Image: Mr. Clock Radio
Gee Wiz Entertainment
In the category of wacky tech alarm clocks, Mr. Clock Radio ($80) fits the bill. He brings a range of voices to the duty he performs, including that of a drill sergeant.
Image: Tima Chansanchai
updated 3/26/2008 8:38:46 AM ET 2008-03-26T12:38:46

I used to get up at the crack of dawn, work out or make sure my to-do list was in order before my first cuppa joe.

Somewhere along the way, I started to have a much harder time waking up.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends planning your day in such a way to allow your body to awaken naturally — without an alarm clock.

Are they dreaming?

The 2008 “Sleep in America” poll conducted by the foundation reports the average American’s work day is now 9 hours and 28 minutes.

The average time spent in bed is 6 hours and 55 minutes — with 6 hours and 40 minutes spent actually sleeping. (It should only take 15 minutes to get to sleep?) The foundation recommends getting at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

I had the same alarm clock since I was a freshman in college — a little workhorse that accompanied me from dorm to house, to apartment to house to apartment, and lastly to my current townhouse before it finally died.

It was a simple little digital number with an obnoxious buzzing, bursting through any dream or nightmare I was in the middle of. It was the only thing that seemed to work for me.

Radio clocks were a bust, because my subconscious would weave the music into my dreams.

The Sanrio clocks, with their cutesy, nonsensical babbling, just annoyed me after awhile. (A friend once told me a story about being an elementary school-age summer camp counselor in Japan and waking up to dozens of Hello Kitties, Badtz-Marus and Pochaccos purring, chatting and barking in unison.)

And the old-fashioned ringing alarm clocks suffered crashing ends after my arm came flying up to make the bad noise go away.

I was on a flight when I picked up the SkyMall catalog and stumbled upon Mr. Clock Radio ($80).

It looks ridiculous, a retro robot head on top of an LED base. What made me chuckle was the idea of getting up in the morning to the sound of a drill sergeant — if you think that’s the kind of thing that’ll get you up.

You an also program it to wake you 29 other ways, including more gentle approaches such as announcing the time, telling fortunes or winking and blinking. You can also hook up your iPod to it and set the alarm to music.

Clocks geared to iPods
Speaking of which, I love that hotels are now making iPod alarm clock hook-ups more of a mainstay.

The $100 iHome iH9WR (, or its older versions, seems to be the model I see most often when I’m traveling. The newest one lets you wake up to the iPod playlist of your choice, even on different days at different times.

Image: iHome portable speakers with alarm clock for iPod
The iH27BR Portable Speakers with Alarm Clock for iPod ($100), made by iHome, can travel on the road with you for personalized wake-up tunes.

I imagine for gym days, I’d want something peppier than on days I need to get to work first, in which case something inspirational and more low-key would be more appropriate!

Then again, maybe you need natural light to feel like it is time to wake up. Products like the the Soleil Sunrise Alarm Clock ($80) are designed to increase the intensity of the light so by the time the alarm time comes, your body will react naturally.

Some blogs pointed me to dream machines, including one that cooks bacon and wakes you up to that heavenly odor.

Another product, in the conceptual stage, is the Sfera alarm clock by Hayat Benchenaa ( of Switzerland..

When it's over your head
I was Web surfing one day when I saw this on a blog: a globe that seemed to dangle from the ceiling right above the bed. I asked Benchenaa to tell me how it works. She e-mailed this answer to me.

“A radio alarm clock which hangs above your bed and wakes you in the morning by forcing you physically to get out of bed. When you set the alarm, the glowing Sfera gradually dims and the music gently fades out as you drift off to sleep.

Image: Sfera alarm clock
Hayat Benchenaa
When the Sfera alarm clock, designed by Hayat Benchenaa of Switzerland, drops down and chimes, the only way to silence it is to reach up and gently tap the glowing orb.

“When the alarm chimes in the morning, the only way to silence it is to reach up and gently tap the Sfera. This action initiates the snooze function, but it also makes the Sfera rise above your head towards the ceiling. As it slowly rises away from your reach, you must stretch higher each time to gain another 10 minutes of snooze.

“When it reaches the ceiling, you have no option but to reach for it and drag it back down to your bed — an action which switches off the alarm and forces you finally to get up.”

Benchenaa, who has a bachelor of fine arts degree in industrial design from the Savannah College of Art and Design, said the inspiration came from baby mobiles.

In addition, she said she collaborated with Garikoitz Iruretagoiena, another student, on this master’s project. “We want to get snoozers out of bed by allowing them to still snooze, but forcing them out at one point.”

And if all else fails, do what Benchenaa does: use your mobile phone. Most cell phones double as a travel alarm clock. You can set it for any sound available on it, including downloaded music. How about “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”?

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