The Hazards of Hitting the Snooze Button

Originally published by Van Winkle's, a new website dedicated to smarter sleep & wakefulness, published by Casper.


The inventor of the snooze button most certainly was a cruel individual. Not only does this little switch on our alarm clock tease us with the hopes of another few minutes of refreshing rest, it disrupts our natural sleep cycle — improving our chances of being tired and cranky throughout the day. Not. Nice.

Why is that?

“When you hit the snooze button, you’re doing two negative things to yourself,” said Robert S. Rosenberg, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott Valley and Flagstaff, Az.

First, “you’re fragmenting what little extra sleep you’re getting, so it’s not the best quality.” Basically, the extra 10 or 20 minutes become meaningless. And second, “you’re starting yourself on a new sleep cycle that you won’t have time to complete.” This “messes with your brain hormones” and disrupts your circadian rhythm, the body clock that regulates your awake and sleep time.

This fragmented sleep causes the same disoriented sensation as waking from an ill-timed nap. Called sleep inertia, it’s "the feeling of grogginess…that can come from awakening from a deep sleep" and can last throughout the day. Sleep intertia can also affect both memory and decision-making abilities.

So those extra few minutes aren’t worth it?

Every time we’re lured by the empty promise of a few more minutes to snooze, we set our sleep cycle up for a crash.

Just so you know, that craving for a few extra minutes of slumber occurs because you’re not getting a full night’s rest in the first place — the seven to nine hours each night most adults need. Chronic sleep deprivation puts you at higher risk of developing serious illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. And, you’re more likely to gain weight.

Not sleeping makes me fat?

Research has shown that poor sleep disrupts your glucose metabolism (how your body processes sugar), including decreases to insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. Both are precursors to diabetes.

When it comes to weight gain, losing just a few hours of sleep, a few nights in a row, increases your chances of reaching for high-calorie junk food during the day. A brain operating on broken or diminished sleep craves unhealthy fatty foods and is too groggy to make good food choices, so the pounds start piling on.

As for heart disease, that junk food — plus an increased level of stress hormones in the blood, caused by sleep deprivation — takes a toll on the cardiovascular system.

I’m done with that button.

Good thinking. A better idea might be to count those minutes and make your bedtime that much earlier.

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