We’ve all heard the saying, “the early bird gets the worm,” suggesting that early risers are more productive and get more work done. However most college students love and value their sleep, staying in bed as long as possible, and yes, hitting that snooze button for an extra nine minutes to avoid the coming morning. But is hitting the snooze button really the best thing for us?
The answer: You snooze, you lose. Hitting the snooze button has actually been shown to produce grogginess and what has been termed “sleep inertia” by scientists in 1976 (upwave.com. “Is the snooze button bad for you?” 1.24.14). Robert S. Rosenberg, DO, FCCP, Medical Director of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott Valley and Flagstaff, Ariz. explains how sleep inertia sets in.
“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.”
So what exactly drives us to hitting the snooze button in the first place? It might be that you are just comfortable in bed and don’t want to get up, or you are attempting to avoid that dreaded 9 a.m. class, or it might even be due to something you may have never heard of. When we fall asleep, our body releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has been linked to happiness, into our bloodstream. Our body may just be craving this natural state of well being and when we give into the temptation by hitting snooze and closing our eyes again, our body doesn’t know we just want a few more minutes of rest (Gizmodo, “Why the Snooze Button is Ruining Your Sleep,” 10.17.12).
When we hit the snooze button, our brain and body are tricked into thinking that we are going to get to stay in bed for the rest of the day instead of those measly nine more minutes that the alarm clock is set to wait until going off again. By hitting that button, we actually hurt ourselves for the day; our memory, reaction time, ability to perform basic mathematical tasks, alertness, and even our attention span are all negatively impacted. Hitting the snooze button is the first decision of the day someone makes. If you hit the snooze button, you delay getting out of bed and essentially delay a lot of other important things you might need for the day (New Yorker, “Snoozers are, in fact, losers,” 12.10.13).
So how do we break this habit? You could attempt to go cold turkey and force yourself to get up when the alarm goes off. A recommendation for this approach would be to set your alarm for about nine minutes later than you were planning to get up. In other words, build your snooze into your alarm clock when you set it. Having those extra minutes of rest without pressing the snooze button can still be quite beneficial.
Still worried you can’t just give up the snooze button on your own cold turkey? Instead, you can try placing your alarm out of reach from your bed. By doing this, you’ll have to get out of bed to turn off your alarm when you hear it in the morning. This will make you less likely to press the snooze button and hopefully wake up for the day, as opposed to going back to bed.
Don’t like that idea? Try placing your favorite dance song as your alarm so when you hear it you can get out of bed and get moving. Even if you don’t want to dance around your room, you might still sing along to the words of the song, which mentally stimulates your brain and helps you avoid hitting that snooze button so you can get your day started (Sleep Junkies, “The ultimate guide to breaking your snooze button addiction,” 11.2.13).
Some of these ideas may seem a little bit silly at first look, but they ultimately could save you a lot of energy throughout the day and help you be more productive. Being more productive means you get things done faster throughout the day. Getting things done faster means more free time to do what you want, such as get more actual sleep, not just the “sleep” you get from nine minutes of the snooze button. Sleep on it!
—Delaney Fischer ’15 is a neuroscience major.