You head to bed and set your alarm, strong in your resolve that tomorrow you’ll wake up the second you hear your alarm go off, pop out of bed, and eat a healthy breakfast. Fruitful and productive day ahead, right? Eight hours later, in your groggy half-awake state, you hit the snooze button again and again, delaying your wake up and totally sidetracking your well-intentioned morning routine. Sound familiar? You’re not alone — about 57% of Americans are slaves to their snooze buttons. But pressing snooze every single morning can actually have detrimental effects on your overall sleep health. Here’s how to break up with that snooze button for good.
Stop sleeping in on the weekend: It feels amazing to grab a few more hours of sleep on a Saturday or Sunday, but not keeping a consistent schedule is a big problem, says Dr. Lisa Medalie, a sleep specialist at the University of Chicago: “When you wake at 10:00 AM on the weekend and then try to wake at 7:00 AM on a Monday, your brain is likely still secreting melatonin (sleep hormone) because it was used to sleeping at that time on the weekend. Therefore, with sleepiness signals still coming from the brain, snooze is a natural response to try and get more sleep.” Waking up at the same time every day (and going to bed at the same time, too) no matter what you have planned, will help establish a healthy circadian rhythm and a good sleep schedule. Eventually, you might be able to skip the alarm altogether.
Reset your history: A common reason that people become reliant on the snooze button is because it’s an ingrained habit, Dr. Medalie explains. “Snooze pushing can actually be a “conditioned response” similar to Pavlov dog’s training. If you repeatedly pair the alarm sound with pushing the snooze button, eventually the alarm sound does not cue your brain to wake, instead it cues the brain to hit snooze and return to sleep!” So start a habit of NOT pressing snooze, and after time your brain won’t expect the added sleep.
Try alarm training: This method of subtly training yourself definitely takes time and effort, but can work for people who have been snooze-buttoning for years without breaking the habit. “Alarm training is picking a new alarm sound (using the alarm feature on your phone) and conditioning a new response,” explains Dr. Medalie. “Pick a point during the day to train yourself to rise, as a conditioned response to that new sound. Then, get into bed and pretend you’re going to sleep and set the alarm to go off 1-2 minutes later. When the new sound goes off, rapidly get out of bed, then repeat the exercise. If you do alarm training to your new sound 2-3 times daily for a week, it will help condition your brain to rapidly rise instead of hitting snooze.”
Make sure it’s not a deeper issue: If you’re sleeping on a set schedule, getting enough sleep, and have tried lots of other snooze button fixes, Dr. Medalie suggests that an ongoing reliance on snooze might belie a deeper issue: “Unrefreshing sleep, along with other symptoms (e.g., snoring, choking/gasping sensations, excessive daytime sleepiness morning dry mouth, restless sleep, morning headache etc) may suggest an underlying medically-based sleep disorder. If the other symptoms listed are present along with unrefreshing sleep, it might be worthwhile to consult with a sleep doctor.”
Work on your sleep hygiene overall: Sleep hygiene is a relatively new idea, but in a society where 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep, it’s quickly becoming a necessity. Think seriously about your sleep habits, routines, and ideas and attitudes about rest and rejuvenation. What can you change in your life to make sleep a more serious priority? Think about your environment: try wearing an eye mask or installing blackout shades, buying a white noise machine, and keeping your room at a cooler temperature. Consider preparing your brain and body for sleep: stop drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evening, turn off all screens (including smartphones!) for at least an hour before you turn in, and try meditating or doing gentle stretching/yoga before bed.
Halting your dependency on snooze might not be easy, but having a better relationship with sleep will help your health long term — and might even transform your morning routine, too.