Is the Snooze Button Sabotaging Your Sleep?

by | Nov 5, 2015 | Sleep, Wellness

Weird but true: Relying on the alarm clock’s snooze button can actually make us more tired. Those five extra minutes in the morning are less restful than five minutes of deep sleep because they take place at the end of the cycle when sleep is lighter. Although sleep is usually the time when the brain forms new memories, that process doesn’t happen while we’re sleeping in between alarms. Skipping that high-quality sleep can have serious consequences: A recent study found high school students with poor sleep habits (including using an alarm to wake up) didn’t do as well in school.

Understanding the “wake-up” phase of the sleep cycle

During the sleep cycle, the body alternates between light sleep and deep sleep. About an hour before eyes actually open, the body begins to “reboot.” The brain sends out signals to release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, the body temperature rises, and we enter into a lighter sleep in preparation for wake-up.

So when our alarms jolt us awake before the wake-up process is complete, it can lead to a grogginess that sometimes lasts all morning. The snooze button may only make the situation worse.

How to perfect your “wake-ups”

The secret to an easier wake-up is simple—get more sleep! Set the alarm for the time you actually get out of bed (i.e. the last snooze) and avoid the snooze button altogether. If keeping those paws off the alarm clock is just too difficult, try placing the alarm clock across the room. It’s much easier to resist the siren song of the snooze button if it’s not right next to the bed! Die-hard snoozers should try to minimize the damage by setting the alarm for 10 minutes earlier than usual and snoozing just once or twice. Ten minutes of disrupted sleep isn’t perfect, but it’s better than 30 or 60!

For a permanent solution to weekday sleepiness, try to cultivate better long-term sleep habits. For example, work on going to bed and rising at the same time every day—even on weekends—to establish a daily schedule. Hitting the hay earlier can be difficult at first, but resetting your body’s inner rhythms will make early mornings that much easier. Getting at least one hour of sunlight every day can also help synchronize your internal circadian rhythms with the day-night cycle.

The Takeaway

Tired of waking up feeling exhausted? Hitting the snooze button may seem like a good idea at 6 a.m., but alarm clocks—and more specifically, snooze buttons—can disrupt the sleep cycle, which leads to less restful sleep. To get some high-quality zzzs, try going to bed earlier and getting a solid seven to nine hours of sleep.