Internal alarm clocks

Depending on your point of view, I’m either blessed or cursed with an internal alarm clock. If I have to wake up at a certain time, I do so. No alarm clock on the nightstand. No wake-up call from the front desk. No wife shaking me awake and saying “you’re late.”

Not sure why but I’ve been able to do this for as long as I can remember. I can go to bed at 2 in the morning and if I have to wake up at 4, it just happens.

It drives my wife crazy.  When it happens, she looks at me and says: “How do you do that?”

Don’t know but scientific study says internal alarm clocks do exist.

Reported Psychology Today in 1999:

Have you ever woken up five minutes before your alarm rings? This mysterious phenomenon isn’t just bizarre coincidence. We are all equipped with our own internal alarm clocks and, best of all, they even have snooze buttons.

Jan Born and fellow researchers at the University of Lubeck in Germany have discovered what may be the first biological evidence for the curious ability to wake up at will. Anticipating the time you want to rise seems to trigger the release of hormones normally secreted by the body in times of stress. About an hour before you’ve planned to get out of bed, these secretions increase in preparation for the “stress” of waking.

In a three-night study, Born and team tucked 15 volunteers into bed at midnight the first night, and told them they would be woken at 6 a.m. on one night and 9 a.m. the other two nights.

When the volunteers knew they would be woken at six, levels of the central stress hormone adrenocorticotropin began rising around 4:30 a.m. But subjects expecting to wake at nine and rudely awakened at six experienced no such hormonal surge. Our bodies, in other words, note the time we hope to begin our day and gradually prepare us for consciousness, not unlike a snooze button.

But how can we set our own wake up calls? “I am convinced that eventually there will be a psychological technique to strengthen the ability to set the internal alarm clock,” Born says. Cognitive self-instruction, in which a person drills himself in his plans for the next day, may wind the alarm, he says. For now, however, hang on to that little dream machine beside your bed.

In other words, we all have internal alarm clocks but they don’t always work for most people.

A study at Bryn Mawr college in 2007 found:

A common fact of modern life is jet lag and the disorienting experience of waking up completely refreshed in the middle of the night. Who at that time has not wished that resetting this internal alarm clock were as easy as resetting an external one? While recent research has shed considerable light on the workings of our internal alarm clocks, little is still known about how to control this alarm clock.

I traveled a lot in my professional life and crossed many time zones but — for some reason — my internal alarm clock always reset itself to the new time zone and jet lag was never a problem. It droves those working with me nuts.

If I don’t have a set time to get up, my body decides for me, always snapping me awake at 5 a.m.

That — on occasion — drives me nuts but — as Amy always reminds me — it’s a short drive.

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1 thought on “Internal alarm clocks”

  1. I have an internal alarm clock that works all the time. When I change time zones I only have to look at a clock before I go to sleep to wake at the appointed time. I don’t even own an alarm clock, haven’t for most of my life. It makes me feel in tune with the world, or at least in time.

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