Alarm Anxiety

I just came across an interesting concept when reading Pat’s Soapbox Thursday for today: alarm anxiety. Alarm anxiety is the fear of the alarm not going off or of not getting enough sleep before it does. When I read her description, immediately alarm bells (pun intended) went off in my head. This is what I dealt with throughout high school and into university.

When I was at secondary school, I’d compulsively check that my alarm was on. Since my alarm was at the other end of the room and I couldn’t visually check it due to being blind, I had to physically leave my bed to do so. And I’d do so at least thirty times a night. And worry that, by the time I’d finally fall asleep, if my alarm did go off, I’d still sleep through it because I hadn’t had enough sleep. This only happened once in my entire six years of secondary school.

I had other compulsions too, but these are too embarrassing to share here. In general, I’d spend hours engaging in my various rituals at night. I wouldn’t necessarily say I had OCD, as these obsessions and compulsions only affected me at night.

They got a lot worse when I lived independently and went to university. I had to check whether my front door was locked, all non-essential electronics unplugged, window open, heating off, alarm on and I’m pretty sure there’s something I’m forgetting right now. All of the things that needed to be checked, were for a reason, of course. For example, the heating needed to be off in case of a carbon monoxide leak (even though I didn’t have my own boiler) and the window needed to be open so that, if such a leak occurred, the chance of me getting poisoned would be lower.

I’d spend hours upon hours pacing through my apartment checking that these things were as I needed them to be. It was exhausting!

Thankfully, my compulsions left immediately when I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. Either the fact that a staff member was on the ward at all times, comforted me, or the mere fact of my having been removed from my apartment and its specific triggers, caused me to be able to let go. And, of course, alarm anxiety was no longer a thing, as the staff would wake me. Besides, we weren’t required to be up by a certain time anyway.

8 thoughts on “Alarm Anxiety

  1. I’ve never heard of alarm anxiety! But it makes sense, I’ve never had it though, although occasioinally I’ll check and recheck my alarm, especially if I need to be somewhere at a certain time and I need to wake up early and I am not sleeping that night. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Those compulsions you had sound really overwhelming to live with, so I’m glad they left immediately when you were admitted. Never heard of alarm anxiety but can certainly relate to a degree. My sleep-wake cycle tends to be more or less messed up so when I know that I have to be up at a certain hour, I’m always stressing that I won’t be able to fall asleep early enough to be able to wake up on time, or will just oversleep. That, predictably, creates a fun vicious cycle, because if I’m stressed I often am indeed unable to fall asleep fast, and then it happens sometimes that I’ll wake up in the middle of the night because I heard a phantom alarm going off or thought my Mum was here trying to wake me up or that it must be super late and I massively overslept or something like that. When I was in school I had a particularly messed up circadian rhythm and while we didn’t need alarms because the staff would go into every room and wake us up, I also often found myself waking up in the middle of the night thinking that it’s so quiet because everyone has already gone to school and I slept so heavily I didn’t even hear anything and a couple times I was so convinced of it that I actually got up in the middle of the night and wanted to get dressed for school but then my roommate mumbled something in her sleep so I figured I can still go to sleep. So this has never been like a huge problem for me, and these days thankfully I rarely have the pressure of having to get up at a certain time, but I definitely have experienced it and I bet I would all the time if I had to get up for work and worked on a typical schedule or something.

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    1. I completely feel you. I’m so happy you no longer really need to get up at a set time usually. Neither do I, although I do set my alarm because here at my current care home the staff will let clients lie in until 10AM or even later even on weekdays if they don’t wake up by themselves, so I have my alarm set for 8AM each day. As for a messed-up circadian rhythm, I don’t think I have it but I could if I didn’t set an alarm. I mean, I do have light perception still so it’s not like I won’t visually perceive when it’s night-time, but I can sleep when it’s light outside so when I nap a lot during the day, my rhythm could easily get messed up.

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      1. Oh yeah, I also always have an alarm set for 8, just to have at least some sort of sleep routine, and because I don’t like oversleeping really. I don’t necessarily pressure myself to get up when it goes off, depends how much sleep I got and how my circadian rhythm is doing overall at a given time, but at the very least it’s there so that I have a chance to get up at a normal-people time and have some sense of the time passing.

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        1. Yes, I get that. I occasionally turn off my alarm too and go back to sleep but since my day schedule is created around the fact that I get up at eight, I usually get up and lie in bed for a nap sometimes later in the day.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Ahh! I suffer with alarm anxiety. Worrying about setting it and then worrying whether it will go off at the right time. If I have to be up in the morning I always wake before my alarm in a panic thinking I have slept in. I am glad that your compulsions are no longer with you.

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