In a survey by market research firm Wakefield Research, more than 8 in 10 Singaporeans spend their weekends sleeping in to make up for the lack of sleep over the week. They also found out that Singaporeans are the second-most sleep-deprived people in the world, with 62 per cent of people stating that they are not getting enough sleep.
Being such a sleep-deprived nation, most of us have probably gone through this in the morning: Eyes barely open, you fumble around to hit the snooze button and sigh in peace as you are gifted with 10 more minutes of rest. The dreaded alarm strikes again 10 minutes later. The extra time probably didn’t help much, and you wake up feeling groggier than before.
To tell the truth, while there are no scientific studies to prove the helpfulness or unhelpfulness of the snooze button, it probably does more damage to you than good.
What happens when you snooze?
You may think that hitting snooze and getting a bit more shut-eye will make you feel more rested, but in fact, it may cause your brain to secrete more neurochemicals that make you sleep because it thinks you can continue sleeping, resulting in you feeling even more tired when you wake.
Furthermore, choosing to sleep in a little longer disrupts your sleep cycle stages. According to National Sleep Foundation, the recommendation for most adults between 18 and 64 years of age is approximately seven to nine hours of good sleep per night. This gives sufficient time for sleep stages known as non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) and rapid eye movement sleep (REM).
The first few stages consist of NREM sleep – your body falls into a light sleep, followed by NREM deep sleep. The next stage is REM sleep – you experience intense dreams but despite so, REM sleep is highly restorative and helps in making you feel sharp and focused in the day. We tend to have cycles of NREM and REM sleep four to six times per night.
Usually, when your alarm wakes you, you are nearing the end of your last REM cycle. Hence, when you snooze your alarm and sleep a little more, you are continuing your REM cycle which results in you waking up in the middle of REM sleep because those extra minutes is not enough time to complete a full sleep cycle. This causes you to experience sleep inertia – the groggy feeling making you feel tired and disoriented. Sleep inertia takes up to 4 hours to go away and affects your memory, judgement and reaction time.
To avoid having to press snooze in the morning, it is better to solve the underlying issues causing you to feel unrested. Could you be sleeping too late and altering your circadian rhythm? Or diminishing your sleep quality by using your devices right before sleeping, drinking alcohol and caffeine or even smoking in the evening? It could also be that you are suffering from sleep apnea, which is a condition that causes you to breathe abnormally during sleep. There are many factors that can affect your sleep cycles and it will take some diligence and research to find out how which is affecting you.
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What are the long-term consequences of hitting the snooze button?
As mentioned above, sleeping in instead of waking up when your alarm goes off confuses your body’s internal clock off. Your body becomes unsure of when to wake up and sleep, which may affect your ability to fall asleep at night. This results in less quality sleep, causing you to require more sleep time. Sleeping longer hours consistently (more than 9 hours a night) has been linked to increased inflammation in the body, increased pain such as back pains and headaches, impaired fertility, higher risk of stroke and depression.
Another research has found that just having one week of poor sleep affects more than 700 genes associated with circadian rhythm, metabolism, immune and stress response, leading to heightened stress, lowered immunity and increased inflammation. In the long-term, all these negative effects create a compounded impact to your health. Feeling more stress makes you harder to focus and more irritable. A weakened immunity causes you to fall sick more and makes it harder to sleep well. Constant inflammation increases the risk of life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and stroke.
Here are some tips to break the snooze habit
Maintaining your sleep cycle is crucial to having good sleep and feeling energised to tackle the day. Here are some tips to help you break the snooze habit:
"Skip the snooze to get the boost! Find out and resolve the root causes of your snooze so you can get a well-rested night and attack the day!" – Active Health Coach, Joelle Chan
1) Figure out why you’re hitting snooze, here are some questions to consider:
- Are you going to bed early enough?
- Are you exercising?
- Are you hyped up before bed?
- Are you comfortable in your bedroom?
- Do you have any chronic sleep issues?
2) Give yourself a reason to wake up. Schedule something to look forward to in the morning, such as exercise or having your favourite breakfast.
3) Place your alarm somewhere that's hard to reach, ideally, it requires you to get up and walk to off it.
4) Engage your other senses. There are some alarm clocks designed to simulate sunlight so that your brain receives a signal to wake up. Set your coffee machine to brew at the same time as your alarm. The familiar aroma of caffeine will wake you up out of the snooze habit.
5) Follow a sleep schedule to get enough sleep at night. Consistent quality sleep will make you feel better in the morning.
6) Go to sleep earlier if you plan to wake up early. Some people are night owls and it may be unrealistic to be able to get up early immediately. Gradually adjust your schedule such as sleeping 15 minutes earlier and waking 15 minutes earlier until you reach your ideal sleep and wake time.
So, the next time you get woken up reluctantly by your alarm, think twice before hitting snooze. It could save yourself some pain from sleep inertia and long-term health effects, and overall make you more energised to go about your day.