WHY 9?

Here’s a tough one – why do most alarm clocks’ snooze alarms go off every 9 minutes? I would think 10 would be the obvious choice. Those 9 minutes are brutal – I’m guessing there’s something scienctific behind 9 – it must be the perfect number of minutes to let you almost drift back to sleep, and then BAM! You are jolted awake, robbed of that 10th minute that would have somehow made the alarm less annoying. Anyone know what’s up with the 9 minutes?

Also, for fun, try to convey what your alarm sounds like. Mine is like this…EHNT, EHNT, EHNT, EHNT…


  1. By setting the snooze time to 9 minutes, modern digital alarm clocks only needs to watch the last digit of the time. So, if you hit snooze at 6:45, the alarm goes off again when the last digit hits 4 – at 6:54. They couldn’t make the snooze period 10 minutes, or the alarm would go off right away – or the clock would take more circuitry.

    Historically speaking, there’s another element to the answer. Clock experts say when snooze alarms were invented, the gears in alarm clocks were standardized. The snooze gear was introduced into the existing mix and its teeth had to mesh with the other gears’ teeth. The engineers had to choose between a gear that made the snooze period nine-plus minutes or 10-plus minutes. Because of the gear configuration, 10 minutes on the nose was not an option.

  2. hailsky

    i’ve always wondered the same thing. My alarm makes the same noise as yours.

  3. My alarm also makes a similar noise…but sometimes it works its way into my dreams as a variety of things (such as a cell phone ringing or something).

    I personally wish that snoozes were closer to four or five minutes…nine minutes is enough to make me late if I have to be somewhere first thing in the morning.

  4. Never thought about it, but thanks for giving me one less thing to figure out about life!

  5. I don’t know if my phone alarm does that, but what wakes me up is the phone turning itself on. Not the alarm itself. The phone prepping to sound the alarm. How annoying is that?

    Even though I’m sleeping, I hear a faint soundwave from the speaker. My groggy brain has just enough time to think, “No, no, nonono–” and then the alarm goes off, as it inevitably does, and I don’t even bother to hit the snooze because I’d just spend the whole nine (or ten) minutes waiting in misery for that little sound from the speaker, so why even bother going through the torture?

  6. My snooze does go off every ten minutes. If I hit the snooze twice, it goes off in twenty minutes. Three times, in thirty. I’ve only ever had to use that one when I decide one night, “Hey, I’ll get up early tomorrow to go running,” And then it goes off the next day and I ask myself, “What on earth was I thinking??” BAM. Thirty more minutes.

    My alarm is one that gives you a moment or two to get up nicely. “Beep… beep… beep… beep…” If you don’t get up, it starts going, more emphatically, “Beep-Beep-Beep-Beep…” and if you still don’t get up, it starts a horrible, inhumane “beebeebeebeebeebeebeebeebeebee” until you shut the darn thing off.

  7. I agree with Jess. I think if I could sleep in a state of consciousness, then I would know I was getting more sleep while I get more sleep, but be awake enough to not oversleep.

    I don’t think this subject is a strength of mine.

    Moving on. Mine has 2 alarms. The standard beeping noise in a lower-pitched sound I can hear. For some reason, I cannot hear the second higher-pitched one. Well, I mean I can hear it, but when I am asleep it doesn’t register as a sound. It blends into nothing. It has something to do with the hearing loss. Needless to say, I set that one on the radio.

  8. Josh – did you cheat and google it? 🙂 After I posted the question I googled it and it’s pretty much word for word what you said. Fascinating stuff, huh?

    Hailsky – Isn’t it the absolute worst noise in the world? 🙂

    Jess – I totally know the dream thing…funny how that works, huh?

    Retroman – Sorry! 🙂

    Ducky – that must be strangely annoying…kind of like seeing a person’s sad look as they approach you with bad news. You know it’s bad news before you even hear it.

    Amanda – I want your alarm clock! Oh that thing would get me into so much trouble. Is three times the maximum number of times you can hit it?

    Robin – I enjoy reading your explanation. 🙂

  9. Molly – I don’t know, come to think of it. I’ve only ever had to set it for 30 minutes as my maximum. Next time it goes off, I’m going to hit snooze a lot and watch the display to see how high it will go. Of course, I just have to be sure I actually get up after that.

  10. Molly – yes, google is always friendly like that!

  11. benjaminwood

    Why does Hawkins have to ruin everything by coming up with the right answer right off the bat instead of letting us imagine and come up with new ideas why 9 min. is the key to the snooze.


  12. jennerith

    I have no idea what my snooze alarm sounds like, because I never use it. I may want to fall asleep at 7p every night, but I am one of those freakish people that never has trouble rolling out of bed the second the alarm kicks on. (I know,you can throw vegatables now…) And Aaron always makes me stay awake until at least 9..something about not wanting me to wake him up at 11 when I can’t sleep anymore, and am bored.
    My alarm gets progressively louder, as if it’s offended you didn’t spring board out of bed the microsecond it kicked on. It goes alot like molly’s (and like I imagine little kids to be, soft at first, then louder until you pay attention to them..)
    eep eeep eeeep EEEeeep EEEPPPP EPEPEPEPEPEPEPEP!!!!

  13. I don’t use the buzz. It makes me mad. I wake up to Star 102 every morning.

  14. Allow me to express my disbelief at that answer. Unless modern clocks makers have gone and reinvented digital electronics, then the digits displayed on our clocks are not at all similar to what’s going on internally.

    Most likely, the internal representation of time is the number of seconds (or milliseconds, or processor cycles, or some unit) since the clock was plugged in. If you use something that tells the date, then it’s keeping track of the number of seconds since midnight on January 1, 1970.

    If any case, digit rollover in binary would give a completely differet time. 512 seconds (2^9) would be a possilibility (though an odd one). The answer must be historical in nature.

  15. Oh, and I would describe my alarm clock as the same sound. Incidentally, it’s exactly a major third below a former roommate’s alarm clock.

  16. Okay, I think I’m going for a record for consectutive comments here. I like this answer. If my math skills weren’t already like that, they would have become so…

  17. Molly…you got the comments but this was definitely cheese! Hawkins I was going: “That guy is a genius…I was going to google it and he just knows the answer off the top.”

    Molly…I love your readers!

  18. You ask funny questions…last time you asked about taking naps and now about snooze buttons!
    It all has to do with sleep 😀

    I never use the snooze thing. There’s nothing more annoying then that!

  19. Amanda – I hope you don’t end up being late for the sake of my curiousity! 🙂

    Ben – Don’t be so cryptic – let your emotions show! Why don’t you tell us how you really feel about what Hawk did? 🙂 Don’t be mad at him, he didn’t know the rule – I forgot to add it this time. Let’s just pretend we don’t know the real answer and keep guessing. 🙂

    Jen – How I wish I were a morning person like you! I won’t throw vegetables, though, cuz I like you too much. I want to be like you when I grow up.

    Shawn – good call with the radio alarm clock. I’m thinking it’s about time I splurge on one of them fancy things. Much more agreeable than the ungodly sound mine emits. Star 102, eh? What is that, soft rock?

    Idhrendur – You’re right – I have found that most sites agree that the first answer Hawkins submitted is wrong – it would not be at all difficult for the clock to read the tens column versus the ones column and trigger then. But the second answer is true. What supposedly happened was when digital clock makers looked to geared clocks for the snooze function, they saw that it was set to about 9 minutes or so and just assumed that the snooze gods deemed 9 minutes the magical number and so programmed 9 into digital clocks as well. I don’t know – that’s the overwhelming consensus as far as I know.

    Sounds like you and your roomate would have an interesting duet each morning. 🙂

    I loved the post you linked us to. So funny. I like this line…”by midday I’d be a fully rested idiot savant.” Hee hee. 🙂

    ChriS – most definitely cheese. But who doesn’t love a little cheese? Or a lot of cheese? 🙂 I know, I love my readers too!!!!!!!

  20. Ruth – the question was sparked by a comment by Robin on my Shower Shock post. She gave a link to the Sharper Image that profiled the alarm clock she uses. I was reading the features, one of course being the 9-minute snooze and voila! the “Why 9” Post. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying that I love sleep. I do.

    So, what’s annoying about the snooze alarm? Getting 9 more lucious minutes of sleep? 🙂

  21. My alarm sounds like this: “mama (whisper)…Mama…Mama, Mama, mama (normal voice)…MAMA, MAMA, MAMA, MAMA, MAMA!”
    I don’t have a “snooze” button, per se, but some mornings I can snag a few more minutes of dozing by calling out “Good morning, honey! Why don’t you play with some toys for a little bit?”
    But then there are the mornings where the first thing I hear is “Mommyyyyyyy! Poopy Baiper!” You better believe I get out of bed in a flash when I hear that. Ignoring that alarm is likely to result in a biiiiiig mess. Sorry, was that TMI? Just giving a little perspective from the real life of a stay-at-home-mom. =)

  22. Sarah – I love it! Poopy Baiper! That’s adorable. I don’t think I’d mind waking up to that if it that’s how it was announced.

  23. jennerith

    Depends on how far it has shot out of the baiper by the time you get to her…..

  24. Yeah, I guess that would put a kink or two in the morning…:) Though I would gladly put up with a little poopie for the joy of a little munchkin.

  25. benjaminwood

    I can’t wait to have a munchkin of my own it is going to be so much fun. Can you imagine a whole bunch of little Ben Wood’s running around IHOP-KC. We would all be in for it then.

    Thoughts on why it is 9 min – the imaginations of a hermit – i think the reason why it is set to a nine minute increment is based on a study done by researchers from USC and in the study it was found that human beings in a state of sleep take 8 minutes to fall asleep after being woken up, so in a very rude manner they decided to make all alarms 9 minutes long. Just enough time to fall asleep again only to be woken up a minute later.

  26. jennerith

    Molly- Believe me when I say, I agree with you utterly and completely on that one. I personally can’t wait to change diapers. Though I am sure the novelty of that particular part of child rearing should wear off rather quickly. Sigh.

  27. These kind of questions are pretty fun to think about…

    about the snooze…well with me it’s like this: BEEP BEEP, wake up…fall asleep again after 8 minutes and then it’s like BEEP BEEEEP BEEEEEP! You can’t love that…

    oh, now…you won’t believe i just wrote this and THEN read Benjamin’s last comment.. how cool is that? According the researchers i’m totally normal, I fall asleep after 8 minutes 😀

  28. Molly: I KNEW it!! Hehe. Yess. I feel so important!

    Idhrendur: Yes, very funny. I am in love with the random snooze idea. For real.

  29. I couldn’t wake up to the buzzer of my old alarm clock. It was like, “BLAWHT! BLAWHT! BLAWHT!” and every time it went off, it scared me awake. I thought it was the smoke alarm nearly every day.

    It didn’t take long for me to convert to radio with that thing.

  30. My alarm clock is a baby! And it depends on HOW HUNGRY she is as to how dramatic the alarm sounds. If she’s like, “I’m hungry but I’m really tired too”, I get to hear gentle grunts and mumbles. If she’s like, “Hey there I really am hungry, could you do something soon”, then the grunts intensify with a few loud squalks in between. If she’s had it, saying, “Hey I’m starving here, feed me NOW or you’ll regret it”, then it’s pretty much an all out war cry!
    The funky thing about my alarm clock is that I can’t set it to a nice little convenient time like, say 7AM… it’s random programing. Last nights wake ups went something like this 2:11AM, 4:30AM, 6AM, and finally 7:55AM.
    The bonus feature of this alarm clock is that even in the dark, she has amazing eyes that gaze up at me, like I’m her favorite person in the world, and she make gorgeous cooing sounds as she eats.

    You’ll all have to get yourself one of these, someday! I’m keeping mine!

  31. jennerith

    I wish it was as simple as just ordering them. However, I have learned over the last year that no matter how badly you want one, they don’t show up just because you would like to have one. Believe me, if that was all it took, I’d have 10 by now.
    Kids, not alarm clocks, just to clarify.

  32. Molly – What I was driving at, though, is that what the clock displays has little to do with what’s happening internally. The columns carry-over on the face does not coincide with one internally. I think. They COULD do it otherwise, but it’d be more difficult…shoot, I’m gonna end up buying a new clock just to tear apart and analyze. I can feel it…

    And I would gladly take a child as an alarm clock too. Of course, with such things, I get the easier time of it (I could wake up for feedings, but I wouldn’t be able to provide anything more than moral support). Diapers, I could handle though. And one day, I certainly will.

  33. emilymea

    OK – what do my alarms sound like? (Yes, that’s multiple – it can take up to six or seven alarms to force me to roll out of bed in the afternoon.)

    The ones on my phone are my ringers that I use on a normal basis. I had them set for these really annoying ring tones and then I learned to tune them out. So now I have 2 of my phone alarms set to my “Kansas City” ringer (the one that rings anyone from IHOP calls me) and 1 of my phone alarms set to the “Shreveport and others” ringer.

    Two alarms are from the “big demon alarm clock” (my college alarm was the original “demon alarm clock”) that sounds suspicously like the one that Amanda described earlier.

    My last alarm is the radio – it’s certainly the nicest one to wake up too as it is worship music. Unfortunately though, I do tend to doze off to it from time to time.

    And if all of those alarms fail there is inevitably the mom that screams “Emily, turn those things off and get out of bed!”

    Wow, I just realized that I need to re-think my current sleeping patterns if I need that many alarms to get out of bed. Or maybe I could stick to nights instead of being on nights half the week and days the other half.

  34. I hate alarms… one of my requests in eternity is that they be banished

  35. My alarm sounds like a high pitch version of your alarm clock, it’s really annoying.

  36. Steve & Amanda

    um, the better question is: why do I set most of my clocks 37 minutes fast….no seriously, I really do…except for my computer and cell phone. all the rest (bedroom, car, etc.) are like this.

  37. We have the same alarm sound, how sentimental. My cell phone alarm is set on Asian Jingle. lots of “Deets” in that one at various tones. It’s wonderful 🙂

  38. Ben – little Ben munchkins will be JAWSOME. Please name one BOO and one JA. And you could name two more JAW and SOME. Just some thoughts. I like your clock theory. Why USC? Does it have something to do with the Banana Slugs?

    Jen – you’re probably right – that would get old really quickly.

    Ruth – good point. I can see how that would be annoying. And hey, you must be prophetic!

    Robin – glad you feel important – you are! 🙂 I too love the random snooze idea…when I read your comment on Idhrendur’s comment, I went, oh, yeah, I remember reading that comment – why didn’t I comment on it? Then I looked through the comments and I can’t find it. This is a mystery to me…where did it go?

    Amanda – nothing like being scared awake to make for a good day, huh? I tell you, I don’t know what these alarm people are thinking. I once went with a family to Aruba to babysit their daughter for two weeks. It was JAWSOME. Every morning, this kind woman (the mother) would come into my room (actually I had my own suite, if you can believe it) with a steaming cup of coffee and gently awake me by whispering my name. I would open my eyes and see her smiling at me holding a white, gleaming cup of my favorite liquid, the steam wafting upwards and the rich aroma awakening my senses, and I would sit up, just so ridiculously happy, and then to top it off, I would remember that I was in Aruba. Oh, to wake up like that every day…can’t someone make an alarm clock like that?

    Tracie – sounds like you and Sarah have the best alarm clocks of us all!

    Jen – thanks for clarifying…JK. 🙂

    Idhrendur – Interesting…let us know what you find out if you take that clock apart!

    Emily – wow! You are like comatose when you sleep, eh? That’s rough trying to swing your schedule constantly.

    Zack – agreed.

    Andy – that does sound highly annoying.

    Steve and Amanda – that is a good question. Does that really help you be on time? Is that why you do it? 2 or 3 minutes fast helps me most of the time, but I think if I did 37 I would go, wait a minute, something’s fishy here… 🙂

    Rob – fun! I think it’s really funny how you can tell what my alarm sounds like with my terrible portrayal. I couldn’t decide how to convey it. I’m glad it makes sense!

  39. emilymea

    It’s not necessarily being comatose – it’s not letting my body settle into a sleep pattern.

    In my own defense when it comes to switching schedules so often – sometimes it is better to keep the peace with the family and sacrifice you’re sleep than to stay on a steady sleep schedule and be fighting all the time.

  40. Emily – I know this dilemna initmately as a former Night Watcher. It’s still hard on the body though, eh?

  41. emilymea

    It’s most definately hard on the body. I’m gonna pay for right now tonight. I’ve been awake since noon on four hours of sleep and I don’t get off work till 7 in the morning.

    I want to be back on Night Watch instead of this crazy schedule…. man, I miss KC.

  42. I think someone else left the random snooze comment. I remember reading it, but certainly don’t remember writing it.

    I’m also pondering BUILDING an alarm clock, according to how I think it should be done. I need to find a radio shack now…

    I tend to do my clocks about ten minutes fast myself.

  43. Oh! And the Banana Slugs are UCSC (University of California, Santa Cruz), not USC (University of Southern California), who’s mascot is (are?) the Trojans.

  44. benjaminwood

    I just picked the first college name that cam to mind USC was the first i thought of.

  45. emilymea

    idhrendur and ben – Banana Slugs?!?!?! And I thought my college was weird for having a Gent as our mascot. (Our basketball teams were the Gents and the Ladies.) Banana slugs beat the Gent any day on the weirdness factor.

  46. You guys are so smart! I figured it was one of those psychiatric things. You know, five minutes doesn’t sound long enough to make a difference, but ten minutes sounds like a long time, so we’ll go for nine minutes! Sort of the same reason WalMart sells everything for something and 97 cents…

  47. Yep, they’re the banana slugs. My school, however, is the Titans. But instead of some cool greek mythological thing, our mascot is “Tuffy the Elephant” (an actual elephant from when we had the first intercollegiate elephant race in the 60’s)

  48. emilymea

    I think having an actually elephant as your mascot is a cooler story than how we got the gents. Our college president told our football team (made of all convicts at the time)to “fight like gentleman” and the name “gents” has stuck. I wonder if that’s why we don’t have a football team anymore.

  49. emilymea

    oops… that should read “having an actuall elephant”

  50. Well, we don’t ave the elephant anymore (which would be awesome). We just have an annoyngly cartoonish drawing. And no football team either. We have a really good baseball team though…

  51. emilymea

    Even though you don’t have the real elephant – you’ve definately got a cool story.

  52. benjaminwood

    I think that if FSM had a mascot it would have to be J to the B or otherwise known as John the Baptist. How wild would that be?! It would be totally jawsome!

  53. I would like to see a living creature as the mascot.

  54. I would like chanting “J to the B”, though.

  55. dave raes

    hawkins you fool, everbody knows that’s not the reason for the 9 minutes: global warming did it, which means, you did it!

  56. DAVE RAES!!!!! How are you?! Great to have you, friend.

  1. 1 pelf-ism is contagious » Blog Archive » Read It Now - 9 May 2007

    […] does your alarm clock snooze every nine minutes? Why not five or […]

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