Many of us believe the snooze button on an alarm clock to be the best invention of the last 100 years. Just one little press of that magical button buys us up to nine or 10 minutes of extra sleep. Or …. does it?
The problem with the snooze button is that it gives you just enough time to enter another sleep cycle, but not enough time to finish it. Robert S. Rosenberg, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott Valley and Flagstaff, Arizona explained this phenomenon to CNN.com recently:
“When you hit the snooze button repeatedly, you’re doing two negative things to yourself. First, you’re fragmenting what little extra sleep you’re getting so it is of poor quality. Second, you’re starting to put yourself through a new sleep cycle that you aren’t giving yourself enough time to finish. This can result in persistent grogginess throughout the day.”
That persistent grogginess is called sleep inertia. Just like it’s hard to stop a heavy truck that’s rolling down a hill, it’s hard to stop a sleep cycle once it has begun. In fact, if you wake in the middle of a sleep cycle, it can take up to an hour and a half to be fully alert!
So, if you’re a snooze button junkie, hitting the button every morning (maybe more than once), what can you do to stop? The fact that you’re admitting you have a problem is a good first step. The next step is simple — if your schedule allows you to stay in bed for an extra 10 minutes, just set your primary alarm 10 minutes later and get up when the alarm sounds.
The more difficult issue to solve is that if you’re finding you’re still tired when it’s time to wake up, then that means you’re not sleeping enough. Try going to bed a half hour earlier than usual and see how it feels. If that doesn’t do the trick, add another half hour to your night’s sleep. When you’ve hit the right amount (and paid down your sleep debt if you’re sleep deprived) you’ll find that you’ll wake up before your alarm even beeps at you.