Is Hitting The Snooze Button Really That Bad For You?

mbg Associate Health Editor By Darcy McDonough, M.S.
mbg Associate Health Editor
Darcy McDonough is the associate health editor at mbg. She has a master’s degree in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Image by Juan Moyano / Stocksy

Beep-beep, snooze. Beep-beep, snooze. It's a familiar dance we play with the alarm clock every morning. Bargaining for nine more minutes of peace before starting the day. But are those extra nine (OK, more like 27 if you're a multiple-snoozes kind of gal like I am) worth it? Do you get precious extra minutes of sleep, or are you actually setting yourself up to feel more tired? 

Unfortunately, most sleep experts agree, when you snooze, you really do lose. When asked if it's bad to hit the snooze button, holistic psychiatrist and sleep expert Ellen Vora, M.D., told us, "In a word? Yes."

Ugh, not really what a snooze-lover wants to hear.

You aren't actually getting more rest.

It's becoming increasingly clear that sleep is one of the pillars of good health. So, naturally, every extra minute you can squeeze in counts, right? It turns out, the short interval after hitting snooze and before your alarm goes off again doesn't actually do much in the way of adding energy to the tank. 

The default nine minutes isn't enough time to complete the full sleep cycle necessary for restorative sleep. As you might know, there are four stages of sleep: Stage 1, 2, 3, and REM sleep. Stages 1 and 2 are light sleep, while Stage 3 is the good stuff, deep sleep, and REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep is when you are dreaming. While each stage is important, Stage 3 is the most restorative. You cycle through the stages in order, and a full sleep cycle takes at least 90 minutes. 

So, in those extra snooze minutes, you probably won't be hitting Stage 3 and getting any more restful sleep. In other words, you might as well just get out of bed when the alarm goes off. As Vora explains, "There are better ways to get rest." Adding that with the snooze button, "Nobody wins. You're not getting great rest, and you're also not having a leisurely, relaxed morning." You are better off setting your alarm for a realistic time and creating an energizing morning routine rather than convincing yourself a few more minutes in bed is what you need. 

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You could be making yourself more groggy.

OK, so the snooze button isn't making us more rested, but could it actually be making us feel less rested? Unfortunately, it seems like the answer is yes. Not only are you not getting extra rest, but you could also be setting yourself up to feel groggy all day.

While there is no specific research on the snooze button, studies of disrupted sleep make a compelling argument for breaking up with the button. In one study, participants who were repeated woken up four times during the night reported similar levels of fatigue as those who had gotten just four hours of sleep, even though the group that was woken up got a full eight hours of sleep. So, it probably isn't a stretch to say repeatedly being woken up by your alarm clock, followed by a brief sleep and another alarm might actually increase tiredness. 

Another reason to be concerned about snoozing? It could contribute to what scientists call sleep inertia. Sleep inertia is the feeling of grogginess you experience just after waking that can impair your ability to perform simple tasks (think shampooing your hair twice by accident). While sleep inertia usually wears off within an hour of waking, waking up during the wrong sleep cycle may make it last up to four hours. This is especially true of REM and Stage 3 sleep. So if you hit the alarm and drift back into REM sleep, you could be feeling the effects until lunchtime. While more research is needed to determine whether there really is a link between the snooze button and grogginess, personal experience points to yes.  

Maybe the snooze button isn't the problem. 

While quitting snooze is an important step in better sleep hygiene, it may just be a symptom of a bigger problem. Vora explains, "If you're a serious snoozer (no judgment here; this was me in a past life and still is from time to time), recognize that the real issue is that you're not getting adequate quantity and/or quality sleep, so you're not waking up feeling rested." According to The National Sleep Foundation, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night.

Set yourself up for success by getting into bed early enough, ditching your phone (no blue light in the bedroom!), and getting an old-fashioned alarm clock, Vora suggests. Now you can skip snooze in favor of more relaxing wake-up routines—maybe a little morning yoga

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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