For the last week and a half, I’ve been waking up to this horrible sound at 5:20 a.m. It’s the sound of my alarm clock going off and I’ll tell you, for a moment or two after hearing it, I reconsider my entire existence. Sometimes I’ll hit the snooze button for an extra eight minutes of sleep, but most of the time, I jump out of bed and get my day started.
I bet you can relate. Most of you are familiar with the snooze button and all those valuable moments of sleep it buys before having to get up and at it. But I recently learned that using the snooze button might actually cause you more harm than good.
Taking an extra eight minutes—or whatever interval your snooze is set to—means you end up beginning a sleep cycle you won’t finish, while fragmenting an existing one. So what does that mean? Basically, it means you’ll end up taking even longer to feel awake and likely feel increased tiredness and grogginess throughout the day.
Those extra few minutes can impact your decision-making and overall productivity during the day, and it’s caused by a condition called sleep inertia. When you go back to sleep after hitting the snooze button, you can pass out quickly, but the sleep is cut short when the alarm starts blaring again. This causes you to awaken at a time that is unnatural, throwing off your brain hormones and ultimately messing with your circadian rhythm.
Of course, the snooze button is only a symptom of a bigger problem; most Americans don’t get enough sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation is a big issue in this country that keeps people tired and unable to get up at first call. Chronic sleep deprivation sets in when a person gets under six hours of sleep per night.
So how do you get more sleep? Try taking a little 20-30 minute nap during the day. Any longer than that and you might inhibit your ability to fall asleep later, so keep it short and sweet. This is also all the time you need to get up and feel refreshed.
You can also try winding down a little earlier in the evening. Shut off the television a half hour early and start getting ready for bed. Finally, you can try keeping your alarm out of reach so you have to get out of bed to shut it off!
Bucklan, E., “Is the snooze button bad for you?” CNN web site, February 7, 2014; http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/06/health/upwave-snooze-button/, last accessed February 11, 2014.