Flickr/ Marco Verch

Most people have to get up at a certain time each morning. To make sure they are not late for their daily activities, people use alarm clocks. But what happens when a person is not quite ready to wake up? It can be extremely easy to press the snooze button to get another ten or fifteen minutes of precious sleep. Regardless of how tired a person may feel in the morning, the snooze button is a counterproductive and unhealthy solution. Here’s why.

Why snoozing is bad?

On the surface level, going to sleep can seem as simple as lying down and closing one’s eyes, but far more than that is going on inside the body. Sleep is a long, cyclical process. In one night, the brain and body travel through several different cycles. Although there are several different cycles in one night, there are two main types of sleep. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. REM sleep is less restful, and NREM sleep is more restful. When a person first goes to sleep, the body shifts into NREM sleep, and the time just before a person wakes up, when the body is more well-rested includes much longer periods of REM, sleep.

Hitting the snooze button involves waking up and going back to sleep. Most people wake up in the morning. If a person has gotten seven to eight hours of sleep, which is a “good night’s sleep” for the average adult, the body will be in the last cycle of REM sleep, the least restful form of sleep, right around the time the alarm clock should go off. When the alarm clock goes off, the person wakes up fully in order to press the snooze button. Since that person has transitioned from being fully awake to going back to sleep, the body starts the sleep cycle all over again. The person goes into the most restful REM sleep for a few minutes, just before they will have to wake up again. When the person finally wakes up for good, the individual will feel more tired, regardless of how many hours of sleep they got the night before, because they have interrupted an incomplete cycle of REM sleep.

Although pressing the snooze button may seem like a way to get a few more precious moments of sleep, that extra helping of sleep makes a person feel more tired.

How it impacts the body and sleep

The perils of hitting the snooze button run much deeper than making a person feel more tired. An alarm clock is a rude awakening from sleep, and it is startline. A neuroscientist named Matthew Walker refers to being woken up by an alarm clock as “cardiovascular assault.” Each time a person presses the snooze button, that individual is being exposed to the negative effects of being startled out of sleep for an additional time. While using an alarm clock is not likely to cause a heart attack in a healthy person, this pattern of being woken up by a jarring, or merely unexpected, sound puts a level of stress on the heart. Every time the snooze button is used that stress is exacerbated.

The snooze button can also cause hormonal problems. Sleep deprivation has been linked to everything from depression to cancer. A lack of sleep also has a strong correlation to weight gain. Although a person could get the right amount of sleep and still feel tired due to using the snooze button, the processes inside the body that make sleep deprivation so dangerous are still triggered when the snooze button interrupts sleep. Interrupted sleep causes the hormone cortisol to be released into the bloodstream. If this happens to often, cortisol can cause weight gain, and it has been shown to trigger cravings for fatty foods in lab mice. Cortisol in the bloodstream, along with the cravings for fatty foods it could lead to, can result in obesity of time. Obesity is that cause of a host of health problems. All of this can be avoided by refraining from pressing the snooze button.

What to do instead

There is such a thing as sleep inertia. In regular life, the theory of inertia means that the only way an object in motion will stop is if something stops it. Think of a running person (in motion) being stopped by a brick wall. That person will hurt for some time. Sleep is stopped by the brick wall of being woken up. Just as running into a wall hurts for a while, waking up will feel unpleasant for a while because of sleep inertia. For some people, this groggy, slow-moving feeling can last for up to four hours. A person who does not feel chipper at the crack of dawn may not need any extra sleep. The person may simply be suffering from sleep inertia and unavoidable phenomenon. Do not use the snooze button to get around the unavoidable feeling that more sleep is necessary.

Sometimes, that feeling is not due to sleep inertia, but rather to a lack of sleep. There are a wide variety of things of a person can do to get more sleep and get better quality sleep. Stay away from electronics for thirty minutes to an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by electronic devices has been proven to disturb sleep patterns. Be mindful of drinking caffeinated and sugary beverages too close to bedtime. Make sure that you plan ahead to sleep for at least seven hours each night.