Americans are, in general, sleep deprived. We are some of the most productive people on the planet, working long hours and hardly taking any time off, and our home lives are consequently so brief and crammed that the last thing we squeeze in, after the kids have been walked and the dog's homework is finished, is a few hours of fitful dozing.
Sometimes the most difficult thing you'll do all day is pry yourself out of bed. Sometimes, heroic measures are required. Sometimes, the word heroic really doesn't cover it.
I knew a guy who kept his alarm clock clear on the other side of the room so he'd have to get out of bed and be jolted awake by the chill of the air and floor. I've heard of teenagers having to be physically hauled by the sheets and spilled onto the floor gasping like large, hairy fish.
I heard a story that pianist Clara Schumann tried everything to get her husband, composer Robert Schumann, out of bed and finally resorted to the musical cruelty of playing the first seven notes of a major scale on the piano; Robert couldn't stand to leave it unresolved and had to come barreling out in his Victorian jammies to play the final note.
But all that's so low tech. We can do better. Let me give you some examples.
For the fitness enthusiast: The Wake Up, Work Out alarm clock is shaped like a dumbbell; when it rings, you have to do 30 biceps curls with it to shut it off. Unfortunately, it weighs only a pound and a half, so it's not going to turn you into Superman. Its motion sensors can tell how many curls you've done and how far it falls when you fling it out an open window.
Fans of natural disasters and explosives may enjoy waking up to the Sonic Bomb with Super Shaker. This clock is a triple threat, with a 113-decibel klaxon, flashing red mayhem lights AND a 12-volt bed shaker that goes under your mattress like a land mine.
Neighbors two or three streets away are sure to appreciate the jackhammer volume and sympathetic car alarms, especially if you forget to disable it when you go on vacation. Did I mention you can set the alarm time for up to 59 minutes' duration? That's not even counting how long dogs will continue to bark in adjacent counties.
The product website touts the "Alarm & Bed Shaker Test Mode, now test these functions at any time." During a romantic interlude, perhaps, for an evening no one will forget, no matter how hard they try.
The bottom line is motivation. The motivation to jump-start your workout routine, the motivation to start every day as if the world were ending - these are pretty good, but they can't compete with everybody's favorite motivation: money.
People who have trouble saving money and fans of parking meters will want to invest in BanClock. When this alarm goes off, the only way to get it to shut up is to feed it a coin. Any coin of any currency, so this could be a good use of that pocketful of foreign change you brought back from Europe. Cash deposited in this clock isn't making you any more money, but neither is money deposited in your savings account.
What's to stop you from dropping your coin and rolling over for a few more z's?
Inventor Rich Olson combined a timepiece with a paper shredder to devise an alarm clock that rings and then, if it's not turned off, shreds your money.
You can put a one in it, or a five, or a ten, or a hundred if you're in danger of missing, say, your wedding.
Why stop with currency? You could risk anything paper -- your birth certificate, Social Security card, title to your car. That's not an alarm clock but a doomsday machine.
It's enough to keep you awake nights.
Samantha Bennett, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.