Ben P. asked:
I commute to work and travel 40 minutes either way. I tend to sleep as the train motion makes me drowsy. In all this time Iíve only once slept through his stop. Most of the time I wake up just before my stop. Is this in some way linked to my body clock or am I just good at it?
We put this question to Professor Russell Foster:
What heís talking about and what I think many of us experience is that you wake up a few minutes before the alarm goes off. The mechanisms behind this have been much discussed. If we jump from our species and talk about honey bees. Honey bees will use their body clock almost like a daily events calendar. They will consult this internal clock to determine when they will visit a specific type of flower at different times of the day. For example they will visit one species at 12 noon and then another species 12 hours later. Theyíre using their body clock to time specific daily events. Itís thought that we may be able to do the same. Itís not absolutely clear and there may be other mechanisms but the evidence is pretty good that we can act like little bees.
Ben P asked the Naked Scientists:
well im not too good with that stuff but your body doesnt do it kind of thing i mean you arent awake so your body cant possibly know well some people may argrue that the lady on the train says we have stopped at watever and you would hear it so ur brain would wake you up but thats not too likely i think benep, Fri, 2nd May 2008
Ofcourse you have to be aware of your surroundings while you are asleep, otherwise you'd never wake up to the alarm clock in the morning. Hearing particularly, being one of the more primitive senses, is still even when you are asleep.
Everyone has a "body clock" comprising a collection of genes which cyclically turn each other on and off in a form of molecular domino effect which takes about 24 hours to complete one cycle. This process is happening in every tissue in the body, so every cell in the body can keep time.