Love the Snooze Button? Here's Why It's Actually Ruining Your Sleep, According to an Expert
If you're waking up tired and sluggish every morning before school, you might find yourself reaching for that snooze button.
While it might feel like you're getting the extra minutes of restful sleep you need, that time might not be as beneficial to your rest as you think. We asked the Sleep Ambassador, Nancy Rothstein, MBA, all about it. Last week, we shared her insights into the importance of the sleep cycle, and this week, we're getting into some of the things that can disrupt that cycle.
Sweety High: How do our sleep cycles affect the way we feel when we're woken up in the mornings?
Nancy Rothstein: You're most likely to feel the most well-rested if you wake up when you're not in REM or deep sleep. You also get longer periods of REM as the night goes on, which is why when the alarm goes off in the morning, you're often in the middle of a dream.
The man-made clock is waking you when your body is trying to dream. That's not great, because dreaming has so many important functions. It helps you learn, solve problems and consolidate memories, and it's critical for your mental health. You don't want to deprive yourself of any of those things. When you get up really early after going to bed really late, you just might not be getting the amount of deep sleep and REM that you need.
SH: Can we catch up on that sleep and resume the cycle with the snooze button?
NR: Not quite. A lot of the grogginess we feel when we're woken up by alarms has to do with the disruption of the sleep cycle. Let's say you were in the middle of a dream, and then you get woken up by your alarm. Then you press the snooze button three times. You might feel like you're cheating the system, but you actually just wasted half an hour of restful sleep.
You would have been better of getting up when it first went off, or setting your alarm later in the first place, since you had the flexibility to press the snooze button all those times. If you're getting up, and going back to sleep, and getting up again, you're just ruining good sleep. Don't use that snooze button.
SH: Do we enter the sleep cycles when we nap?
NR: The sleep cycles are why you should stick to taking naps under a half hour. Any longer than that, and you enter a sleep cycle. That's why a true nap, unless you're sick, should be short and sweet. Otherwise, you'll wake up grouchier than when you started, because you're disrupting the process of those full sleep cycles.
SH: Are there any steps we can take that will make alarms less disruptive to our sleep?
NR: For one, if you're waking up exhausted in the mornings when your alarm wakes you, it's because you're not getting through your sleep cycles, and you should try to get to bed earlier. I would also highly recommend you don't use your phone as an alarm, and even keep it outside of the bedroom— though I don't think many people are so willing to do that. If you're not going to, the best thing to do is to at least put it across the room while you're sleeping. That way, you have to physically get out of bed to turn it off. The blue light coming from your phone also disrupts your ability to fall asleep. If you can, set your alarm about an hour before bed as a cue that it's time to get ready for sleep. That's the time to put it across the room.
Want to find out what small changes you can make to adjust your sleep cycle? Click HERE to find out how a routine might be able to fix your sleep.