If you dislike the idea of ditching the snooze button, I’m right there with you. Waking up in the morning and jumping right out of bed as soon as your alarm goes off is hard! However, according to science, the snooze button could be an adversary to your health. It could disrupt your natural rhythms, make you groggier, and result in more health issues as a secondary effect of messing up your sleep hygiene and natural rhythms.
Who knew ‘just five more minutes, please!’ could have such an effect? It comes down to sleep inertia and fragmented sleep — two factors we’ll get into — but there are ways to get yourself back on track, and feel incredibly rested. Let’s do this!
What is Sleep Inertia?
The CDC defines sleep inertia as “temporary disorientation and decline in performance and/or mood after awakening from sleep,” which can last up to two hours (whoa), and result in a “slower reaction time, poorer short-term memory, and slower speed of thinking, reasoning, remembering, and learning.”
In other words, our brains need some extra time to boot up after we open our eyes. On average, this sleep inertia only lasts about 30 minutes, but it’s important to tune into your own rhythms.
There are certain factors that make this brain-foggy time period longer or shorter.
Limited sleep and inverted days due to night shifts can result in longer sleep inertia, as can waking up from a deep sleep (i.e., your alarm goes off before your sleep cycle has concluded, while you were still in the deep sleep stage).
On the flip side, things like caffeine, bright light, and washing your face can reduce the time it takes your brain to get going.
How Does The Snooze Button Factor In?
By hitting the snooze button, you’re making it harder for your body to get out of that brain-foggy, boot-up phase known as sleep inertia. You know that phrase, “You snooze, you lose”? Well… there may be some truth to that.
Some reports say the snooze button can disrupt your sleep quality. Yikes. And while you may feel too sleepy to wake up, hitting snooze doesn’t solve that problem for us. In fact, it can make it worse. As you temporarily slip back into a REM state, you’re exacerbating sleep inertia and “fragmenting” your sleep.
So imagine this: the alarm goes off, and your sleep inertia is at its peak, ready to decline. You hit snooze, drift off, and then bam: the second alarm. Sleep inertia spikes again. Enter: fragmented sleep. This disruption to a healthy circadian rhythm can have both cumulative and cascading effects.
In 2021, Dr. Aarthi Ram, a neurologist specializing in sleep medicine at Houston Methodist, said, “The 10 more minutes of sleep you’re granting yourself over and over and over isn’t productive sleep. If anything, all of that interrupted sleep will make you feel more groggy.”
Better Sleep Cycle, Better Results
In general, healthy, good-quality sleep is the foundation for the rest of your health. Not only does it help you have the energy to exercise and make better food choices, but it provides a plethora of benefits independently.
If your sleep health is dialed, you likely get sick less, have lower stress levels, recover better from workouts, enjoy better cognitive function and mental health, maintain an optimal healthy weight, and have a lower risk of chronic health issues.
Conversely, poor quality sleep and chronic sleep deprivation is “linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression,” according to the National Institutes for Health.
The Warning Signs
If you find it hard to wake up, you’re regularly smashing that snooze button, and you’re dealing with more intense sleep inertia, it’s likely a sign that there’s a misalignment between your sleep hygiene and circadian rhythm. No need to freak out — this is a warning signal from your body that it’s time to put more effort into your sleep health.
Tips to Ditch the Snooze Button
Are you ready? If you’ve been a chronic snoozer, this could be the habit change that’ll turn things around and set a better tone for your day. Fundamentally, sleep hygiene is the most important element in overcoming a snooze button dependency. You’re likely hitting snooze because you’re tired, and you’re tired because your sleep hygiene is lackluster.
Here are some tips to help you ditch the snooze button and optimize your sleep!
#1 Start with a Regular Bedtime.
Get really consistent, and make sure it’s early enough each night to guarantee you’re getting enough hours of sleep. Remember: time in bed doesn’t equate to hours of sleep. Use a sleep calculator to determine the best bedtime for your needs. Aim high, hours wise, if you tend to toss and turn before nodding off.
And once your bedtime is dialed, ensure you have a regular wake time – then, stick to it!
#2 Avoid Screen Time Before Bed
Instead, try a bedtime routine including things such as a brain dump (journaling all your thoughts, fears, to-dos, feelings, and more) to get your mind quiet. Or, you can meditate, make some tea, read a book, or any combination of the aforementioned.
#3 Skip the PM Coffee
It’s also prudent to evaluate the timing of your daily caffeine intake. If you’re sipping espresso at 3 pm and struggling to wake up in the morning, perhaps scale back on your intake and halt the caffeination after 12 pm.
#4 Set a Better Wake Up Time
If you’re snoozing every morning because you don’t get enough shuteye, you may simply need to change your wake-up time. Is your wake-up time unrealistic? Are you getting enough sleep? Move your wake-up time forward by an hour, if you’re able. See if that makes a difference in your morning grogginess.
#5 Don’t Sleep Near Your Phone or Alarm Clock
Force yourself to get up by keeping your devices away from the bed. You can’t hit the snooze button in a hazy state of half-sleep if the device is across the room! Not only will this cut down on your screen time in bed and before you drift off, but you’ll have to get up and out of bed to turn off your morning alarm.
#6 Create a Smart Alarm
If you’re into your smart home gadgets, consider this: Alexa (or a similar device) can turn on your lights, play music, turn on appliances like space heaters and humidifiers, and more — all at the same time each day. Create a wake-up routine with your smart device, and you’ll be starting the day with a little more zest.
#7 Let The Light in
Brighten your space immediately. Get the lights on inside, especially if there’s no natural light coming through the window. Then, as soon as you can, get some sunlight. Outside is best, but through a window can work if you can’t go outdoors. The key is to get sunlight to your retinas — this will supercharge your morning and help you snap out of sleep inertia more quickly.
Try to avoid dependency whenever possible, but as mentioned earlier, studies have shown caffeine in the morning can help mitigate sleep inertia. Not a fan of caffeine? Here are some energy-boosting caffeine alternatives.
#9 Be Consistent
One of the keys to making your life a little bit easier is to be consistent with your habits. I know it’s hard! I struggle with this too. It’s especially tough when it was a long night and you’ve gotta get up somewhat early the next day… it’s easy to slide back into the snooze button habit. But we can do this!
#10 Wash Your Face
One way to snap out of the morning fog might be to splash some cold water on your face. The added benefit here, of course, is that you’ll also get some skincare — taking care of the largest organ in your body! — and have a few minutes of mindfulness.
Remember: Listen To Your Body!
Remember, at the end of the day, everyone’s body is different, and there’s no ‘universal truth’ when it comes to health advice. If you find that you’re snoozing and you’re perfectly healthy, happy, and alert, then keep on keepin’ on, friend. But if you’re struggling in some areas, and ready to make some adjustments, then consider going for a week or two without snoozing, and observe how things shake out with your health and wellness.