Why Do We Wake Up Right Before Our Alarm Goes Off?

By Zainab Pervez in Life Style On 11th September 2023

How annoying is it when you wake up, hoping you’ve got a couple of hours more in bed, and when you check the time, it’s just minutes before your alarm goes off? Well, apparently, there is a scientific reason behind it.

According to sleep experts, our bodies can sense time even while we’re in a deep sleep.

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Your body clock is controlled by a ball of nerves, called the suprachiasmatic, in the middle of your brain.

These nerves control blood pressure, body temperature, and our sense of time and can decide when you are feeling sleepy and when you feel wide awake.

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When you adhere to a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same times daily, your body clock becomes more responsive and functions with greater efficiency.

In this context, a protein known as PER plays a crucial role as it regulates your sleep-wake cycle. The concentration of these proteins fluctuates over the course of a day, reaching its peak in the evening and hitting its lowest point during the night.

Low levels of this protein can result in decreased blood pressure, causing us to feel groggier and more inclined to sleep. 

According to scientists, maintaining a regular sleep pattern helps your body to adapt and increase your levels of PER just before your alarm is due to go off.

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This increase in PER usually happens about an hour before you wake up as our bodies release stress hormones to prepare you to wake up.

The shocked feeling you experience when your alarm suddenly bursts into sound also causes stress to your body and so to avoid being woken up in fright, your body produces PER earlier in the night.

Some research suggests that people can will themselves to wake up on time.

Research from the University of Lubeck in Germany carried out an experiment to test this theory. They asked 15 volunteers to sleep in a controlled environment for three nights.

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Half of the group was told they would be woken at 6.30 am, and the other half was told they would be woken at 9.30 am.

The researchers then woke both groups at 6.30 am and found that the group who were told they would be woken at 6.30 am had higher levels of PER in their bodies.

The group who were given the later wake-up time felt more tired when they woke even though they had the same amount of sleep as the 6.30 group.

They also found that five of the 15 awoke within 10 minutes of their target wake-up times all three times.

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Researchers say that our biological clocks, which keep track of time, have something to do with it. This clock synchronizes and coordinates our body’s circadian rhythms. One way our body does this is by sensing the levels of light around us.

Special cells in our eyes detect changing light levels, such as right before and at dawn — even through our eyelids when our eyes are closed.

These cells probably don’t tell our bodies precisely what time it is, but they may communicate that we’re approaching the time we normally get up.

This triggers changes such as increases in the hormones cortisol and adrenocorticotropin, as well as in blood pressure, that help us prepare for activity.

There are still far more questions than answers about why and how our bodies sometimes wake us up before our alarms.

But to maximize the chance that you’ll rouse on time on your own, it can be helpful to set your alarm for the same time each day so that your body gets used to waking up at a regular time.

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In other sleepy news, a sleep expert recently shared the perfect breathing hack to help you get back to sleep.

Phil Lawlor explained how breathing exercises can help you calm down and nod back off to sleep if you wake up.

He recommends the 4-7-8 technique, which involves inhaling through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhaling through your mouth for eight seconds.

Give it a go tonight.