By ANNE MARIE CHAKER
Full Spectrum Solutions Inc.
The BlueMax Sunrise System, a 'dawn simulator' from Full Spectrum Solutions, is one of the
extreme alarm clocks targeting college students and other hardto- wake sleepers.
What does it take to wake you up in the morning? Would the rip of a chain saw do the trick?
Sonic Alert Inc., of Troy, Mich., is targeting a notoriously deep-sleeping demographic—college
students—with the Sonic Bomb, the Sweetheart and, just in time for Halloween, the Skull. The
three clocks have alarms that ring at up to 113 decibels—somewhere between "extremely loud"
and "painful" and louder than a chain saw, as classified by the American Speech-Language-
Hearing Association, a professional pathologists group in Rockville, Md. If that isn't enough,
each model comes with a flashing red light and a vibrating pad to go under a pillow or mattress,
where it shakes you awake.
After making telephones, alarms and other systems for the hearing-impaired for decades, Sonic
Alert has recently added college students as a target market. Amplicom USA, the U.S. arm of a
German maker of products for the hearing-impaired, also is seeking a wider audience for its
wireless "TCL series" clocks. They ring at up to 90 decibels, about the level of heavy traffic, the
College students "have all these gadgets they're using all the time," says Megan Brown Bennett,
spokeswoman for Amplicom USA. "They need more stimulation" to wake up.
The Sounds of Alarm Clocks
• More photos and interactive graphics
Most people, in fact, use an alarm clock to wake up. About one-third of people—provided they
are sleeping well—will wake up just before their alarm rings, says Matthew Edlund, a physician
who runs the Center for Circadian Medicine, a medical clinic in Sarasota, Fla., and author of a
book, "The Power of Rest."
For someone in a relaxed, dreamy state, even a single jarring shock can have lingering effects,
from increased anxiety to cardiovascular problems such as arrhythmia, where the heart rate
jumps, says Dr. Edlund.
Looking for a dock that plays music and acts as an alarm - without losing the snooze button?
WSJ's Jonnelle Marte reviews the iLuv App Station, an iPhone dock that allows your phone to
double as an alarm clock, to determine if it's worth the $80.
Sound—particularly an annoying sound—will stimulate auditory nerves and send a message to
the brain's emergency circuits, which then stimulate production of adrenaline, akin to a fight-or-
flight response, Dr. Edlund says. "We call them alarm clocks for a reason," he says. "It means
alarm, emergency, something out of the ordinary, and that's what the brain responds to."
When patients complain about difficulty getting up in the morning, Dr. Edlund looks at their
underlying sleep patterns and says he finds, in most cases, "there's something wrong with the
sleep quality." For a 22-year-old, that might mean too many nights spent at bars until 2 am; for
others, it's a snoring spouse.
Either way, medical experts say an ear-splitting burst of noise may not be the healthiest way to
wake up. Exposure of more than a minute to noise levels greater than 112 decibels can cause
hearing loss, says Anne Oyler, an associate director at the American Speech-Language-Hearing
Association in Rockville, Md. People might listen to an alarm "anywhere from one second to one
minute," says Amplicom's Ms. Brown Bennett.
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Sonic Alert Inc.
Sonic Alert's 113- decibel alarm clock shakes the bed, flashes a red light.
Some clocks don't rely on sound. "Dawn simulators" mimic the way early-morning light shines.
Sales rise in the approach to winter, says Lindsey Edwards, spokeswoman for Full Spectrum
Solutions Inc., of Jackson, Mich. The "Peaceful Progression Wake Up Clock," from Hammacher
Schlemmer & Co., comes with aromatherapy beads in a variety of scents ("energy," "morning
café," "stress relief" and "lavender"). At 30 minutes before wake-up, the clock's light illuminates,
warming the aroma beads and releasing the scent. (If that proves to be too soothing, you can
choose to hear a beeping sound as well.)
Other alarm clocks—made for snooze-button abusers—actually escape from the nightstand,
forcing a person out of bed to turn them off. The Flying Alarm Clock, made by Princess
International Inc., of Brooklyn, N.Y., has a propeller and flies into the air when the alarm rings—
making a whirring sound similar to a helicopter's. To make it stop, someone has to place it back
on its stand.
The Clocky, created by Gauri Nanda while she was a grad student at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, jumps off the nightstand and rolls around the room, beeping all the while. (This
summer, Ms. Nanda came out with the "Tocky," an escaping clock with a touch interface, similar
to an iPhone.)
Princess International Inc.
Princess International's flying alarm clock.
Increasingly, people turn to a cellphone or other mobile device for the functions of an alarm
clock. Carolina Milanesi, a London-based technology researcher for consultants Gartner Inc.,
says user surveys indicate the alarm clock on mobile devices is one of the most popular
functions. Some "smart phones" can morph into alarm clocks, indicating a clock face on the
screen when placed on a charging stand. Users of the iPhone can select from a range of sounds,
from crickets to barking dogs.
Sean Stanley, an 18-year-old freshman at Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton, Fla., relies
on the Sonic Alert's Skull and its vibrating "bone crusher" attachment. "I can feel the vibrations
throughout my whole body," Mr. Stanley says. He sets the volume at the low end of the scale,
ever since the morning when the alarm woke up half his dormitory, he says. "If I didn't have this
alarm clock, I wouldn't get to class," he says. Sonic Alert says depending on where the clock is
placed relative to the bed, the user may not necessarily experience the full 113 decibels.