Sleeping with time in mind? A literature review and a proposal for a screening questionnaire on self-awakening

Laura Verga*, Giada D'Este, Sara Cassani, Caterina Leitner, Sonja A. Kotz, Luigi Ferini-Strambi, Andrea Galbiati*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Some people report being able to spontaneously "time" the end of their sleep. This ability to self-awaken challenges the idea of sleep as a passive cognitive state. Yet, current evidence on this phenomenon is limited, partly because of the varied definitions of self-awakening and experimental approaches used to study it. Here, we provide a review of the literature on self-awakening. Our aim is to i) contextualise the phenomenon, ii) propose an operating definition, and iii) summarise the scientific approaches used so far. The literature review identified 17 studies on self-awakening. Most of them adopted an objective sleep evaluation (76%), targeted nocturnal sleep (76%), and used a single criterion to define the success of awakening (82%); for most studies, this corresponded to awakening occurring in a time window of 30 minutes around the expected awakening time. Out of 715 total participants, 125 (17%) reported to be self-awakeners, with an average age of 23.24 years and a slight predominance of males compared to females. These results reveal self-awakening as a relatively rare phenomenon. To facilitate the study of self-awakening, and based on the results of the literature review, we propose a quick paper-and-pencil screening questionnaire for self-awakeners and provide an initial validation for it. Taken together, the combined results of the literature review and the proposed questionnaire help in characterising a theoretical framework for self-awakenings, while providing a useful tool and empirical suggestions for future experimental studies, which should ideally employ objective measurements.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0283221
Number of pages16
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2023


  • Male
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Young Adult
  • Adult
  • Sleep
  • Suggestion
  • Wakefulness


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