The clock shows 11:30 PM and you head to bed. You unlock your phone, open the clock and set an alarm for 7 AM.
You usually wake up at 7:30 AM but you want to attempt to wake a little earlier tomorrow. After setting the alarm, you browse through your phone on Whatsapp, Instagram or Youtube. Once you no longer find anything interesting, you attempt to sleep on your left side, followed by the right side, before you fall asleep somehow.
You awaken in the middle of the night and pick your phone to check what time it is. If you see the clock on your phone showing 3:15 AM, you go back to sleep happy knowing you have a few more hours to sleep. If the clock shows 6:15 AM, you hate knowing that you have to wake up in a few hours.
On a lucky day, you directly wake up to the sound of the alarm. Trrrinnngg.
You reluctantly pick your phone and hit the snooze button. By now you already know the different ways to snooze the alarm. You pick the easiest way to snooze based on where your phone is.
If your phone is right next to your face, you open your drowsy eyes and click on the snooze button on the screen. If your phone is behind your body or slightly away, you reach your phone with your eyes closed and hit the buttons on the sides.
You have mastered the art of hitting the snooze button with the least possible effort.
Three alarms and 2 snoozes later you finally wake up at 7:30 AM like any other day. Yet another day goes by where your attempt to wake up a little early failed like your new year resolutions. You end up wondering what can you do about your snooze button addiction. Have you thought ever thought, is snoozing bad for you?
- Why do we snooze?
- Is hitting the snooze button good for you?
- How to stop snoozing
Why do we snooze?
You snooze to have a good feeling of sleeping for some more time. Waking up is a terrible feeling and snoozing helps you postpone the discomfort as long as possible. The extra 10 minutes of sleep feels like having your favorite dessert after lunch.
Few people also believe that the extra sleep helps them wake up fresh. No scientific research backs the statement and the feeling of freshness is due to your belief than the actual 10 minutes of sleep. Such a fake belief of change is called the placebo effect.
You must have tried finding is snoozing bad for you? Snoozing a few times before waking up might provide you a feeling of momentary pleasure but does more harm to you than good. Here are the problems of snoozing:
1. You alarm your heart every time you snooze:
Matthew Walker, a scientist who has spent 20 years of his life on sleep research, states snoozing as one of the worst things you can do to your sleep. As per Walker, every time an alarm sounds when you’re sleeping, you alarm your heart with a light dose. Each snooze adds on to this cardiovascular assault again in 10 minutes.
The body functions the smoothest when you wake up without an alarm. Not everyone can awaken without an alarm, so waking up at the first alarm is the best favor you can do to your heart.
2. You confuse your body about waking up
You must have noticed how you feel a little off-balance and less alert when you wake up. This happens because your brain and body enter a different state when you fall asleep. Your brain needs a few minutes to shift itself from a state of sleep to a state of wakefulness.
Every time you hit the snooze button, you tell your body “That’s a fake alarm. Go back to sleep”. For the subsequent alarms, your body does not know if it should prepare for waking up or go back to sleep. You end up confusing your body about the sleep and wake up cycle.
3. Lack of REM sleep
Your sleep consists of 2 phases called Rapid Eye Movement(REM) sleep and Non-REM or Deep sleep. During your REM sleep, your body integrates the information you gathered today with all the prior knowledge you had. After your REM sleep, you wake up smarter and intelligent than you were the previous night. Learn more about the magic of sleep.
Your REM sleep occurs towards the end of your sleep. By snoozing, you prevent the cycle from completing. Waking up at the sound of the first alarm at 7:30 AM instead of an alarm at 7 AM followed by 3 snoozes, helps you complete your REM sleep.
4. You mess your body clock
If you snooze daily, you wake up at different times each day. Sometimes you wake up at the first snooze and sometimes after three snoozes. Many a time you turn off the snooze itself and leave it to fate. To make it worse, your weekends follow a different routine where you wake up 2 hours later than your average weekday timing.
Different waking times each day throws your body clock off schedule. Each day your body tries to adapt to your waking up time but fails to identify a pattern.
5. Incomplete sleep
Your body sleeps in cycles of 90 minutes each. If you slept for 6 hours last night, you completed four sleep cycles. When you snooze, your body cannot enter a sleep cycle. It tries to enter a sleep cycle only to be awakened a few minutes later.
Though you might feel that the extra minutes of sleep helps you, you end up waking up more exhausted with each snooze. Next time wake up at the first alarm and notice the difference.
6. You start the day procrastinating
When you snooze, you tell your brain, “Let us postpone waking up a bit.” As subtle as it sounds, you start your day with procrastination and laziness. For some people, a lazy start makes their whole day lethargic and unproductive.
Your brain might consider the inability to rise as a failure and the same feeling propagates throughout the day.
7. Do not fool yourself with an early alarm
If you set an alarm for 7 AM but wake up at 7:30 AM each day, who are you fooling other than yourself? You needlessly snooze multiple times before waking up at your usual time. You not only disturb your REM sleep, but you also deprive your body of the extra 30 minutes of seamless rest.
If you set one alarm instead of multiple snoozes, you wake up fresher and energetic.
How to stop snoozing
Avoiding the snooze button takes a change in mindset. Here a few tips on how to stop hitting the snooze button
1. Sit up
The toughest part about waking up is gathering the strength to lift your back and sit straight. Once you sit up, you become less vulnerable to sleeping again. The only exception is when you are extremely sleep deprived where you feel like lying down again.
When the alarm sounds, wait for a minute or two and sit up. Do not jerk your body but sit up smoothly. You will no longer feel the necessity to hit the snooze button.
2. Find the right time to wake up
The ideal time to wake up is based on the time you go to sleep. If you go to bed exactly the same time every night, waking up at the same time is as easy as eating a cake.
Unfortunately, we have dishes to do, TV to watch or an unexpected phone call to answer which delay our sleep time. Since your sleeping time varies, you have to calculate the ideal time to wake up daily as per the sleep cycles.
Sleep consists of sleep cycles of 90 min or 1.5 hours each. Every night you go through multiple sleep cycles. The hack that you can use is, to ensure you wake up towards the end of the sleep cycle.
If you wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle, the cycle is broken and you wake up exhausted. If you wake up towards the end of one cycle or early in the next cycle, you remain fresh.
Please note that the sleep cycle starts after you fall asleep(not when you get into bed). Therefore, you must consider the time you need to fall asleep. As per statistics, most people need 14 mins to fall asleep after they get into bed.
If you get into bed at 10:45 PM and fall asleep at 11 PM, the ideal time for you to wake up is 12:30 AM, 2 AM, 3:30 AM, 5 AM, 6:30 AM and so on. Aim to wake up within the last 10 or the first 10 minutes of a sleep cycle. Do not wake up in the 10–80 minute window of the sleep cycle. Waking up at the end of a sleep cycle makes it easier to avoid the snooze button.
You can save yourself the math by using the calculator
3. Do something you love after you wake up
Waking up will always remain a challenging activity. I am an early riser for a few years but I dislike the feeling even today. Waking up turns easier when you have a reason to do so.
A good motivation to wake up is to do something you love early in the morning. If you love playing the guitar, creating a design, drawing a sketch or writing blogs, do the same once you wake up.
If an alarm cannot make you sit up, the joy of doing something you love will.
4. Set one alarm for the time you intend to wake up
If you intend to wake up at 7:30 AM, do not set an alarm for 7 AM to accommodate snoozing. The perils of snoozing have been mentioned here. Setting one alarm for 7:30 helps you get better sleep. You feel well-rested when you wake up.
To make the effect better, set one alarm based on your sleep cycles using the sleep calculator.
5. Leave curtains slightly open
If you think the thick blinds on your bedroom windows help you sleep better, you need to experiment to know for real. In the morning, the natural light should enter your bedroom. You may determine what time is it by looking at your smartphone, but your body clock determines the time of the day based on the morning sunlight it receives.
Until a few hundred years ago, natural light formed day and night. Today, artificial bulbs in your houses and the streets have put your internal body clock in a state of chaos. What the human brain learned over the millions of years has been shattered in the last 200 years.
If you wake up at 8 AM and spread the curtains open, your body considers that as the morning. Imagine the confusion when this timing changes again during the weekend.
Leaving the curtain slightly open or using thinner blinds allows light to pass through helping your body clock regain control.
6. Install blue light filtering app on your phone
Your phone emits a various spectrum of light. One among them, the blue light, hinders your body’s ability to generate melatonin, which signals your body to sleep. When you browse your Instagram feed on bed liking one picture after another, you only make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
To overcome the effect of blue light, install an app that reduces the amount of blue light emitted based on the time of the day. On Android, you can install one of the many apps from the Playstore.
On an iPhone with iOS 9.3 or higher, you can use the native app to filter blue light. Under Settings -> Display and Brightness, you can set up a night mode which turns off some of the sleep-disturbing light at the scheduled time.
7. Keep the phone at a distance
The easiest hack, in theory, is to keep your phone away from you when you sleep. Will you move from your bed to the table to snooze? You might, but the chances are lesser. Yet, one set of people will not apply this hack due to the sheer laziness of keeping the phone away. The other set does not want to keep their phones at a distance.
If you belong to either of these categories, at least place your phone such that you have to stretch to reach your phone. The feeling of stretching to snooze every single time will increase the chances of waking up instead of snoozing.
Snoozing is bad for most people. Whatever pleasure you gain from a few minutes of snoozing has no proven study to back the theory. But, sleep scientists have performed enough research to prove how snoozing damages your sound sleep, your energy levels, and your health.
You now stand aware of the truth behind snoozing. Tomorrow when the alarm sounds, you must sit up. Most people won’t. Will you?
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.