knocker-uppers. The first American alarm clock was invented by Levi Hutchins in 1787.
That mechanical device was ringing once a day at 4 am. However, in 1847 Antoine Redier, a French inventor, became the first one to patent the alarm clock. The advantage of his device was that it could ring any time of the day. Nevertheless, working-class people could’t afford such an expensive device for many decades more.
In 1931 there appeared the first accending sound alarms. After this, in 1956 General
Electric company developed a mechanism with a delayed wake-up system. By the end of
the 70th built in the watch alarm clocks have become a common thing. However, till today many people have troubles waking up in the morning.
Why usual alarm clock doesn’t benefit your sleep
Even though nearly every possible device has a built-in alarm clock, generally, people are still underwhelmed by the way they wake up. Around 80% of the USA population use alarm clocks. However, 6 out of 7 people wake up feeling tired in the morning, even if they slept for 7-8h. How so?
First of all, sleep is not a monotonous process, it has cycles. There are two basic stages of sleep: NREM (slow phase) and REM (rapid phase). Moreover, NREM sleep phase itself
consists of four stages (drowse, light sleep, delta-sleep and deep sleep). The way you feel in the morning mainly depends on the phase during which you wake up. Two best stages to wake up are NREM-2 (light sleep phase) and during spontaneous waking-ups in REM-phase (it often occurs on the weekends when we don’t have to rush anywhere).
Slow and rapid phases of sleep cyclically alternate. Brain functioning and processing of
emotions mainly occur during rapid sleep. Throughout this phase, restoration of the
nervous system takes place and the information is structured. Rapid eye movement sleep phase (REM) allows the reactivation of all the data that has been taken in during the day. Brain systemises the information and decides what to store as a long-term memory and what to erase.
Physiological functions of the body are restored during slow NREM stage. In the course of this phase cell regeneration occurs, the hormones are excreted and the energy is stored. Slow phase sleep is necessary for a whole-body recuperation as it helps to restore energy resources. For this reason, it is very important not to be disturbed during NREM phase.
Secondly, even though usual alarm clocks are now equipped with all types of extra
features, like a variety of sounds, ascending alarm signal and light indicators, they are still meant to go off at a certain time which may occur during any stage of your sleep. It is possible to adjust your sleep pattern to such an alarm clock, however, it would be
necessary to preserve strict sleep hygiene, which means going to bed and waking up at
the same time during both weekdays and weekends for a month. This may be quite
complicated, especially in wintertime, when due to the darkness outside we tend to remain in a deep sleep phase even at 7am.
Interesting to read: 10 great people who slept less than five hours per day
Hence, a person may wake up feeling tired as if he hasn’t had enough rest. Even if he
slept for 8h he would still feel drowsiness, melancholy and irritation. The invention of a
smart alarm clock has become a key to solve this issue.
How smart alarm clocks function
First smart clock appeared in 2009. It was an application for waking up available on iOS
devices. It used accelerometer of the smartphone to detect the light phase of sleep and
trigger the alarm. Afterwards, many similar Apps were developed for Android. Some of
them were installed in fitness bracelets and smartwatch.
It turned out that optimal for waking up sleep stages are usually accompanied by the
increased motor activity of the body and, for this reason, can be easily determined by
standard accelerometers. There also occurs a slight change in heart rate which is detected by the built-in sensors. The algorithm of the smart alarm clock is quite simple:
- the user sets the time interval during which it would be necessary for him to wake up (for example, between 7 and 7.30 am);
- tracker of the device records the motor activity, heart rate, and breathing pattern;
- if during the given interval these factors have reached their programmed value, the device triggers the alarm clock;
- in case the data, for some reason, is not being recorded, the alarm goes off in the end of the given interval.
Types of smart alarm clocks
At least three types of smart alarms are known. Nevertheless, they all share a common
feature - they determine the phases of sleep based on body movements, heart rate, or
breathing pattern. They are:
● stationary smart alarm clocks;
● smart alarm clocks built in wristwatch and bracelets;
● smartphone application.
Stationary smart alarm clocks usually work from the power supply network and
equipped with a heart rate monitor which allows the tracking of heart rate. The monitor
should be worn before the bedtime to take the measurements during the night. There exist models with a built-in accelerometer that tracks the motor activity of the body early in the morning. Bracelets and watches with a smart alarm function remain the most popular gadgets for waking up. Modern models, like the Apple Watch or the HONOR MagicWatch2, are equipped with all necessary sensors. They synchronize the data with a smartphone in real time. Phone Apps are the most affordable option for those who would like to wake up early. In the case of applications, accelerometer tracking the body movements is already built in the smartphone and the microphone helps to determine breathing pattern.
|Type of alarm clocks||Advantages||Limitations|
|Stationary smart alarm|
|- Reduced discomfort during|
sleep, as only a soft and
should be worn during the
- devices are equipped with
powerful processors and can
act not only as sleep
trackers but as air analyzers
and sound media system;
- devices are recording and
collecting your sleep
statistics you can consult
about with your doctor;
- it is possible to accumulate
data for two and more
|- Some models need to be|
reached by hand to be
- the settings and data may
beerased in case of a power-cut;
- can be expensive.
|Smart alarm clocks built into wristwatch and bracelets||- High accuracy;|
- don’t need to be plugged in;
- simple setup;
- additional features can be
recorded (exercise time, duration of walks);
- soft waking up with vibration on the wrist;
- there exist waterproof
|- A mobile application and a|
smartphone are required;
- sleeping with a bracelet may be uncomfortable;
- the bracelet would need to becharged again in the morning.
|Smartphone Apps||- Minimal cost of purchase;|
- variety of data collected;
- no additional accessories needed.
|- Some models and algorithms have low accuracy of the readings; |
- the risk of damaging the device during sleep.
Hypnopedia Smart Alarm clock
Hypnopedia smart alarm clock was developed for the wrist devices as they achieve the
maximum accuracy of the data collected. Wrist devices make it possible to implement the haptic alarm function which guarantees a soft and gradual awakening by the vibration of the watch on your wrist. In addition, professional medical equipment was used to create an algorithm for the application. According to this algorithm, patterns of motor activity and heart rate are enough to track the sleep phase, which makes the App suitable for all models of Apple Watch (with watchOS not lower than 5.0). Potentially, after processing of a sufficient amount of statistics, it would be possible to maintain high accuracy of awakening even without wearing a device.
Based on your physiology, the Hypnopedia alarm clock determines the interval during
which it would be the most favourable for you to wake up. This interval is restricted to half an hour. However, it doesn’t mean that 30 min of sleep would be stolen from you. In fact, sleeping less and waking up in a correct phase is more profitable for your well-being rather than oversleeping or sleeping longer with awakening in the wrong phase. The correct awakening phase helps you to be energetic for the whole day without feeling drowsiness. A nice addition to the smart alarm clock function of Hypnopedia is the relaxing collection of ASMR sleep sounds. Affirmation sets that are read out at night without waking you up and help to gradually improve your mental health can also be found in the application.
Alarm clocks underwent a tremendous change from being just a handmade device in
Ancient China to being capable of tracking sleep phases and determining the best ones to wake us up. Smart alarm clocks are getting more and more popular now as they managed to turn the unpleasant duty of waking up early into a nice process. Try out smart alarm clocks and you will realise that a joyful waking up ritual is a key to a great day full of discoveries and accomplishments.