Jewish World Review Sept. 24, 2003 / 27 Elul, 5763

Jeff Elder

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Consumer Reports

Why do snooze alarms go off every 9 minutes? | Q: When you hit the snooze alarm on a clock radio or alarm clock, the alarm goes off again in nine minutes. Why nine minutes? - Bill Williams, Cornelius, N.C.

A: Aww geez, Bill. Here we've all finally gotten up and now you've got us hittin' the snooze button again.


Huh! Wha? Oh, right. OK. Just gimme a second

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 7:54. 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.

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According to these clock historians, engineers chose the shorter snooze, figuring "less than 10 minutes" seemed more punctual and marketable than sending people back to dreamland for "more than 10 minutes." The public became accustomed to this, and clock makers have generally stuck with it.

General Electric-Telechron marketed the first snooze alarm in 1956. Check out that clock online at

But not all snooze alarms buzzed every nine minutes. In 1959, Westclox released "drowse" alarms that could be set for either five or 10 minutes of snooze time. Later Westclox marketed clocks with a seven-minute snooze alarm.

Still, nine minutes is the norm.

If you smack a snooze button, you ain't sleepin' alone. According to USA Today, more than a third of American adults hit the snooze button every morning an average of three times. Snooziest group? The 25- to 34-year-olds - 57 percent of them hit the snooze button daily. Peppiest risers? It's the seniors. Only 10 percent of Americans over 65 regularly use their snooze button.

Snooze alarms can do more than just make you late for work. They can train you to remember your dreams. See, early morning is heavy rapid-eye-movement time, when we dream heavily. The snooze alarm can be your guide in and out of that dreamscape, as you might have noticed on a morning when you hit the snooze button several times.

Charles McPhee, the nationally syndicated columnist and radio host known as "The Dream Doctor," says if you can't remember your dreams you can try this exercise.

On a morning when you can sleep in, set your alarm and when it sounds, hit the snooze alarm. Lie still and work back in your mind to what you were just dreaming about. Remember your emotions and whatever snippets of the dream you can. See if you can piece together the outline of a dream, and write it in a notebook by your bed. Then go back to sleep and repeat the process each time the snooze alarm buzzes.

This can train your mind to better remember your dreams, McPhee says.

_SOURCES: Clock historian Jay "Pappy" Kennan,, USA Today, The Straight Dope



This week's quiz was provided by reader Wille Thompson of Newton, N.C. Look for the pattern! (Answers below)

1. Who were the two female legs of Archie Andrews' love triangle? (It's important to name the brunette first.)

2. Who was the youngest daughter on TV's "One Day At A Time," and a rockin' wife?

3. Which U.S. president was nicknamed "Old Kinderhook"?

4. Before he starred in "Saturday Night Fever" or "Pulp Fiction," a famous actor played what slow-thinking character on "Welcome Back, Kotter"?

5. If you've figured out the pattern in the questions above, you should be able to name the state and city (in that order) where the Catamounts play in the shadow of the Green Mountains.



1. Veronica, Betty

2. Valerie Bertonelli

3. Martin Van Buren

4. Vinnie Barbarino

5. Burlington, Vermont

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Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here.


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08/26/03: These inventors were just toying with us
08/12/03: Why do wheels appear to turn backward on film?; showdown over high noon
08/07/03: Wood'n you know it? Money doesn't grow on trees; all we are is dust in the wind
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