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Since You Asked: Hit 'snooze' at your own peril

Dear Since: This question has to do with alarm clocks. Why is it that most, if not all, snooze alarms are set for 9 minutes? Why not 10 or some other 'round' number? Thank you.

— Robert J., Ashland

Hey, 9 is a very "round" number ... just look at those curves! Actually, clock radio scientists have, after decades of research, discovered that 9 minutes is exactly the amount of time it takes to return to a restful sleep. Sadistic buggers, those alarm clock scientists. Somewhere, someone is cackling with evil laughter every morning.

Thankfully, Cecil Adams of "The Straight Dope" answered your question the best he could in 1999 (www.straightdope.com/classics/a991126.html), and it's a good thing because he has a staff to help do research, which this one required in spades.

Read his full answer for the whole dilly, but it boils down to the original old-school snooze on really old alarm clocks ran 9-10 minutes, and that just stuck with the industry as accepted practice and was immortalized when a computer chipmaker (National Semiconductor's type MM5370 digital alarm-clock chip, to be exact) set the snooze at 9 minutes. Most standard alarm clocks might all have the exact same chip, so everyone is annoyed every 9 minutes every morning.

Now, to answer OUR question you didn't ask: Is the snooze button a godsend or a scourge on all mankind?

For that, we have narcolepsy research from Masashi Yanagisawa, whose work was published in Neuron magazine. Essentially, if you'd like to actually wake up, Yanagisawa suggests the snooze button is your worst enemy. Best thing to put between you and the snooze button is physical activity ... put the clock across the room to force your body to physically move to activate it. That movement releases self-reinforcing chemicals in your brain to make you wake up. Otherwise you risk oversleeping.

Or you can do as we do ... when the alarm goes off we bolt upright and immediately launch into a rousing "Rise and Shine!" in operatic falsetto, absolutely terrifying the neighbors (who we often hear and see violently pounding the snooze buttons on their alarm clocks). And then we take on our day like we're sprinting to Saturday morning cartoons!

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.