Stop hitting the snooze button
When it comes to getting better sleep, the snooze button might just be your frenemy. As good as it feels, it may be secretly sabotaging you.
Hitting snooze every morning can make you feel even more tired when you finally get out of bed, according to Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
“The snooze alarm is a Band-Aid,” Dasgupta says. “It doesn’t fix the root of the problem of why you need more sleep.”
Here’s a look at the science of sleep and why you may need a wakeup call about that magic button:
Snoozing doesn’t always help
When we sleep, we cycle through different stages of light and deep sleep every 90 to 120 minutes, says Dasgupta. The lighter sleep cycles are non-rapid eye movement, or NREM 1 and NREM 2, while the deeper sleep cycles are NREM 3 and REM, or rapid eye movement.
If your alarm wakes you while you’re in a lighter sleep cycle, you may wake up feeling rested. “If you are in a deeper stage when the alarm goes off, you will be groggy when you wake up,” Dasgupta says. The same is true when your alarm goes off after hitting snooze; there’s no guarantee where you’ll be at in your sleep cycle, so you may feel more rested, but you might even feel groggier than when your alarm went off the first time.
Better sleep beats snoozing
Rather than hitting snooze, wouldn’t you rather wake up refreshed the first time? The solution is obvious, even though so few do it: Get enough sleep. Everyone’s sleep requirements are different—while you may need a solid eight hours to feel refreshed, someone else may only need six or seven.
Whatever your needs are, you can more consistently meet them by learning to practice good sleep hygiene, which includes setting sleep limits.
“This means you always need to have a set bedtime and wake time, even on holidays and the weekends,” Dasgupta says. “Using the snooze button takes away from [your set schedule].”
Sleep hygiene also encompasses controlling stimuli, including your prized snooze button. “The bed should only be meant for one thing—sleep,” he says. “If you’ve already woken up, staying in bed goes against what we tell people to do to get good sleep.”
You can prevent the snooze
Despite what you may believe, you can break your snooze habit—and feel more refreshed within minutes of waking up while you’re at it. The key is where you place your alarm.
Rather than keep your alarm next to your bed, put it somewhere that forces you to physically get up to turn it off. You’ll be less tempted to hit snooze, and the act of walking around can expose you to natural daylight, helping your body recognize that it’s morning.
There’s another pro-sleep benefit to this plan, too. If your smartphone is your alarm—as it is for so many people these days—keeping it out of reach removes the temptation to pick it up and stare mesmerized into the bright screen before bed or in the middle of the night, which can trick your brain into thinking it’s time to be awake.
Snooze can mask sleep issues
If you’re getting a full eight hours a night and still feel tired, the snooze button won’t fix the problem. In fact, it may actually make it worse.
“Maybe you have sleep apnea,” Dasgupta says. “Or you may need to look at other things, like your medication list, or what you are eating or drinking before bed.”
Whatever your sleep issue, hitting the button repeatedly could make the situation worse. If you’re blaming your grogginess on needing one more snooze cycle, you might be ignoring your sleep apnea or other problem.
To get your best sleep—or to start figuring out why you’re not getting it in the first place—go to bed a bit earlier, keep your phone and alarm out of reach and resist the snooze in the morning. You may just start waking up feeling better, without ever needing those extra few minutes to snooze.
Written by Cheryl Alkon
Want to learn more about best sleep practices? Check out: