We’ve all used the snooze button from time to time. I know I have. I’ve also used multiple morning alarms which function in the same way. But is the button that allows us to grab an extra few minutes in bed actually worth it? Let’s find out. Because apparently, hitting the snooze button so we can stay in bed a little longer causes you a lot more harm than you realise. If the title of the article hadn’t given that away already.
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The Snooze Button
Apparently, the snooze button solves a problem for us, the problem of having to reset our alarms when they go off in the morning (Inc.). With one tough or one flip of the phone, we can get some extra time in bed. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but now that I have, it does make sense.
According to PopSci, the use of the snooze button generally starts during our teenage years. That’s because our circadian rhythms go through a state of change during those years. This change makes us want to stay up later and get up later. Therefore, it’s hardly a surprise this behaviour might start in our teenage years when you’re forced to get up early for school, which your body is telling you not to.
A study commission by Eve (n.d.) into the snoozing habits of us Brits found that over half of the nation uses an alarm to get them up in the morning. Of those people who set an alarm, 82% hit the snooze button at least once. That’s a lot of people using their snooze button.
Why Using The Snooze Button Is A Problem
Unfortunately for users and fans of the snooze button, science is not on your side (Brooklyn Bedding). Although, I guess you would have figured that out by the time you go to this section, given the title of the article. The problem with hitting the snooze button is that the extra few minutes of sleep won’t beat your drowsiness, instead it’ll make it worse (Reverie). That’s because the extra few minutes of sleep aren’t restorative sleep (Cleveland Clinic).
What hitting the snooze button actually does is disorient your body, causing sleep inertia (Reverie). Sleep inertia is a transitional state between being asleep and being wake, which can impair performance, reduce vigilance, and increase desire to sleep (Trotti, 2017). This state can last for several hours (Reverie; and Trotti, 2017). Who want’s to feel tired for longer just for an extra couple of minutes of sleep?
According to Brooklyn Bedding, sleep researchers think chronic use of the snooze button can train your brain to think, “just a few minutes” instead of “time to wake up” when your alarms go off. Thus, you’d be creating an unhealthy habit that’ll be hard to break.
As you may or may not know, there are four stages of sleep (MindBodyGreen). Stage 1, 2, and 3 are all non-Rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and stage four is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. If you’re able to sleep 7-8 hours, then you’ll have about five cycles of the sleep stages, with each cycle lasting approximately 90 minutes (Dotto, 1996).
Stage 1 sleep lasts about 1-5 minutes and is the stage where you’re trying to fall asleep (Sleep Foundation). Stage 2 is a light sleep stage, while stage 3 is the deep sleep body recovering stage (MindBodyGreen). That just leaves stage 4, which is your REM sleep. This is where you dream, which is another restorative stage (MindBodyGreen), but for the mind. REM sleep is a state where you can be near consciousness (Dotto, 1996), which is why people can have sleep paralysis.
When you hit the snooze button, you’re very unlikely to reach stage 3 sleep (MindBodyGreen), which is the restorative sleep your body wants to reach. Meaning, you’re making your body start the sleep cycle from the top, which is where it prepares you for sleep. Because of this, your brain is releasing neurochemicals that cause sleep to occur (PopSci).
The more you then hit the snooze button, the more you’re going to confuse your brain, causing you to feel more groggy and anxious than you otherwise would (Rosman, 2018). If the last stage REM sleep is disturbed, it can cause a ‘fight or flight’ response, increasing your blood pressure and heartbeat (Cleveland Clinic). This could explain why some people wake up feeling anxious.
Life has enough stress as it is, which is more than our bodies can handle at the best of times. So putting your body and brain through the torture of 5-10 minute snoozes several times each morning is just setting you up for a bad day (Eve, n.d.). Seriously, this is actually done as a form of torture.
Our bodies need to go through their natural waking up cycle if you’re to start the day well. What’s more, our bodies start to wake us up a full two hours before we’d naturally open our eyes (Brooklyn Bedding). That means you’re better off setting your alarm for a later time, rather than going through several snooze cycles (Inc.).
When our bodies go through their waking preparation cycle, it raises our body temperature and releases chemicals into the body to promote wakefulness (Brooklyn Bedding). Thus, when you hit snooze, you undo the waking cycle and kick start a new sleep cycle (PopSci).
If the only issue with hitting the snooze button was that it delayed the inevitable (Reverie), things would be fine. But that’s not the case. Those extra few minutes are something you’ll be paying for over the next few hours, and maybe over the rest of your life. If you didn’t have sleep-deprivation before you started using the snooze button (Inc.), you’ll certainly develop it as a result. So, before you hit the snooze button again, maybe you should look at your sleep habits (Cleveland Clinic).
If you are already sleep-deprived, then using the snooze button might be even worse for you if you don’t do something about your sleeping habit. The more sleep-deprived we are, the more our bodies will want to get us into the restorative sleep stages. This means you’ll be back in stage 2 sleep before you know it, which’ll just make it worse when your next alarm goes off (Brooklyn Bedding). You’re just compiling the fatigue.
The Interaction Between The Sleep Button And Mental Health
As I said in the last section, the use of the snooze button can cause a fight-or-flight response, which can make us feel anxious when we wake up. With each new alarm caused by the use of the snooze button, you’re sending mixed signals across your body, which can contribute to anxiety (Eve, n.d.). This would likely explain why my anxiety disorders and psychotic episodes would be more manageable when I’d had enough sleep, and worse when I didn’t.
According to the study sponsored by Eve (n.d.), the increased anxiety is something that comes as a consequence of being sympathetic dominants. The Brighton Wellness Group state that we have two systems in our bodies, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. These two systems are meant to work together. The parasympathetic system is there to settle you down after a stressful or dangerous situation has been experienced (Cleveland Clinic). So, if you’re a sympathetic dominant person, you’ll get the stimulation but no come down, as the parasympathetic system will be suppressed (Brighton Wellness Group).
People who are sympathetic dominants are more at risk of depression and anxiety, which will further be agitated by the stress of using the snooze button (Eve, n.d.). Therefore, if you already have anxiety and depression, you might want to start avoiding the snooze button. But even if you don’t have a mental health issue, hitting the snooze button might feel good, but it’ll affect your energy levels for the rest of the day (Brooklyn Bedding).
Alternatives To Your Snooze Button
What can you do besides torturing your body and mind by using the snooze button? Well, as I already said, you could start by looking at your sleep habits. If you can create a night and morning routine, so you start your day right, then you’ll experience less stress, and thus have a better day (Eve, n.d.).
To help you with sorting out your sleep habits, you can try insomnia cognitive behavioural therapy (I-CBT), which I wrote an article about not too long ago. I-CBT is great for sleep hygiene, and will help you develop a better sleep habit. Check out my article on I-CBT by clicking here.
A good morning is something you want to turn into a habit, so it’s a quick-and-easy thing to do when you wake up (talker). My morning routine is to clean my teeth while I flick through the TV guide to set recordings. I then spit out my toothpaste, go to the loo, and get washed. Then I sort out breakfast, eat, dress, and I’m done.
Another thing you can do is ditch your ringing alarm for a light alarm clock. The light of the light alarm clock will mimic a sunrise, which will prompt your body to start waking you up. This will help you avoid waking up with a shock, which, as I’ve said, can cause stress. Basically, it allows you to hack your body’s existing circadian rhythm for your own benefit.
I doubt there’s many of us that are able to get a full 7-8 hours sleep with the way the world is. But, as tempting as using the snooze button might be, it’s not your friend. Unless you like your friends stabbing you in the back? Instead of stressing your body with the repeated use of the snooze button, make some changes to your sleep habits.
Create a morning and night routine. Set your alarm clock for a later time so you don’t have to use the snooze button to get you to that same time. There are many tools out there that can help you get a better night’s sleep and allow you to wake up without frightening the life out of yourself. I used to wake myself up with Slipknot’s People=Shit song. It really woke you up like a brick in the face. But I don’t need to do that anymore, thankfully.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences with hitting the snooze button in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Dotto, L. (1996). Sleep stages, memory and learning. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, 154(8), 1193. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1487644 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1487644/pdf/cmaj00092-0063.pdf.
Eve. (n.d.). Refuse to snooze. Eve Sleep. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from https://evesleep.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/genesis/landing_pages/refuse-to-snooze/the-refuse-to-snooze-report-FINALpdf.pdf.
Rosman, K. D. (2018). The power of restful sleep–and how to get some. Mental Health Matters, 5(1), 18-20. Retrieved from https://sadag.org/images/pdf/The-Power-of-Restful-Sleep-An-How-to-Get-Some.pdf and https://journals.co.za/doi/abs/10.10520/EJC-ceba06606.
Trotti, L. M. (2017). Waking up is the hardest thing I do all day: Sleep inertia and sleep drunkenness. Sleep medicine reviews, 35, 76–84. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2016.08.005 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5337178.