The Button Punches Back: Why Snoozing Is a Bad Idea

July 17, 2018 All posts Jared Sebastian

Hey there! How did you wake up this morning? Were you up and at ‘em as soon as the first alarm buzzed? Or did you have to hit snooze just once (okay—maybe a couple times)?

Now, maybe it felt good to snuggle inside your blankets for a few minutes more, but, chances are, hitting snooze didn’t change how tired you were overall. As it turns out, hitting the snooze button isn’t really the quick fix that we want it to be. Let’s take a look at why snoozing fails to perform as advertised, as well as some better ways to wake up in the morning:

Broken bits of sleep

Sleep after your first alarm tends to be really shoddy in quality—you hit snooze, sleep a few minutes, hit snooze, sleep a few minutes, hit snooze…it’s very fragmented sleep.

These piecemeal sleep fragments are light sleep. Your brain doesn’t have enough time to drift into deep, quality sleep, so instead, you’re kept just at the surface level. That means the snooze sleep isn’t sleep that’ll defeat your drowsiness (or give you any of the other awesome benefits of sleep either). In fact, it might make your drowsiness worse.

That grogginess and disorientation that we experience upon the first few moments of waking is called sleep inertia. Hitting the snooze button repeatedly disorients your body, raising the chances of this sleep inertia extending two to four hours into your morning. We’re sure the last thing you need is to be tired for longer.

The Button Punches Back: Why Snoozing Is a Bad Idea

Starting over from zero

Pressing snooze can compound this sleepiness even further, as you always face the risk of falling into another sleep cycle during your snooze sleep. This is because your brain may kick into “sleep mode” even though you’re really just trying to grab a few more minutes of shut-eye. If you do manage to slip into a deep sleep as this cycle progresses in between alarms, after being buzzed awake again you will feel more tired than you were when your first alarm went off. Doesn’t seem like ten more minutes is worth that, right?

In for a shock

Need a bit more convincing? When you artificially wake yourself from sleep by an alarm, it’s a shock to your system, spiking your blood pressure and accelerating your heart rate.

Sleep scientist Matthew Walker in his informative Why We Sleep details the toll this shock takes on your average worker with a habit of punching snooze: “If alarming your heart...were not bad enough, using the snooze feature means that you will inflict that cardiovascular assault again and again within a short span of time”.

“Step and repeat this at least five days a week,” he explains, “and you begin to understand the multiplicative abuse your heart and nervous system will suffer across a lifespan”.

Resist the snooze

What a reliance on the snooze button means is that you are either not getting enough sleep, or you are setting your alarm for too early in the morning, and using snoozing as a buffer until you’re ready to get up. Here are a few tips to help prevent the snooze button slugfest:

  • First, make sure that you are giving yourself an eight hour sleep opportunity or more (that means laying in bed without screens or other distractions) every night.

  • Set the same alarm every day (even on weekends).

  • Wake up at the very first alarm. It may not be easy when you first start off, but getting your body in to that pattern will condition it to be more awake and alert over time.

Carpe diem

In a perfect world, we’d wake up every day after a full night of sleep without the help of any annoying buzzing, but for most of us, that’s just not realistic. In a world with 8 a.m. meetings and inflexible school start times, alarms are just a necessary safety net. The best thing you can do is remember that hitting snooze is (at best) delaying the inevitable, so when your day begins, begin it in earnest!