It’s nighttime and you have work tomorrow at 9:00am. You set the alarm for 7:00am thinking maybe you can get your day started a little earlier and have some time to make breakfast and get a short work out in.

7:00am rolls around and you are jolted awake by the familiar obnoxious buzzing of the alarm. The alarm tries to pull you out of your comfortable sheets into the cold reality of having to start your day.

Almost unconsciously, you press on the snooze button to get 10 more minutes of blissful coziness. And another. And another. And maybe once more for good measure. Couldn’t hurt, right?

Is it true that you snooze, you indeed lose?

People commonly ask the question if snoozing is indeed a bad thing. As a sleep therapist, my answer is that we are not sleep police. There are behaviours that are optimal for sleep, but these behaviours may not be optimal for your preferences and values.

That being said, it is helpful to provide information on how hitting the snooze button can impact our sleep health to be able to make an informed decision. Below, I discuss how snoozing can impact our overall sleep and how we feel during the day.

Snoozing leads to disrupted sleep

Although snoozing can feel quite comfortable in the moment, the behaviour itself can be seen as a voluntary disruption your own sleep! This is because snoozing is essentially the equivalent of intentionally creating awakenings in what would otherwise be consolidated sleep.

The increase of awakenings can lead to poorer sleep quality and paradoxically sleep deprivation. To explain this, we can compare two people: one person has their alarm at 7:00am but presses the snooze button every 10 minutes until 7:30am. The other person sets their alarm at 7:30 am and wakes up naturally at that time.

In this case, person A would have slept less because they were woken up every 10 minutes and took a bit of time to fall back asleep. On the other hand, person B would experience more consolidated sleep and likely feel more refreshed.

Therefore, if your goal is to get the sleep you need, then setting your alarm clock a little later instead of snoozing may be the better option!

An image of two clocks

Snoozing can disrupt our circadian rhythm

Our circadian rhythm is the internal clock that governs when we tend to feel sleepy and when we tend to feel alert. When we do not have a strongly set circadian rhythm, we get sleepy and alert at random times (also known as ‘circadian misalignment’ or ‘social jetlag’) (Baron & Reid, 2014).

Social jetlag happens when we sleep and wake up at different times throughout the week because of irregular light exposure. Therefore, hitting the snooze button may lead to more irregularities throughout the week and contribute to circadian problems (which may lead to chronic insomnia).

Snoozing can worsen sleep inertia

For some people, their snoozing may lead to more rest, but not sleep. Unfortunately, staying in bed can actually make us feel more tired because of sleep inertia.

Sleep inertia is the process by which sleep chemicals in our body is being flushed out (Hilditch & McHill, 2019). During this time, we tend to feel a lot groggier even if we don’t need much more sleep. Sleep inertia can be reduced through activating behaviours like getting out of bed and getting light exposure (among other strategies).

When we are lying in bed, however, resting behaviours can make sleep inertia last longer and reduces our ability to generate momentum and energy throughout the day. Although it’s much tougher in the short-term, getting out of bed will make us feel better quicker.

Man sleeping holding the globe
Jetlag can happen even when we are not traveling!

Benefits of snoozing

Although snoozing is not great from a sleep perspective, there may be personal reasons to snooze regardless of what the science says. Perhaps the most important one is that snoozing is simply an enjoyable activity. Some people find the act of snoozing to be comfortable and enjoy spending the extra time in bed snuggling up in their cozy sheets.

As we discussed, we are not the sleep police, and you should be able to choose the behaviours that are most comfortable for you. Now, you have the knowledge to determine whether it is ‘worth it’ to snooze.

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Best wishes,