Home Randomness Why Do Alarm Clocks Give You 9 Minutes of Snooze Instead of...

Are you a chronic snooze button pusher? If you are, then you’re certainly not sleeping alone. According to a report published in USA Today, more than one-third of the American adult population smacks the snooze button every morning – an average of 3 times.

While only 10 percent of Americans over 65 years old regularly have the habit of using their snooze button (retired life must be nice!), more than 57 percent of adults between 25 and 34 hit the snooze on a daily basis at least once. If that sounds like you, you’ve probably noticed that most standard alarm clocks are set automatically at nine minute intervals of snoozing. But, why is 9 the magic number for the snooze button, instead of rounding up to an even 10?

The Snooze-Worthy Answer

snooze-buttonThere’s actually no proven answer to this seemingly simple question, so it has actually been a source of debate for quite some time. Some physiologists hypothesize that alarm clocks are set at nine minutes because sleepers will fall back into a deeper stage of sleep if left for a longer interval.

Other clock (sleep?) enthusiasts believe that the snooze button’s 9 minute interval is designed to give you a minute’s leeway to wake up and smack the clock. Or, perhaps the alarm clock has been set at nine minutes because clock engineers believed their bosses would be coming to check on them every ten minutes and they needed the one minute to clean off their drool.

Since all of these answers aren’t really backed by any solid evidence, there is one other theory that seems to have the most credibility among clock experts. Back in the 1950s, the snooze interval on the standard dial clocks was originally intended to be set at a maximum of ten minutes. However, the snooze gear in the clock had to perfectly mesh with the other gears that were already existing components of the device. Ten minutes on the nose was not a feasible option because of this complex gear configuration and clock engineers had to make the difficult decision to choose between a snooze gear for nine-plus minutes or ten-plus minutes. Spoken to by the clock gods, the early engineers set the imprecise interval to be nine minutes and some change.

Advancements in technology have allowed some digital clocks on the market to be programmed to meet your specific snoozing desires at any chosen length. For instance, certain Westclox “drowse” alarm clocks can be set for five, seven, or ten minutes of snooze time.

That being said, the majority of the standard alarm clocks today are still stuck on the uneven nine minutes. While it is believed that clock engineers simply continue copying the idea without changing the interval because of its long history, others believe that it has a specific purpose. When the snooze is programmed at nine minutes, modern digital alarm clocks can be programmed to only monitor the last digit. When you hit the snooze button at 6:15, the logic is that the alarm will automatically go off when the last digit hits 4 and so on. While this hypothesis may have made some sense in the early days of digital alarm clocks, its highly doubtful that modern digital clocks are so imprecise.

Did you know?

The snooze button on alarm clocks actually can be used to do more than simply make you late for work or school. After hitting the snooze button, psychologists declare that alarm clocks can help you remember your dreams more clearly because the early morning is filled with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, where we do most of our dreaming. Waking up with the snooze button tends to interrupt our REM sleep – in other words, in the middle of our dreams.

Here’s something fun you can try. The next time you wake up to your alarm clock and hit that snooze button, jot down some quick notes about your dream and then go back to sleep to enjoy nine more minutes of snoozing!


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