“Just a few more minutes” is a phrase you’ve likely uttered to yourself or your partner when your morning alarm goes off. And then you probably press the snooze button once, twice or even three times.
Alarm-snoozing is something that many people do to start their day, but how does it affect your rest? Turns out, it can have actual impacts on your sleep and even your mood.
Below, sleep doctors share their thoughts on hitting snooze and how it impacts your Z’s.
Overall, snoozing your alarm can disrupt your sleep.
It should come as no surprise that snoozing your alarm breaks up your sleep.
“There’s two components to sleep that are important: One is sleep duration, and one is sleep quality. And sleep continuity is a big part of sleep quality,” said Dr. Mathias Basner, a professor of psychiatry in the division of sleep and chronobiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
This means that if you wake up frequently — whether from internal factors like a bad dream or external reasons like a train passing by — “it’s a sign of danger for us,” Basner said. You’re automatically checking back in with the environment to make sure it’s safe before going back to sleep.
“That’s bad for sleep recuperation,” Basner explained. “We ... need continuous bouts of uninterrupted sleep for sleep to be recuperative.” When you continually snooze your alarm, you are robbing yourself of the opportunity for continuous sleep.
“Basically, making that half-hour that you were on snooze much less valuable for you and your body than just setting the alarm to begin with half an hour later, and sleeping until the alarm clock wakes you up once,” said Basner.
And it could harm your body.
Some research suggests that alarm-snoozing can affect your wake-up hormones.
“There have been studies where researchers told people, ‘OK, we are waking you up at 5 a.m.,’ and you could see that these people already started secreting hormones much earlier than the people who were told that they would wake up at 7 a.m.,” said Basner.
In the particular study he referenced, both groups of people would actually be woken up at 7 a.m., but “you could see processes going on in the body, preparing people for a wake period much earlier in the 5 a.m. group than in the 7 a.m. group,” Basner noted, meaning that their bodies started to shift out of sleep earlier to prepare for the early wake-up that they were expecting.
If you set an alarm for 30 minutes earlier than you need to just to allow yourself some snooze time, these hormones could be released earlier than necessary.
Beyond this, for certain people, pressing the snooze button may throw off the whole day.
“At the end of the night cycle, a lot of times we’re deep into the rapid eye movement sleep,” said Patrick M. Fuller, a professor in the department of neurological surgery at UC Davis Health in California. “Rapid eye movements, they’re what we think of as being associated with dream sleep ... and probably memory consolidation and other things, important sort of neurobiological things,” he added.
“The idea is, you hit snooze, you should come out of REM because your alarm goes off ... and then you kind of go back into this weird light sleep,” Fuller stated.
When these people wake up from this light sleep, they report being groggier than they were before they hit the snooze button, he noted.
“So that’s the segment of society that I would say, probably not great to be hitting the snooze bar, because the rest of the day you feel almost disoriented and groggy simply because you went back into a weird state when you should have just gotten up out of bed,” Fuller said.
This may also have harmful effects, especially for people with certain conditions.
Dr. David Kuhlmann, the medical director of sleep medicine at Bothwell Regional Health Center in Missouri, said being woken up multiple times can lead to increased blood pressure for people with obstructive sleep apnea (a condition in which your breathing is disrupted while you sleep).
“You can see how if you’re having multiple awakenings at night, leading to potentially increased heart rate, increased blood pressure upon awakening, [with] sleep apnea, you could also potentially see how these frequent awakenings from the jarring of the alarm may impact your blood pressure and resting heart rate,” said Kuhlmann.
But snoozing your alarm is not all bad.
“We should want to avoid demonizing, if you will, the snooze button,” said Fuller. “I think it should be an indication that if you really feel like you’re required to [use it], you might need to make some modifications to your lifestyle” to get better sleep, he added.
Fuller said those who go to bed late appear to get more benefit from the snooze button.
“For some people, hitting the snooze alarm is perhaps advantageous, and interestingly enough, the people that seem to benefit the most from the snooze alarm are the ones we would refer to as owls — that is to say, people who tend to stay up later at night,” Fuller said.
“That’s just their circadian phenotype — how their clock works,” he noted. Night owls might naturally be in a deeper sleep when their morning alarm pings, which makes them want to reach for that button.
Recently, a small Swedish study suggested that alarm-snoozing may not actually impact sleep quality or cognition levels as much as many experts fear. Testing sleepers in a lab showed that 30 minutes of snoozing “improved or did not affect performance on cognitive tests directly upon rising compared to an abrupt awakening,” the researchers concluded.
“As that study made clear, for some people actually, it’s not a problem,” said Fuller, who was not involved in that research.
The study was small and largely made up of younger people, however, so its findings may not be applicable to everyone.
If you’re frustrated by your snooze button use, don’t make it so convenient.
If you want to break your habit of alarm-snoozing, Fuller recommended that you put your alarm clock — whether it’s your cellphone or an actual clock — across the room.
“You’ve got to get out of bed and go turn it off, right?” Fuller said. “Once you’re vertical, then it’s also like: ‘OK, I’m up, whatever. Now I’m going to go do my thing.’”
In other words, you’ll be less tempted to continually press the snooze button if you’re already out of bed.
Better yet, try not to use an alarm at all.
“Your sleep should be natural; you shouldn’t need an alarm to wake up,” said Kuhlmann.
While this may seem impossible for those who have early morning and late-night obligations, there are certain things that can make it work for those who try it.
According to Kuhlmann, the first step is making sure you give yourself an adequate amount of time to sleep. Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Count back from the time you need to wake up to see when you should go to bed to get enough sleep, Kuhlmann recommended. In an ideal world, you’ll naturally wake up when your body is fully rested. (It’s best to first try this on days when you don’t have morning obligations, like on a weekend or a day off.)
What’s more, certain habits can make falling asleep and waking up a little easier.
“Exercising in the morning helps to train your circadian rhythm to wake up at a certain time,” said Kuhlmann, adding that “getting light exposure in the morning can help if you need to be waking up earlier, can help you to advance your sleep phase.”
Certain reasons you snooze may be cause to see a doctor.
“If someone’s needing to hit the snooze alarm five, 10 times, so forth, it’s actually an indication of essentially a bigger issue,” said Fuller.
This bigger issue could be that you’re sleep-deprived, he said. To determine if that’s the case, you don’t have to go right to a sleep clinic, he said. You can do a multiple sleep latency test at home.
To do this, sit in a quiet environment with no external stimuli in the middle of the day, and “if you fall asleep in less than five minutes — this is what they do in the clinic, no kidding — you are sleep-deprived by definition,” Fuller stated.
If you suspect you are sleep-deprived, Fuller said you should see a sleep physician who can determine what is going on with your rest, whether it’s a sleep disorder or you need to make lifestyle adjustments like less caffeine, less alcohol before bed, no blue light at night or sleeping in a colder room.
“I think 90% of people don’t need a pill; they don’t need anything other than to make these lifestyle modifications,” Fuller stated.
Kuhlmann added that since you don’t actually know what your body is doing while you sleep, you could be unaware of potential red flags. (Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, for example.)
“But you do know the way that you’re feeling the next morning. So if you’re waking up with headaches ... if you’re just really dreading getting out of bed each morning, and having to press your alarm multiple times [after getting eight hours of sleep], then that could be a sign that you really need to be evaluated,” said Kuhlmann.
For some people, alarm-snoozing is innocuous. But for others, it may be indicative of a larger problem. If you’re worried, a sleep specialist is the best person to see to determine what is right for you.
And while there isn’t a complete consensus on the impact of snoozing your alarm, not one of the experts HuffPost spoke with personally presses the snooze button — and most don’t use an alarm to wake up at all.