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Volitional Waking
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As I mentioned before, I haven't used an alarm clock since I was in junior high school. Before I go to bed, I tell myself when I need to wake up, and I always do. Even for important things like tests and special occasions, I've never needed to use an alarm clock.

Here's an interesting little on-line paper on the subject, noting research by William Moorcroft.

In a related vein, William Moorcroft, Director of the Sleep and Dreams Laboratory at Luther College, Iowa studied a group of 140 women and 129 men, ranging in age from 21-84. Of these 269 adults, over 50% said that they never use an alarm clock or other external means to awaken, while another 24% reported that they sometimes awaken before the alarm. Moorcroft’s study also employed actigraphy (i.e., an electronic device worn to measure gross motor activity) that tested this ability in 15 people who claimed to regularly self-awaken for three consecutive nights. Five people awoke within (and mostly before) 10 minutes of their target time; another five awoke close to their target time on two out of three nights; and out of the remaining five, four individuals awoke close to their target time on one night only. Moorcroft’s study concluded that people do have the ability to set their volition and mental will to regulate neurological patterns of sleep and awakening.

I'd be interested in reading the actual study. In another on-line source I read that the volitional wakers (I don't like the term "self-awaken", sounds like an epiphany or something) got to choose their own target times, which seems a bit strange.

Anyway, I'm doing a little self-experiment over the next couple of weeks. I normally go to bed around 11 or 12, so I picked 12 half-hour time slots during my normal sleep range:

2:00am, 2:30am, 3:00am, 3:30am, 4:00am, 4:30am, 5:00am, 5:30am, 6:00am, 6:30am, 7:00am, and 7:30am

I then randomized their order, and for a 12 day period I will attempt to wake up at those target times. I've already done this for the first two days. Here are the early results:

Target time: 5:30am
Time awoke: 5:34am

Target time: 2:00am
Time awoke: 1:57am

Not bad, huh? One factor that probably helps me to do this well is the fact that I normally get up about 3 times a night on average anyway, to use the restroom or get a drink of water. It may help me reset my internal clock, since I usually glance at my bedside clock. Also, like everyone I sometimes have trouble initially falling asleep, but when I wake up in the middle of the night, I hardly ever have problems falling back to sleep, so this experiment isn't really an inconvenience for me.

Now, I thought earlier times would give me more trouble. That wasn't the case last night, though.

I'll post the results for all 12 days here when I'm done.

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