waking up a minute before my alarm goes off

this happens to me ALL the time. any time i have an alarm set, 80% of the time ill wake up just before it comes on. what is this?

Ahh, that’s because you’re just as crazy as all of these people.

I think there might be a bit of perceptual quirkery going on here; I’ve experienced this phenomenon and it has turned out (on at least a couple of occasions) that I thought I woke up before the alarm went off, lay there for a moment, heard it start and turned it off instantly, but what actually happened is that the alarm went off, sounded for a number of seconds, then I woke up and turned it off (I was able to deduce this because of my wife having complained that the alarm was going off that morning and I was just lying there with my eyes half open, doing nothing to stop it.

Possible explanations:
-The audio processing bits of my brain wake up slower than some of the other bits
or (more likely, I think)
-The order of events in my memory gets jumbled up somehow as I wake - I believe this might be somewhat related to that thing where you look at a clock and the first observed ‘tick’ of the second hand seems very much longer than subsequent ticks.

I’m sure that there IS an element of body-clock synching and alarm-clock-pre-switching, as well - reinforcing the idea.

This happens to me all the time. It’s not trickery, because I turn the alarm off before it rings and get up.

I’d be curious to see why I do this, too. Maybe I’ve just trained myself to sleep in discrete blocks that just happen to coincide with my alarm. When I alter my sleep schedule significantly, the alarm usually wakes me up.

Please don’t think I’m denying that what you say can be the case (I do accept that these things really do happen) - is it the case that you’re seeing 06:59:59 on the display and stopping the alarm, knowing that it has not yet sounded, or are you waking, hitting the button, then while stirring and stretching, seeing 07:00:21 (or whatever) and realising that the alarm was just about to go off when you hit the button?

Not a problem. :wink:

99% of the time I’m out of bed and watching tv by the time the alarm would’ve gone off.

Not a case of just sleeping a full nights sleep and getting up either–I usually only get around 6 hours or so (not enough).

My old alarm clock always had me wake up just before the alarm. I played around with the clock and found that the alarm went off a minute after a loud “click” (this was an old pos analog clock). Could your situation be similar? Try setting the clock for a few minutes from now and sit in a silent room and listen.

I experience this also (though it’s more like 5 minutes), at first I assumed it was because I needed to use the bathroom, but sometimes I don’t and I still wake up. I know it’s happening because it occurs on the weekends as well, when I dont use my alarm clock.

Cecil speaketh: http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_300.html

I almost always wake up 1-3 minutes before my alarm goes off. The times that the alarm wakes me are very rare and usually follow an extended period (5+ days) of insomnia. But to throw a couple of monkey wrenches in the works:

  • My alarm clock isn’t visible when I’m lying down.
  • It’s a digital clock and makes no audible clicks or noises ever.
  • I sleep with a white noise machine running which would probably mask the click noise even if there was one.
  • Because my teaching schedule varies widely from semester to semester, I do not get up at the same time every morning by a long shot. Sometimes I require an alarm only 2-3 mornings a week, then 16 weeks later it all changes again. And yet it takes only a week into the new schedule for my new waking habit to start.
  • I even do this after going a very long stretch of time without working mornings. Today is a perfect example - I’ve been teaching afternoons and nights for the past 10 weeks, so I haven’t needed the alarm clock. But I had an appointment at 9:30 am, so I set the alarm for 8:45. Woke up a couple of times around 7:30-8am, then drowsed a bit, and a bit later partially woke up but was still sort of dreaming and thought to myself, “Don’t I have to get up soon?” and a male voice in my dream answered(!): “Yes, and you need to do it right now!” Sat up, looked at the clock: 8:44.
    Excessively weird! I think it’s just some kind of internal body clock/Pavlovian conditioning that others have discussed in the linked thread above. Beyond that, I have no good reply, sorry.

Thanks, DrDeth. Should’ve known Cecil got to this first.

I don’t believe my clock ticks–it’s digital, so it must be the temperature thing. I often have to take a leak first thing in the morning so it might be that, too.

I can beat that. I know my alarm clock doesn’t click and I know it can’t be conditioning? Why? Because I have no well-defined “sleep schedule”. Generally I sleep from about 4 or 5 AM to noonish (ah, to be a grad student). Sometimes – about once or twice a semester – I need to be up earlier. In that case, I set an alarm clock and go to bed a little earlier (say, 1 or 2). Every single time I do this I beat the alarm to waking up by five to ten minutes like, well, “clockwork”.

Is it possible that some of you are waking up several times in the night, but that you fall right back asleep except when you notice that it is almost time to get up? It seems conceivable that if you didn’t “completely” wake up, you might not remember it. And waking periodically seems less strange to me than waking at precisely the right time.

I have nothing new/significant to add except that this happens to me quite often. I also wake up a second before there’s a knock at the door or someone addresses me “are you awake?” which is a question that causes it’s answer to be yes.

Doesn’t matter what time i set the alarm for or where I am, I will always wake up just before. I find a lot of people that can do this. I thought it was just a built in human thing. Clocks are a very recent invention, and i’m sure that we are aware of quite a lot even when sleeping. Boat captains who live aboard are aware of every slap of the waves and change in wind. Why should being aware of time be so unusual?

I think people, or some people, just have an internal alarm clock. I’vew noticed that if I really want to, I can wake up at any hour I want to. On the dot many times. I just have to think about the time I’m going to wake up for a minute or two before nodding off, and then that’s the time I wake up.

Of course for safety’s sake, I use an alarm clock anyways.

Possible, but unlikely since I can’t tell what time it is until I get out of bed, go over to the clock, turn on the light (if it’s not on already), and tilt the thing just right to read the digital display, by which time I’m pretty much up.

Well, I usually don’t worry about my alarm, my cat knows what time I wake up, and makes sure to make me up then. My guess is that he does it by the light outside- I wake up at 7:30.