There is nothing worse than the blaring sound of your morning alarm clock. The temptation to push snooze is often too much to resist and many of us find ourselves pushing it again and again. It is so bad some mornings that I have to set an alarm for 30 minutes before the time I need to actually get up to make sure I am not running late. Even with that 30 minutes of extra sleep, many mornings it seems like I just can’t wake up and I stumble through the day groggy and unfocused.
This viewpoint is not isolated to me and the morning routine of repeated alarm silencing is practiced in bedrooms around the country. Unfortunately, trying to stretch out those last couple of minutes of sleep is not always the best choice. Instead, it is important to understand why it is so hard to resist the siren’s call of the snooze button and how to break the habit.
Why We Snooze Our Alarms
The easy answer is we’re tired. With our fast paced lifestyles we constantly short ourselves on sleep, creating a sleep deficit that is hard to recover from. Most people actually need 7-9 hours of sleep even though they regularly don’t get it. Usually we don’t go to bed early enough so that when we it comes time to rise we shut off our set alarm and sleep on. In fact, we may think we are helping ourselves by snoozing that alarm for the couple of extra minutes of sleep. After all, we are slowly waking ourselves up while getting more sleep; two birds, one stone. At least that’s what we tell ourselves as we guzzle coffee in the morning trying to stay awake.
Although chronic sleep deprivation is the easy answer to the alarm problem, there are also more complex factors that influence our decision to press the snooze button over and over again. Apparently, this process feels so good because it allows us to spend a few more minutes in our nice warm beds.
One way that your body helps wake up is by warming up your core temperature to get your body ready to get up and moving. This starts about two hours before your body is ready to wake up, but if are shorting yourself on sleep, your body might not have started the process because it is not ready to get up when your alarm goes off. This means that your bedroom now feels freezing cold, making it even harder to leave the cozy warm covers. So the next time you wake up and discover frosty air in your bedroom, it may not be an issue with your thermostat but because you are not getting enough sleep.
How it affects our Brains
There are two big impacts that come with our snooze button obsession. The first is that it doesn’t actually give us more rest and can actually mess up our sleep cycle. Yes, much like the seasons, our sleep has its own rhythm and cycle. Between when you fall asleep and the blaring sound of your alarm in the morning your body does a lot, cycling through REM and non-REM sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and is kind of self explanatory: during REM sleep, our eyes move rapidly. This does not happen during non-REM sleep. REM sleep is where you dream. Your first REM cycle occurs roughly 90 minutes after you fall asleep and lasts 10 minutes. As the night goes on, the amount of time you spend in REM sleep gets long and longer as you repeatedly cycle through the different stages of sleep. By the end of the night your REM cycle could last as long as an hour.
Non-REM sleep is a bit more complicated. It has three phases and each one can last between 5-15 minutes. Phase 1: your eyes are closed but it is easy to wake you up. Phase 2: you sleep lightly as your body gets ready for deep sleep. Phase 3: deep sleep. During deep sleep your immune system becomes stronger and your body repairs itself.
When you get a proper night’s sleep, you are able to cycle through all of the stages of sleep effectively and get the most out of your night’s rest. However, when you snooze your alarm in the morning, you are repeatedly dropping in and out of the cycle, disrupting its flow and harming your quality of sleep. In this case, more isn’t better. Instead, you want to get good quality sleep before your alarm goes off. If you do allow these repeated interruptions during your morning sleep cycle you will feel less alert and awake during the day. It harms your productivity and leaves you groggy because you started a new cycle without letting your body finish it.
Not only are you hurting your sleep for that night, but you are also teaching your brain bad habits for the future. If you are anything like me, you wake up roughly the same time during the week, forced into the habit by either work or school. But the weekend is a different story. On the weekend I like to turn off all my alarms and just let my body sleep to make up for all the sleep I lost during the week. However, this inconsistency makes it so our bodies don’t know when it should be sleeping and won’t get sleepy at the same time at night. This may cause you to push your bedtime later and deprive yourself of much needed sleep.
How to Break the Snoozing Habit
Before you throw your alarm clock across the room in frustration, there are some simple solutions to the morning alarm problem. The first answer is obvious: get more sleep at night. Although sleep might be the first thing to be cut in a busy schedule, it is one of the most important ways to recover from stress, illness, and improve our effectiveness throughout the day. You’re better off getting that extra hour of sleep at night and being productive the next day instead of using that time to work and being groggy and inefficient the next day.
Start by getting yourself on a regular sleep schedule. Get up at the same every morning. Yes, even on the weekend. Eventually you will get to the point where your body will start to get tired at the same and you will be able to wake up naturally even without an alarm. Not only does this solve the problem with snoozing repeatedly, but it also removes my constant fear of sleeping through my alarm and missing something important. You can also use light to get you up in the morning. If your room is bright, your body is more likely to wake up because it realizes that morning has arrived.
As you are getting your body on the right sleep schedule, there is another simple step you can take: get up with your alarm. It can take a lot of self-control, but it is important to avoid that fractured kind of sleep that comes from repeated snoozing. If you are having difficulty with this it might actually be time to ditch the digital clock and use your phone as an alarm. This is because there are several apps that can help you get up the first time your alarm goes off.
First, some people have success with sleep cycle apps. For example, the Sleep Time Smart Alarm Clock by Azumio Inc tracks your movement at night and uses that to gage when you are in non-Rem sleep and ready to wake up. Another app might be perfect for you if you are like 99 percent of humankind and are a fan of the Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson: The Rock Clock. This app is a personal alarm clock created by The Rock. It not only contains individual alarm sounds created by The Rock himself, words of wisdom, and the option to wake up when The Rock wakes up (a great choice if you enjoy getting up at 4 am), there is also no option to snooze. If the continual sound of The Rock’s voice is not enough to wake you up in the morning, I don’t know what is.
Sleep is one of the most important activities we can do in a day, but it is an activity that is often taken for granted, or even despised by many. However, we need to value it if we want to get the most out of the time we have when the sun is in the sky. Our battle with the alarm clock is one we are losing as long as we continue to abuse the snooze button for our set alarm. But hopefully, utilizing our assets and taking the problem seriously will finally make a successful