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Why hitting the snooze button is bad for productivity

Why Hitting the Snooze Button May Be Impacting Your Productivity

Are you one of those people who just don’t want to get up on a morning? Do you constantly find yourself reaching for the snooze button when your alarm goes off on a morning? Do you feel groggy and still tired when you do eventually get up?

What you might not realise is that hitting the snooze button can have a serious impact on your productivity throughout the day. This post explains why and what you should be doing about it.

First, a bit of science. When we sleep we go through something called sleep cycles. Each cycle lasts in the region of 90 to 110 minutes. When we get woken up during one of those cycles, the brainstem arousal system (the part of the brain that deals with basic physical functioning) is activated immediately. This means that you can at least move. But, the prefrontal cortex (the part that deals with decision making and self-control) takes a little bit of catching up. In fact, it can take around 30 minutes but in some cases, it can takes hours.

As our body goes through these sleep cycles, the body at some point begins the process of waking you up. It speeds up your breathing and heart rate and provides a mix of chemicals needed to get you moving. This process naturally occurs around 2 hours before you wake up, meaning we should wake up naturally after what the body feels is the final sleep cycle.

If we get woken up during a sleep cycle we feel groggy. The term given to this is sleep inertia and is caused by having too much melatonin in the body.

When we get woken by the alarm, we should be ready to wake up. So what happens when we hit the snooze button? If you are lucky enough to fall back to sleep, you enter another sleep cycle. And because typically the snooze function on our alarm goes off again after around 9 to 10 minutes, you get woken up during a sleep cycle. This causes sleep inertia and that’s why you feel rubbish.

In most cases though, when you hit the sleep button, our brain kind of knows the alarm will go off again. It means you probably won’t get into the deep sleep that you really crave, but psychologically, we do enter another sleep cycle.

If we continue with sleep inertia, we may feel tired more than we should. And, feeling tired will begin to impact on your decision making and other cognitive functions. Basically, it means we will struggle to get stuff done. It impacts on our levels of productivity.

What should you do? Well, simple advice is this:

  1. When the alarm goes off, don’t hit snooze
  2. Get up

But, there is more to it than that. Getting into a routine and having a time that you go to bed will help massively. Once you are in a routine you will start to wake up naturally.

The best advice is always to get up when you wake up. Even if this is before your alarm goes off. If the alarm does go off, don’t give it a second thought. Just get up. You will make yourself feel worse by hitting the snooze button and trying to go back to sleep.

It’s a habit change more than anything. Stop saying ‘ohhhh, just 10 more minutes’. Instead, say ‘OK, time to move’.

You will find that this will generally give you more energy throughout the day – even if it feels terrible for the few moments after you get up.

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