Why it’s time to stop hitting the snooze button

If you’re like me, you hit the snooze alarm on your phone two, three, sometimes even four times before you finally find the energy and motivation to get out of bed in the morning. Panic then sets in when you realise that you don’t have enough time to get yourself ready for the day, and you will definitely be late for work. When you do arrive at work, you hear your colleague bragging about the morning jog that they went on before you even had your first cup of coffee. Sound familiar?

If you are a serial snoozer like me, your circadian rhythms may be to blame. Circadian rhythms are our internal clocks which tell our body when it is time for sleep and when we should be awake. For most people, their circadian propensity for alertness has already started to increase before their alarms sounds in the morning. But for those of us who struggle in the mornings, we may have delayed circadian rhythms meaning that our circadian propensity for alertness doesn’t rise, or is at least at a lower level than other people, at our desired wake up time. If you identify as a ‘night owl’, this may be you. Your boastful colleague is likely to have advanced circadian rhythms, meaning that they are ‘morning people’ and can generally find it much easier to wake up early in the morning.

So, is it bad to snooze your alarm in the morning? No, but it’s not good either. If you fall asleep in-between each snooze of your alarm, the sleep that you experience is likely to be light sleep. This stage of sleep is not particularly recuperative, meaning that we don’t actually get much benefit from this extra sleep. It might not be harmful, but it’s not helpful either. And we’re now late for work.

So if we shouldn’t snooze our alarms, what should we do instead? The answer sounds simple but is difficult for many: we should get up in the morning at the time of our first alarm. Over time, it will become easier to get up at this time because our circadian rhythms will shift so that we feel sleepier earlier in the evening and more alert in the morning. This is largely due to earlier exposure to bright light, which will help advance your circadian rhythms. Better yet, try using light therapy like the re-timer light therapy glasses in the morning to maximise light exposure and help shift those rhythms.

And if you’re still struggling in the morning, maybe you aren’t getting enough sleep at night. Try to go to bed earlier to ensure you’re getting enough sleep, and check out our handy tips on how the get a better night’s rest.

By Hannah Scott

Hannah is a PhD (Research) Candidate from Flinders University