An alarm clock (alarm for short) is a clock that is designed to alert an individual or group of individuals at specified time. The primary function of these clocks is to awaken people from their night's sleep or short naps; they are sometimes used for other reminders as well. Most use sound; some use light or vibration. Some have sensors to identify when a person is in a light stage of sleep, in order to avoid waking someone who is deeply asleep, which causes tiredness, even if the person has had adequate sleep. To stop the sound or light, a button or handle on the clock is pressed; most clocks automatically stop the alarm if left unattended long enough. A classic analog alarm clock has an extra hand or inset dial that is used to specify the time at which to activate the alarm. Alarm clocks are also found on mobile phones, watches, and computers.
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In addition to radio, recent clock radios have other music sources such as iPod, iPhone, and/or audio CD. When the alarm is triggered, it can play a set radio station or the music from a selected music source to awaken the sleeper. These models usually come with a dock for iPod/iPhone that also charges the device while it is docked. They can play FM/AM radio, iPod/iPhone or CD like a typical music player as well (without being triggered by the alarm function). A few popular models offer "nature sounds" like rain, forest, fire, sea, waterfall etc., in place of the buzzer.
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Some clocks have several displays driven by a single mechanism, and some others have several completely separate mechanisms in a single case. Clocks in public places often have several faces visible from different directions, so that the clock can be read from anywhere in the vicinity; all the faces show the same time. Other clocks show the current time in several time-zones. Watches that are intended to be carried by travellers often have two displays, one for the local time and the other for the time at home, which is useful for making pre-arranged phone calls. Some equation clocks have two displays, one showing mean time and the other solar time, as would be shown by a sundial. Some clocks have both analog and digital displays. Clocks with Braille displays usually also have conventional digits so they can be read by sighted people.
late 14c., clokke, originally "clock with bells," probably from Middle Dutch clocke (Dutch klok) "a clock," from Old North French cloque (Old French cloke, Modern French cloche), from Medieval Latin (7c.) clocca "bell," probably from Celtic (cf. Old Irish clocc, Welsh cloch, Manx clagg "a bell") and spread by Irish missionaries (unless the Celtic words are from Latin); ultimately of imitative origin.
Scientific studies on sleep having shown that sleep stage at awakening is an important factor in amplifying sleep inertia. Alarm clocks involving sleep stage monitoring appeared on the market in 2005. The alarm clocks use sensing technologies such as EEG electrodes and accelerometers to wake people from sleep.Dawn simulators are another technology meant to mediate these effects.