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The curse of the snooze button

I’m sure we’ve all been jostled awake by the blaring racket of an alarm clock and have considered slamming down the snooze button – just to squeeze in an extra 10 or 20 minutes of sleep. Well you’re not alone, but apparently snoozing is not that great for your health either.

We’ve all been told that we should all get some quality shut eye to function properly, but how does it really affect our day-to-day lives? A number of studies have shown that sleep can:

  • affects health (e.g. may decrease the function of your immune system)
  • plays a role in defining out mood
  • affects creativity and motivation
  • be associated with memory retention

But is the use of an alarm clock affecting your sleep? Lets start with some history. The first alarm clock was invented by Levi Hutchins of New Hampshire in 1787. Fast-forward a few centuries to the year 1959, where Westclox introduced the electrical ‘Drowse’ alarm clock, which included a ‘snooze’ function. In this day and age a majority of people snooze before getting up. In fact, a survey found that:

More than a third of American adults hit the snooze button at least three times each morning, and more than half of people aged 25 to 34 press snooze daily

So why isn’t an alarm clock a great idea? Well it actually disrupts the chemicals within the brain. Our sleep-wake cycle is closely regulated by a number of chemicals. For example, when the body is ready to wake up naturally it releases chemicals into the bloodstream that allows the body to gradually wake up. So when the alarm goes off it jolts us up before the natural wake-up process is complete. This leads to grogginess, and the term ‘waking up on the wrong side of bed’ can summarise your morning. Not only does an alarm clock disrupt our waking process, hitting the snooze button may worsen the situation.

Sleep is divided into stages and one of the most important stages affected by alarm clocks is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is when we usually dream. This stage usually occurs just before you wake up, and is involved in renewing the mind by playing a key role in learning and memory. This process is disrupted when your alarm goes off and the process does not repeat between alarms. Missing this vital stage in sleep can be damaging. A study showed that students with poor sleeping habits (including using an alarm clock to wake up) were associated with poor school performances.

So what you do to stop this habit? The simple answer is; get more sleep! Easier said than done right? But by simply getting to sleep earlier and setting the alarm to the actual time you need get out of bed can do wonders to your day.

One thought on “The curse of the snooze button

  1. I always feel so much better when I wake up without an alarm. Great job clarifying this – most people think that snoozing gives them satisfaction in the morning! Seems like it makes these people groggier!

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