How does my body know to wake up at my train stop?

06 July 2008

Question

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 I’ve 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?

Answer

We put this question to Professor Russell Foster:

What he's 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. They're using their body clock to time specific daily events. It's thought that we may be able to do the same. It's not absolutely clear and there may be other mechanisms but the evidence is pretty good that we can act like little bees.

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