Every morning, hundreds of millions of alarms go off worldwide to let us know it is time to start the day. If you are like many people, you respond to this morning siren song by hitting the snooze button for a few more minutes of cozy slumber. However, this simple morning habit may be affecting you in several not-so-restful ways. If you are hooked on hitting the snooze button, read on to learn how this is affecting your day and how you can break the habit once and for all.
Stages of Waking
There was a time when people arose naturally, without needing alarm clocks. The human body is designed to begin the waking process long before the sun rises and gradually rouse us enough to get out of bed with the first morning light.
Our bodies alternate between light and deep sleep throughout the night. In the early morning hours before dawn, we start to release more cortisol (a hormone that contributes to alertness) and less melatonin (the hormone that helps us to sleep). We begin to spend longer periods of time in light sleep and less time in deep sleep. Our core body temperature, which dips low when we are in deep sleep, rises to allow us to leave the warmth of our beds.
When we hit the snooze button and go back to sleep, our bodies take this as a cue that we actually do not need to awaken soon. As a result, we often re-enter deep sleep quickly. However, we do not stay in this deep sleep long enough to get meaningful rest before the snooze alarm goes off again. Some people hit the snooze alarm multiple times in a morning, meaning that they undergo this transition of deep sleep to fast awakening multiple times before they finally get out of bed.
The Hidden Effects of Hitting the Snooze Button
When we wake naturally, we move from light sleep to light wakefulness. When the alarm goes off during deep sleep, we are shocked awake before the sleep cycle we are in can be completed. This results in a condition known as sleep inertia, in which we are groggy and cold as we try to awaken. Because we enter deep sleep quickly after ignoring the first alarm, we are more likely to have a hard time waking when we wait for a second or third attempt. This means habitual snooze-button-users often feel groggy as they start their day (and well into the morning as well).
In addition, hitting the snooze button can affect your hormone levels. Cortisol, while important for waking, can trigger higher blood pressure and have other negative effects in larger amounts. Every time we are wakened by an alarm, our bodies react by releasing cortisol and epinephrine, fight-or-flight hormones. This leads to high enough levels to cause physiological distress. High levels of these hormones can leave us shaky and panicked, which is not the ideal way to start the day.
If you need a good reason to stop hitting the snooze button, the fact that it might be ruining your mornings may be motivation. However, breaking this common habit is often easier said than done.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
If you are hitting the snooze button repeatedly, there may be a reason. Many people in the developed world simply are not getting enough sleep. In addition, you may be getting poor quality sleep due to ambient light levels, noises or even illnesses.
If you are persistently exhausted in the morning, it may be time to see a doctor. You could have depression, a thyroid disorder or even a serious illness such as sleep apnea. Treating the root cause of your snooze alarm habit will make it easier to get up the first time the alarm chimes.
For other people, however, hitting the snooze button is merely a bad habit. If this is the case for you, there are several ways to break the habit once and for all.
Breaking the Snooze Habit
If you are the type to hit the snooze button once or several times every morning, there is hope. Consider trying one or all of the following strategies.
- Place your alarm clock across the room. The effort of getting out of bed may be enough to remind you to stay out of bed.
- Get a different alarm clock. Some clocks use gradually increasing light or light buzzing to help you wake up more naturally before the alarm goes off.
- Avoid alcohol before bed. This robs you of REM sleep, which can lead to a less-restful night and groggy early morning.
- Keep light sources out of your bedroom before bedtime and throughout the night. These can keep you from getting the restful sleep that you need to truly rise and shine.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will train your body to wake up more easily when the time comes.
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep. A sleep-deprived person will always find waking to be a struggle because their body will keep trying to get the rest it needs.
Waking up the first time your alarm goes off is a simple way to give yourself a better start in the morning. With a little motivation and the right tools, you may soon be hopping out of bed with a smile and full of energy every day.