On a regular school morning, I am abruptly awoken by my alarm clock which sounds like a buzzer. No, it’s definitely not favorable, but it is the only thing that will wake me up. I am guilty of hitting the snooze button at least three or four times before I get out of bed and start getting ready for class. I even set my alarm earlier than necessary in order to allow myself time to do so. But, just recently I have learned that hitting the snooze button has the ability to make you more tired and less productive throughout the day.
There are five stages in a human’s sleep cycle. Stage one is the lightest stage of sleep. It is also referred to as the transition phase. If you allow yourself to wake up naturally, stage one would be the last stage before you fully wake up. This stage lasts between five to ten minutes and during this time, your body slows down and your muscles become relaxed. The second stage of sleep is still considered light sleep. Brain activity, heart rate, and breathing all slows down during this stage in attempt to reach a state of complete relaxation. Stage three is when you begin to enter a deep sleep. If you were to be awakened during this stage, it is incredibly difficult to wake up. One would be confused and groggy. Of the five stages of sleep, this is the one when you experience your deepest sleep of the night. Stage five this is the stage of sleep when you dream. It is also referred to as REM sleep, which stands for the rapid eye movement. During stage five, blood flow, breathing, and brain activity increases.
Maria Konnikova, a journalist with a focus on psychology, explained in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener, “The thing about snooze buttons that most of us don’t understand is that instead of giving us an extra, precious few minutes of sleep, they’re robbing us of a lot of mental clarity, every time you press it, if you happen to drift off you’re plunged back into the beginning of the sleep cycle, which is the absolute worst point from which to wake up.” If any of you have ever wondered why Iphone snooze buttons are only about 8 minutes I am assuming that it is so our bodies do not enter stage two of the sleep cycle making it harder to wake up.
By hitting the snooze button, we are doing many negative things to our bodies. One thing we are doing is fragmenting what extra sleep we are getting so that sleep becomes poor quality sleep. Another thing, is we are beginning a new sleep cycle that we can not finish. Robert Rosenberg, who is the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott Valley and Flagstaff, Arizona says, “You’re throwing off your circadian cycle and that can impair your ability to feel awake during the day and sleepy at night.”
Scientists believe that this is due to a term coined as “sleep inertia”. It refers to the period between being woken and being fully awake. While the parts of the brain responsible for basic physical functioning, is able to act almost immediately, the cortical regions which are responsible for decision making and self control take longer. It can take up to two hours to get rid of sleep-inertia grogginess. Unfortunately for us, there is nothing we can do to beat sleep inertia besides getting enough sleep.
There are things we can do to prevent it though. One thing recommended is to keep phones are computer out of the bed when we are trying to fall asleep. The blue light radiated from the smart phones delay our bodies production of melatonin. If you are still having trouble getting right out of bed, it is recommended to hide your alarm clock or keep it out of reach requiring you to get out of bed in order to turn it off.