this thing's incredible

This Aggressive Alarm Clock From the ’80s Is the Only Thing That Wakes Me Up

The Sonic Bomb rings at 113 decibels — nearly the volume of an ambulance siren. Photo: SonicAlert

I envy people who can set a single alarm on their phone and confidently drift off to sleep. I was never the type. I have slept through important school tests, work, and even a keynote speech that I was supposed to deliver to a group of incoming university freshers. I might be the World’s Heaviest Sleeper.

My inability to wake up used to affect every aspect of my entire life — my class schedule, which work shifts I could reliably take, flight times, you name it. In college, I scraped by with the help of my flatmates and boyfriend, who would shake me awake for class and important appointments. After I graduated and began living without my human fail-safes, I tried everything: setting over a dozen alarms on my phone, Alexa, a clock that requires a code to shut up, and one that rolls around on the floor, allegedly forcing you out of bed. They would fail. I would wake up and find that I had silenced the alarms in my sleep, sometimes even by ripping the batteries out of the devices. Nothing worked until, finally, one night during an Amazon binge-shopping episode, I stumbled upon the Sonic Bomb Alarm Clock.

This clock is manufactured by Sonic Alert, a company that specializes in ‘solutions for the hard of hearing, and hard to wake communities,’ which seemed convincing. But I was dubious: Aesthetically, the Sonic Bomb looks like a children’s toy meant for changing your voice to sound like Darth Vader’s. The thought of bringing it into my modern apartment, to live among my cognac leather chairs and white fur accents, horrified me. But it was available for next-day delivery, and I was out of options.

The Sonic Bomb comes with several adjustable settings, like ones for volume and ringtone, but also light controls, vibration controls, and even a button to test your wake-up experience. I programmed my settings to be as obnoxious as possible. Eight hours later, I woke up. It felt like a miracle.

I credit a lot of the success to sheer sound of this clock, because whereas an average alarm clock goes up to 80 decibels, the Sonic Bomb rings at 113 decibels — nearly the volume of an ambulance siren. The (optional) bright, pulsating lights on the face of the clock help, too. The feature that takes the cake, however, is the 12-volt bed-shaker. A small accompanying plastic disc that can slip under your mattress or pillow, it will shake you awake right when the alarm starts blaring. And if this alarm can wake me up, it can wake anybody.

And if you prefer something gentler …

Philips Wake-Up Light

Writer Liz Krieger bought this glowing Philips alarm clock — which wakes you up with light — to cope with dark winter mornings that made it nearly impossible to get out of bed. ‘I chose this model because of the way it mimics the sunrise: providing a slow, gentle progression from a barely there golden glow to a bright, everything’s-gonna-be-all-right white light, steadfastly streaming just a few inches away from my head every morning,’ she wrote.

When former Strategist senior writer Lauren Levy (née Schwartzberg) went hunting for the best alarm clock, sleep doctors told her to find something with ‘crescendoing rings.’ (Although she did note that doctors warned her away from ‘abrasive buzzes and beeps (helpful for heavy sleepers but stressful for everyone else),’ which supports the Sonic Bomb’s use case for the hard-to-wake.) She ended up with this voice-activated Braun. ‘I thought if I had to look at my clocks and yell “stop” the second I was woken up, I would be less likely to fall back asleep. That turned out to be true,’ she said. ‘I started talking to my alarm clock, and I stopped snoozing. It transformed my sleeping habits.’

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This Alarm Clock From the ’80s Is the Only One That Works