Hi. My name is Jack, and I like to hit the snooze button.
I know. It is my deep, dark, dirty secret.
While productive members of society are springing out of bed, sipping their coffee and reading the entire Wall Street Journal front to back while getting in an extra set of lunges at the gym, I prefer to be swaddled like a helpless newborn underneath my covers, cowering in fear of the impending doom of “radar” (that’s the name of the default iPhone alarm sound, FYI).
So shamefully, humbled, hat in hand, I asked:
Am I beyond saving?
Well, I am here today to answer with a resounding: NO!
It turns out there are countless others like me. Welcome to Snooze-A-Holics Anonymous, where we learn how we can beat the snooze button, together.
WHY DO WE LIKE TO SNOOZE?
Bottom line: The majority of us don’t get enough sleep, period. Insufficient sleep is a public health problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 40% of Americans getting less than the recommended 7 hours a night.
So us snoozers shouldn’t feel like pariahs better off living in some leper colony where work starts at 11. (Unrelated: If such a colony exists, please let me know.) We’re just clamoring for that extra bit of rest we actually need.
According to a study by Rafael Pelayo, MD, a sleep specialist at the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center, our body temperature is programmed to heat up and make us feel more awake a couple of hours before we wake up. And if we’re not getting enough sleep, that temperature is still low. That’s why getting out from under the warmth of your covers feels more like an arctic expedition on some days.
Morning sleep is also when we get our most rapid-eye movement, or REM, sleep, which is when we do our most vivid dreaming. It’s enjoyable to drift in and out of sleep during REM cycles. Side note: The original scientific term (coined in the 1970s) for this was “drockling.” So whenever I’m in polite company and forced to talk about my addiction, I’m sure to say I have a “drockling” problem.
WHY SHOULDN’T WE SNOOZE?
In an interview with Business Insider, James E. Gangwisch, PHD, sleep expert and Assistant Professor at Columbia University, says that as soon as you reach out to postpone “radar” for another 8 minutes, you’re interfering with your body’s natural sleep cycle. We tend to sleep for cycles that last around 45 minutes long, and in that short snooze window of 5–10 minutes (yes, even if you snooze 9 times, 9 x 5 = 45), you can’t complete what your body is expecting — it’s the reason why we feel groggier when we wake up post-snooze.
The body also naturally prepares itself to wake up before we actually do, with processes like raising your internal temperature to start the day. When we let ourselves back to sleep, it’s ultimately a false alarm. Your body thought it was go-time, but snooze is saying not so fast… you’re just confusing your body as to whether it should really be asleep or awake.
WHAT DO THE BEST NONSNOOZERS DO?
Most high performing athletes know to avoid snoozing all together. Track star (they’re just like us!) Natasha Hastings was one of the brave souls who admits she has actually succumbed to drockling but is aware of how it affects her.
“Sometimes [I’ll snooze], but I try to get up after the first one. Otherwise, I probably won’t get up anytime soon,” says Hastings.
Ballerina Misty Copeland, yogi Liz Arch and swimmer Michael Phelps are all adamant about training their bodies to avoid snoozing naturally. They all do this with a routine wake-up time that barely ever differs.
Arch claims that her morning routine is so regular that she naturally wakes up about 15 minutes before her alarm goes off. Before the most recent Olympics, Phelps chose to train at the same time every single morning (9 a.m.) in sunny Phoenix, where the combination of his consistent schedule and natural sunlight allowed him to wake up on his own.
WHAT ELSE CAN WE ALL DO TO AVOID HITTING SNOOZE?
At Snooze-A-Holics, it’s helpful to share tips that can get us up, out of bed and treating our bodies right so we can perform better in whatever we’re doing. Consensus among sleep experts and professional athletes points to the importance of routine in breaking the habit — this includes making your bedtime earlier if you’re not getting enough sleep in general, like many of us.
Also consider small, nonintrusive things you can do before and when the alarm goes off. Situate your sleep environment so it’s properly dark. Both Phelps and golfer Jordan Spieth stress the importance of a dark room that will maximize the effect of natural sunlight on your body when it’s actually light out. And when you first do get up, move slowly. It’s OK to take a couple of minutes to lay still and energize the brain before putting things in full gear.
As a recovering snoozer, my best personal tip is to make a plan. Don’t wake up uncertain of what the first thing you’ll do that morning is — it’ll only give your impetuous brain more reason to sleep. The night before, remind yourself that you’re going to get up and get dressed first thing for the gym, or prepare something specific to eat. Don’t even let a tempting snooze thought creep into your mind.