The night before, you planned out your whole day. You’d wake up at 6 a.m., take fifteen minutes to get your mind right, start a 30 minute bodyweight workout at 6:15 a.m. and then shower and groom yourself in preparation for the work day. At 7:15 a.m. you would make and eat breakfast while catching up on the news, doing some pleasure reading or whatever else struck your fancy at that time. You’d be out of the house by 7:45 a.m., and with a 30 minute commute you’d arrive before your 9 a.m. start time, allowing you to start early and get ahead. It would be perfect.
But that was the plan the night before.
Now, struggling to open your drowsy eyes let alone sit up in bed as your blaring alarm wakes you up, you’re thinking differently. Maybe just 15 more minutes. Or perhaps 20 minutes. As a matter of fact, pushing back your plan by 30 minutes would still have you in the office 15 minutes early. So there’s no harm in hitting the snooze button once or twice, right?
Why hitting the snooze button is bad for your health.
Hitting the snooze button disrupts your REM sleep, resulting in other bodily problems: Reena Mehra, M.D., M.S., Director of Sleep Disorders Research at Cleveland Clinic, notes as much in an article for the employer. According to Dr. Mehra, “we have different arousal thresholds during different stages of sleep, and if we’re disrupting late stage REM sleep, it can cause a ‘fight or flight’ response – which increases our blood pressure and heartbeat.” Dr. Mehra goes on to say that the small increments of sleep — be it 5, 10 or even 15 minutes — when we hit the snooze button is not restorative sleep and that one’s repetitive use of the snooze button could be an indicator of their not getting enough sleep or having an underlying sleep disorder.
Just one week of disrupted sleep can disastrously affect your health: That’s what the study led by Professor Derk-Jan Dijk from the University of Surrey revealed. According to this study, one week of poor sleep can negatively affect hundreds of your body’s genes, resulting in increased stress, decreased immunity, and a spike in inflammation. As Amerisleep accurately commented on this study, these effects add up after a while. And “when you’re stressed, you have a harder time focusing and are more prone to feeling snappy or irritable. When your immune system isn’t working at capacity, you’re more likely to get sick—which could make it even harder to achieve quality sleep. Worst of all? Experiencing chronically high levels of inflammation could increase your risk for serious health problems like heart disease, cancer, stroke, and cognitive decline.”
What to do instead.
Master your sleep schedule: The reason we hit the snooze button is simply that we’re still tired when our alarms go off. So it stands to reason that the way to not hit the snooze button is to not be tired when we wake up. Which means getting enough sleep before the alarm goes off. And that means mastering your sleep schedule. Of course, this is easier said than done, but the results are well worth it.
Adhere to “The 5 Second Rule”: No, we’re not talking about the rule pertaining to picking up dropped food. Mel Robbin’s 5 Second Rule (her talk for which is now one of the top 20 Ted Talks in the world) is rather simple — make a decision in five seconds or less. That’s it. Whether it’s about hitting the snooze button in the morning, sending a risky text or anything else, we often already know what we should do. Instead of immediately doing it and moving on, however, we procrastinate on our decision. So count to five and then force yourself to make a decision. It’s as simple as that. Not to rip off Nike, but just do it.
Take heed to these tips from The National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep.org:
Stop placing your alarm clock close by: when you have your alarm clock/phone within arms reach, it’s that much easier to hit the snooze button as soon as the alarm starts blaring. So try placing your alarm clock further away, in an entirely different part of the room. That way you have to actually get up out of bed to turn it off. Once you’ve gotten out of bed, refraining from hitting the snooze is much easier.
Change your alarm: Take advantage of alarm clocks that will monitor when you’re in a lighter stage of sleep and wake you up then. It’s difficult for another human, let alone a device, to wake you up when your in you’re in REM. You can also take advantage of alarms that make light in addition to noise. These alarms’ increasingly brightening lights, simulating the sunrise, can help better wake you from your slumber.
Focus on why you want to wake up early: what’s motivating you to get out of bed? Whatever the answer is, it’s important that you remind yourself of this each morning. Perhaps even name your alarm what this reason is, that way you're constantly reminded every time you look at it.
J.P. Pressley is a writer, entrepreneur, filmmaker, and an asthmatic former two-sport college athlete (basketball and track). Is he a jockey-nerd or a nerdy-jock? The world may never know. You can learn more about him at his personal website.