We all know the feeling of a bad night’s sleep.
Whether you got to bed at some ungodly hour or just ended up with some incredibly low-quality Z’s, one thing is for sure – you do not want to be getting out of bed when that alarm goes off.
So, what do you do now?
While your first instinct might be to just slap that snooze button and grab a couple extra minutes of much-needed slumber, science suggests that might actually be the last thing you need.
How Your Sleep Cycle Normally Works
Every night, our brains pass through several sleep stages on a cycle that lasts a bit over an hour.
We start off at Stage 1 – a light sleep stage that it’s usually pretty easy to wake up from – before gradually progressing through three other deeper and deeper stages.
Finally, at Stage 5 of our sleep cycle, we finally arrive at REM sleep, which is where the most vivid dreams take place.
After we finish up that first round of stages, however, our brain doesn’t just go back to the light sleep of Stage 1.
Instead, it recognizes that you’ve probably settled back down for the night, and it gets geared up for the long haul – looping back around to the deep sleep of Stage 2.
How the Snooze Button Messes You Up
When your alarm goes off, your brain is snapped out of sleep, regardless of whatever sleep stage it was on.
If you’re right at the end of a sleep cycle, you’re probably going to wake up feeling relatively well-rested, and you probably won’t feel the need to do anything with your snooze button.
If you’ve just been dragged out of deep REM sleep or one of the later sleep stages, however, you’re more likely to feel groggy and tempted to treat yourself to another couple minutes.
But the thing is, there are a lot of issues that come along with giving in to that urge to sneak in more sleep.
Your brain basically treats your alarm like some freak disturbance in the middle of the night, and now that it’s taken care of, it expects to finish getting the kind of rest it needs.
You’re likely to find yourself drifting off either at the start of the sleep cycle or in the deep sleep stage you were just torn out of.
This leaves you completely unprepared for the sound of the alarm 10 or 20 minutes later, and in the end you’ll likely get up more tired than when you hit “snooze” to begin with!
Snoozing Can Ruin Your Entire Morning
In the 1970s researchers came up with a word for that state of dipping in and out of sleep for the first few minutes of the morning: “drockling.”
When you “drockle,” you’re pulling all kinds of unpleasant shenanigans on your body, none of which is making you any more inclined to actually get up.
In fact, once you actually manage to pull yourself out of bed, you’re apt to wind up with a nasty case of “sleep inertia” – that feeling of sleepiness you’re used to feeling for the first few minutes after waking up.
Confusing your brain with all this “drockling” nonsense only prolongs those feelings of grogginess, which can end up lasting for up to four hours.
That’s pretty much your entire morning.
And of course, if you start off with a rotten morning, we all know how easily that negativity can bleed over into your entire day.
Basically, you’re usually going to want to find a way to steer clear of that snooze button as much as possible.
How Snoozing Can Be Beneficial
Confusingly, however, there are some researchers out there who actually recommend using the snooze button in certain contexts.
Most of the time, it’s true, everyone agrees that thing is a really bad idea.
But if instead of just resetting back to the start of your sleep cycle, you brain actually uses those extra 10 minutes as a way to ease its way out of REM sleep into the waking world, some have argued that that bit of snooze might not be such a terrible thing.
It makes for a gentler awakening, which can put you in a better mood as you gear up for the start of your day.
But of course, even under the best of circumstances, snoozing always comes with a bit of a risk.
The real question is whether you can actually use that time to wake up, or whether all you’re really going to do is fall back asleep.
In any case, it’s clear that spending an extra half hour or more bouncing back and forth between waking and sleep is not the way to go.
How to Beat Your Snooze Button
Instead, you should take that time you’d ordinarily spend “drockling” and fold it into an actual routine.
Your body thrives on routine, but the trick is teaching it to get into the right ones.
When you habitually rely on the snooze button, you’re teaching yourself to associate the sound of your alarm with sleepiness, rather than waking up.
This is what leads to those endless cycles of snooze overuse, since you’re never actually prepared to get up to the sound of your alarm.
You need to develop healthy habits – habits that help wake you up when you actually want to!
The best way to deal with this is to place your alarm on the other side of the room, so you have to physically get up in order to turn it off.
Most of us will take the hint after this and start getting ready for the day instead of just crawling back under the covers, but there’s no avoiding that bit of willpower it always takes to get out of bed in the morning.
Nobody can form good habits for you, so it’s up to you to take your sleep seriously.
Work Out a Regular Wake/Sleep Cycle
One of the best ways to combat the feelings of sleepiness that often drive us to reach for that snooze button is to work out a regular wake/sleep cycle.
Once again, routine is key!
Most of us try to get to sleep at a somewhat reasonable time during the week – but once we hit the weekend, all bets are off.
We’ll often stay up super late having fun on Friday and Saturday, and then try to catch up on lost sleep over the weekend.
The problem is, this kind of erratic behavior makes your biochemistry go absolutely haywire.
Your brain likes being able to anticipate your behavior, secreting various hormones to help mediate your waking and sleeping.
By getting to bed at a regular time over the entire week (not just on weeknights!), you’ll find getting to sleep and waking up easier and easier.
The best way to go about doing this is to cut out snooze buttons altogether.
Just set a single time you need to wake up every morning and hold yourself to it!
And if you find yourself overly tired on any given day, just try getting to bed earlier that night, instead of sleeping in the following morning.
You can’t force yourself into anything too quickly, but by moving your bedtime back by about 15 minutes every night, you’ll soon be able to find a good time to get in the kind of sleep you need.
With a regular good night’s sleep, your body may be able to naturally wake up at the time you need it to – all without so much as an alarm clock, let alone a snooze button!
How to Get Better Sleep
If finding the amount of time you need to get your full 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night just isn’t going to happen, though, there are a couple other ways you can still improve your sleep.
Good sleep hygiene is vital, here.
To get to sleep as quickly as possible, avoid bright artificial lights in the hours before going to bed – especially the blue LED screens of electronics!
Avoid using electronics in bed under just about any circumstances, especially when trying to get to sleep.
Experts typically recommend relegating your bed to just two activities: sex and sleep.
This is all to keep your body from getting confused about what it’s supposed to be doing when you lie down at night.
So watching TV, reading, doing work or looking at your phone while on your bed are all out.
If you really want to get serious about upping the quality of your sleep, you’re also probably going to want to invest in a top-quality mattress.
Many people find that a better mattress allows them to drift off more easily after they lie down, as well as improving their overall sleep quality.
If that sounds like something you might be interested in, you can check out our complete mattress buying guide here.
Above all, remember just how important your sleep is.
A good night’s sleep can make or break your day, so this isn’t something you should just shrug off.
Get the kind of rest you need, and your life will almost certainly improve.
Never underestimate the power of sleep!