What Hitting the Snooze Button Does to Your Body
Ah, the snooze button. Whether you’re jolted awake by a piercing “BEEEEEEP” or gently brought to consciousness by a sound clip of some chirping birds, you probably know how it can be both a blessing and a curse to have the option to get a few extra minutes of sleep after you frantically wiggle around in your bed to figure out how to make all that noise stop.
I personally used to suffer from a bad snooze button habit where I’d set it for 5:00 am and continuously let it go off for sometimes well over an hour until I finally found enough strength in me to push through the pain and actually get up. It was a long and agonizing cycle of being woken up, hitting snooze, falling back asleep and doing it all over again several times.
How Bad Could It Be?
Anyone who loves their snooze button has probably convinced themselves that those extra few minutes of sleep actually benefit them at least a little bit, especially if you consider yourself not to be much of a morning person. I know I did. After all, it sure does feel good to roll over and forget all your responsibilities for the day a little while longer.
The truth about hitting the snooze button so many times is that it’s likely not benefiting you at all. In fact, it could be doing you more harm than good, depending on how bad your habits are and how they’re affecting the quality of your sleep. Here’s how.
It Messes Up the Natural Rhythm of Your Sleep Cycle
There’s a reason why getting 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night is so important. The body really works its magic by recharging itself when it gets adequate deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
Every time you hit that snooze button, you’re potentially starting a new sleep cycle that never gets enough time to finish. Likewise, if you simply set your alarm to go off at such an early time that doesn’t match your natural cycle and cuts into your REM sleep, your mental function can really suffer during the day.
Everything from your alertness and hunger, to your blood pressure and body temperature are governed by your circadian rhythm — your 24-hour biological clock that responds to light and darkness. All of that can be affected when hitting the snooze button causes enough confusion in your body about what its natural rhythm should be.
It Causes Your Hormones to Get All Out of Whack
If your body clock gets thrown out of balance due to consistent fragmented periods of wakefulness, your body chemistry will change. Serotonin, one of the happy-feeling hormones, is normally released into your bloodstream right before you fall asleep and is balanced out by another feel-good hormone, dopamine, later on throughout the 7 to 9 hours of sleep you’re supposed to get to help finish the cycle and prepare you to wake up.
When you’re constantly waking up and falling asleep over a shorter period, it causes all these hormones to be released at inappropriate times, leading to an imbalance. It all ties in to why your zombie-like state seems to grow stronger when you slam the snooze button two, three, four, or more times in the morning.
You Have to Take Charge of Your Habits to Fix It
Beating the vicious snooze cycle is easier said than done. And depending on how bad your habit really is or how messed up your rhythm might be, you might have a fair amount of unpleasant lifestyle-changing work cut out for you.
Helpful tip #1: Figure out how much sleep you need to feel rested and alert the next day, and commit to sticking with a strict bedtime. Avoid ambient light from electronics late at night and do something relaxing, like meditation or reading a book, prior to turning in to help ensure you’ll get good quality sleep.
Helpful tip #2: Ease yourself into an earlier bedtime and an earlier time to rise. Turning in and waking up just half an hour earlier with plans to work up to your ideal schedule over the course of a few days or weeks will set you up for better success compared to forcing yourself to make big time changes overnight.
Helpful tip #3: If snooze button addiction is a major problem for you, avoid using the alarm on your phone to wake you up and get an alarm clock that you can place far across your bedroom. You’ll have to get up and walk over to hit snooze every time, which should significantly help you stay out of bed once you’re up.
Your sleep schedule may never be perfect, but it will be far better if you consciously commit to implementing some of these better habits. If it means better health, improved mental clarity and an overall more enjoyable day, then it’s definitely worth it!
Photo Credit: Phalinn Ooi