How to Stop Hitting Snooze on Your Alarm Clock (and Reasons to Sleep In)

Meet Your Sleep Needs, Wake as Late as Possible, and Fix Excessive Sleepiness

Learning how to avoid hitting snooze may require determining your sleep needs and fixing causes of excessive morning sleepiness
Learning how to avoid hitting snooze may require determining your sleep needs and fixing causes of excessive morning sleepiness. paul mansfield photography/Moment/Getty Images

There is nothing sweeter than silencing an obnoxious alarm by hitting snooze and going immediately back to sleep for 9 minutes—until it blares again, interrupting your sleep. Why might it be a bad idea to use your alarm’s snooze button? When should you set your alarm to get the best sleep? How can you sleep better by setting the alarm clock for the latest possible time? Learn how to stop hitting the snooze and how to optimize your alarm clock setting to help you meet your sleep needs.

Should You Use an Alarm Clock?

In an ideal world, would you even wake up to an alarm? The answer is probably no. Do you set an alarm to tell you it is time to stop eating? Of course not. You pay attention to your body’s signals to inform you when you are feeling full and have eaten enough.

It would be best if we could listen to our body’s ability to regulate sleep in a similar fashion. Wouldn’t it be best if we stopped sleeping when we naturally wake after meeting our sleep needs? How can this be accomplished?

Determine Your Sleep Needs

Consider in the recent past how much sleep on average you have needed to feel rested. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of total sleep time to avoid the effects of sleep deprivation. Beyond the age of 65, the needed amount of sleep may decrease to 7 to 8 hours. As much as possible, this need should be met each and every night. If too little sleep is obtained one night, it may be necessary to catch up with a longer period in bed or a nap.

If excessive time is spent in bed, insomnia may occur. This should be avoided, if possible. Commit to spending the amount of time in bed you need to feel rested.

Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule

Our bodies respond best to regular patterns. This applies to the timing of meals (we get hungry and eat meals at about the same time every day) as well as to the habits of sleep and wakefulness.

If you go to bed at about the same time every night, you will get sleepy about that time. After determining your sleep needs, and what time you want to get up, make sure you get to bed at the right time.

Go to Bed When You Feel Sleepy

Chances are that you sit down to eat when you are feeling hungry. In a similar fashion, you should go to bed when you are feeling sleepy. Don’t just crawl into bed at 10 PM because you want to fall asleep. If you can’t right away, lying awake may contribute to anxiety and insomnia. Instead, wait until the feeling of sleepiness comes and get into bed then. This signal can be strengthened by keeping a regular wake time.

Wake at the Same Time Daily and Get Morning Sunlight

It is especially important to keep the wake time consistent, even through the weekends. This helps to stabilize our patterns of sleep. By getting 15 to 30 minutes of morning sunlight upon awakening, it is possible to regulate the circadian rhythm, reinforcing your ability to sleep during darkness.

By keeping this wake time on schedule, it also becomes easy to go to bed and fall asleep more regularly.

If needed, especially if you must wake earlier than you naturally would on your own, it may be necessary to use an alarm.

How to Use an Alarm Clock and Snooze Smarter

There are many situations when an alarm clock proves necessary to maintain a schedule. Without it, oversleeping may lead to serious consequences, including tardiness to school or work. If recurrent, this may threaten job security and lead to other professional and financial problems. If you need to use an alarm, you can still use it smarter.

As noted above, select a consistent wake time that can be adhered to every day, even on the weekends. In setting your alarm, try to set it to the latest possible time that you can get up and still do what you need to do. If you have to be to work at 8 AM, and it takes you 90 minutes to get ready, eat breakfast, and drive over, you will want to set your alarm for 6:30 AM. By setting the alarm to the latest possible time, you will ensure you are prompt and also protect uninterrupted sleep.

If you were to set the alarm for 5:45 AM, but then spend 45 minutes hitting the snooze button, your last 45 minutes of sleep would be severely fragmented by the alarms. Even if you immediately got back to sleep, this undermines sleep quality. It may interrupt rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a state of sleep that occurs in the last few hours before morning and is important for problem solving and memory processing.

There are newer devices and apps that monitor movement in sleep. These alarms may sound when they detect that you have already started to shift around. This may help you fully complete your sleep cycles. You also may wake easier than if the alarm were to sound and wake you from much deeper sleep.

Don’t ever hit the snooze button. Place the alarm clock across the room, so you have to get out of bed to turn it off, and don’t return to bed once you are up. Chances are the room is a little cool in the morning, and if you head straight to the shower, you won’t fall back asleep. If you have trouble waking in the morning, even requiring multiple alarms, this may suggest that something else is causing you to be too sleepy.

What It Means If You Wake Feeling Overly Sleepy

There are a few conditions that may lead to excessive morning sleepiness. The most common is getting too little sleep. If you fail to meet your sleep needs, your body will try to keep you asleep when morning comes. The only solution is to try to extend your total time in bed to more adequately meet your sleep needs.

Sleep inertia, or the desire to stay asleep, may also be stronger in the setting of other sleep disorders. For example, obstructive sleep apnea may undermine sleep quality. Even though enough hours of sleep are obtained, it is not refreshing. This can lead to daytime sleepiness.

Circadian rhythm disorders like delayed sleep phase syndrome can also make it hard to wake up in the morning. Insomnia occurs at night if an earlier bedtime is attempted, and it is hard to wake in the morning (especially after insufficient hours of sleep are obtained).

If medications, alcohol, or other drugs are used to enhance sleep, the hangover effects may also make it hard to wake in the morning. In particular, sleeping pills may not fully wear off by morning and this can make it hard to wake on time.

Ways to Enhance Sleep Quality

Sleep quality can be enhanced by sticking to a consistent schedule, waking at the same time every day, going to bed when feeling sleepy, and getting enough time in bed to meet your sleep needs. There are a few other pointers that may be helpful to observe:

  • Don’t be too optimistic in selecting a wake time; it is better to set the alarm to an obtainable goal.
  • If necessary, help yourself to get up on time by setting multiple alarms, having someone else call you on the phone, enlisting others to physically wake you, or even using technology pads that prompt you to get out of bed to turn off the alarm.
  • Morning sunlight exposure is critical, but it can also be nice to wake to pleasing sounds or favored music.
  • Give yourself something to look forward to when getting up, whether it is an enjoyable activity, a favorite coffee, or even a special breakfast.
  • Even if you are retired, and don’t have to get up a specific time, try to keep a fixed wake time and don't spend too much time in bed to avoid insomnia.
  • Don’t let yourself sleep in too much on the weekends, as this can contribute to Sunday night insomnia.
  • If you find yourself checking the clock too much at night, set the alarm, turn or cover the clock, and don’t look to it in the night. If it is time to wake, the alarm will sound, otherwise simply roll over and go back to sleep.

The alarm clock can be a necessary part of waking in the morning, but avoid hitting the snooze by following these recommendations. If you need more help waking up feeling rested, don’t hesitate to seek help from a board-certified sleep medicine physician.

Source:

Kryger MH, et al. “Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine.” Elsevier, 6th edition, 2016.

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