Stop Hitting the Snooze Button Once and For All

Your clock or phone alarm might have a snooze option, but it’s worth it to pretend that it doesn’t exist. The extra sleep that you can get by hitting snooze comes in small chunks and isn’t good quality—and it can actually do you some harm. Since the snooze session doesn’t last long enough for you to finish a complete sleep cycle, you could end up feeling super groggy for the first hour and a half of your day. So how do you break the habit? These five tactics will get you there:

  1. Focus on the reason you want to wake up earlier. Whatever your motivation—maybe you want to become a morning exerciser, feel less rushed getting ready, or be the first person in the office—it’s important to remind yourself about it in the morning. One way to do that is to name your alarm something that will bring it to mind, like “Get your workout out of the way!”
  2. Don’t keep your alarm clock on your nightstand. It’s way too easy to hit snooze if all you have to do is move your hand a little bit and hit a button. A better idea: Put your alarm in your bathroom and make sure the volume is set to loud. That way, you have to get out of bed to hit it, and once you’re up, you’re a lot likelier to stay up.
  3. Change your alarm clock. One way to make waking up easier is to get an alarm that goes off when you’re in a light stage of sleep. Many sleep trackers come with this feature, gently vibrating when you’re sleeping lightly to rouse you.
  4. Use light to your advantage. Some alarm clocks don’t just make noise—they also have a light that gets brighter and brighter. This simulated sunrise will naturally stimulate your body to wake up.
  5. Go to bed earlier. If you just can’t stop yourself from wanting to hit snooze, it might be that you aren’t getting enough sleep at night. Try moving your bedtime up in 15-minute increments—and you might realize that it feels a lot easier to get up at the first sound of your alarm.

Do you wake up to the sound of birdsong or an electronic ringtone? Perhaps you use a dawn simulator or an app that won’t stop beeping until you have walked at least 100 paces. It is increasingly unlikely that you groggily grope for the stop button on a traditional alarm clock. According to John Lewis, alarm clock sales are down 16% on 2017. Instead, many people are relying on phone alarms or dawn simulators, which claim to more gently rouse you from slumber. Now the clocks have gone back and the days are shortening, it may seem harder than ever to get out of bed. So, what is the best way to wake up?

Is it a good idea to use your mobile phone as an alarm clock?

There is nothing wrong with using your phone alarm – unless its other functions are interfering with your sleep. Several studies have indicated that greater phone use, particularly in the run-up to bedtime, results in worse quality sleep. The main reason is the light from screens altering the timing of the brain’s master clock, a cluster of cells that dictates the timing of all the other biological clocks in the body. Exposure to bright or blue-enriched light at night shifts its timing later, which means we feel tired later and our bodies are still in sleep mode when it is time to get up in the morning. Light also has a direct alerting effect on the brain, which makes it harder to fall asleep.

If you do sleep with your phone, set it to night mode to filter out blue light and adjust the brightness setting to dim. Nick Littlehales, an elite sports sleep coach and the author of the book Sleep, says you should also switch it to silent and rest it on a soft surface to dampen any vibrations from incoming alerts.

Isn’t it better to wake up according to your body’s natural rhythms?

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need alarm clocks; we would simply go to bed when we felt tired and sleep until we were ready to wake up. However, the ubiquity of artificial light after dusk means that relying on when we feel sleepy to dictate our bedtimes isn’t very helpful. Our natural sleep rhythm has shifted later, yet most of us must wake up at a prescribed time to go to work or school, meaning our sleep is cut short. It also means that we often wake up when our bodies think it is still night-time, which increases feelings of “sleep inertia” – the grogginess you experience immediately upon waking. US researchers showed that when people were sent on a camping trip and denied access to their electronic gadgets, their circadian rhythms shifted about two hours earlier, which meant they felt sleepier earlier and got more sleep.

So, is it better to get up early or late?

That depends on your chronotype – your natural sleep-timing preference – which is hardwired in your genes. “It is not a choice and it is very difficult to change,” says Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Why We Sleep. Some people are larks and predisposed to wake up early, others are late types who naturally sleep in; most of us lie somewhere in between. However, even night owls can become a little more lark-like if they reduce their exposure to light at night and seek out bright light from the moment they wake up, which pushes the master clock earlier. These innate sleep preferences also vary with age. Teenagers’ sleep timing typically shifts about two hours later, while as we get older, we become progressively more lark-like.

More important than when you prefer to get up is consistency in the timing of your sleep. If you go to bed and wake up later at weekends, you are effectively giving yourself jet lag – and when your alarm clock wakes you at 7am on Monday, your body will still think it’s night-time. “The most important advice I can give people who are struggling with sleep, or want to get good-quality sleep, is to keep it regular,” says Walker.

Is it possible to train yourself to get up at a certain time without an alarm clock?

Yes, provided you go to sleep at about the same time every night and wake at the same time each morning, says Lisa Artis, an adviser for the Sleep Council. “Your internal body clock will strengthen and you will start to wake naturally at a time that suits you. However, if not setting an alarm is going to make you anxious about sleeping in and missing a train or an important meeting, you should set the alarm,” she adds. “Otherwise, you will spend most of your time in bed worrying you won’t get enough sleep.”

Does it matter what sound you wake up to?

Much of this research has been in the context of emergency situations, such as waking from house fires. A study published last week found that children were three times more likely to wake up if they heard their mother’s voice compared with a high-pitched smoke alarm, and they also woke up faster. “Human beings are conditioned to hear voices; they’re not conditioned to hear beeps,” says Niamh Nic Daéid, a forensic scientist at the University of Dundee. Her own research suggests that just 20% of children wake up in response to conventional smoke alarms – but when her team created an alarm that combined intermittent beeping with a female voice, this increased to 80-90%. Research in adults also suggests that multi-pitched alarms and female voices are more likely to rouse you than a high-pitched alarm.

Should I hit the snooze button?

Tempting as it may be to set your alarm a bit early so you can enjoy dozing in bed, there are good reasons why this is a bad idea. For one thing, “interrupted sleep is not good-quality sleep”, says Walker. The impact on your heart is another. Although setting an alarm may be necessary – and even a good thing, if it encourages regularity in the timing of your sleep – if you are repeatedly exposed to it, “you are literally alarming your heart”, he says. “Set the alarm for when you need to get up, then turn it off and get up.”

Do light-emitting clocks work?

Dawn simulators are often marketed as a gentler way to wake up, the idea being that gradual exposure to light may cause gentle stirring, which means we experience less sleep inertia when we wake. There is little direct evidence for this, but several studies have found improvements in people’s subjective alertness after being woken this way. In one such study, Dutch researchers compared people’s responses to being woken by a dawn simulator with a light being switched on at the same time as an alarm going off. “We saw that there was a faster reduction of sleepiness if people had this gradual increase in light prior to waking up,” says Marijke Gordijn at the University of Groningen. A study by Swiss researchers found that dawn simulation left people feeling and performing better all day.

Exposure to light during the daytime may also improve the quality of your sleep. In a different study, Gordijn and her colleagues discovered that people who were exposed to more daylight had less fragmented and deeper sleep that night and reported feeling less sleepy the next morning.

Does that mean blackout blinds interfere with our sleep patterns?

If you have trouble waking up in the mornings, having some light coming in through the windows may help. On the other hand, particularly in summer when it is light before 5am, this night-time light exposure can result in disturbed sleep. “It really is a balance between having the blinds drawn so one gets good sleep, versus getting light as soon as one wakes up,” says Nayantara Santhi, a circadian biologist at the Surrey sleep research centre at the University of Surrey in Guildford. If you do use blackout blinds or curtains, Santhi suggests opening them as soon as you get out of bed. Another option is to combine blackout blinds with a dawn-simulating clock.

Should I try an app that requires me to walk a certain number of steps or solve a puzzle before the alarm stops ringing?

If you really need that kind of a motivation to get out of bed, it suggests you’re suffering from chronic sleep deprivation. Walker says: “Most people – as long as they are sleeping in synchrony with their body rhythms and getting sufficient sleep – should be able to wake up for the most part naturally, and require very little nudging. A normal alarm should do it.”

If you wake up early feeling alert, should you just get up?

It depends how early it is. If it is 3am, you should do your best to get back to sleep because if you don’t, you’re likely to feel tired and irritable later. However, if you wake up at 6am raring to go, then getting up may be the better option – provided you have already had a decent amount of sleep (at least seven hours is recommended for adults). “If we wake naturally from a sleep cycle, we will feel more alert than if we wait for our alarm to disrupt us mid-sleep cycle, which leads us to feel groggy,” says Artis. If you are regularly waking in the middle of the night, though, it might be worth investigating why. “If it’s light, try using blackout blinds and heavier lined curtains to block out light. If it’s noise, use earplugs,” Artis suggests.

Is there an easy way to get back to sleep if you are woken up early?

Whatever you do, try to avoid turning on the lights. Bright light is a stimulant, like caffeine, so it will make it harder for you to fall back to sleep. And it will shift the timing of your circadian clocks, which could interfere with your sleep the next night – as well as making your other body systems work less efficiently. If a child has woken you and they need soothing, “try to do it in the dark or, if needs be, use a very dim light”, says Artis. Avoid looking at a clock. “Watching the sleepless minutes pass makes it harder to fall back to sleep, so turn the clock face so you can’t see it. And if your mind starts racing, try doing some simple relaxation or breathing exercises in bed,” she adds.

Is there a good way to wake up without disturbing a partner?

Sleeping with your partner can help to reduce stress and encourage feelings of security, but there is a downside: studies have suggested that, on average, couples suffer 50% more sleep disturbances if they share a bed. It can be particularly difficult if individuals have markedly different chronotypes, or one partner snores. Besides earplugs, “you could try sleeping in separate rooms, or getting a bigger bed”, says Littlehales. “Separate duvets may also help.”

What is the best way to prepare for a late night or a night shift?

A strategic nap in the afternoon is a good strategy. “By taking a nap, you reduce the hours of continuous wakefulness, which is one of the two main processes that contribute to sleepiness, the other being the circadian rhythm,” says Cassie Hilditch, a fatigue countermeasures researcher at the San Jose State University Research Foundation in California. “Napping in the afternoon is recommended over napping in the evening, as the evening tends to be when we are most alert. In the afternoon, however, you can take advantage of the body’s natural dip in alertness, which makes it easier to nap.”

Caffeine can also be strategically deployed to boost alertness – but only use as needed, to avoid building up a tolerance to it. And it should be avoided towards the end of the night shift, as “it has a long half-life so could interfere with recovery sleep the next day”, Hilditch adds.

Does certain bedding or nightwear guarantee a better start to the morning?

“There are lots of claims about how certain bedding and pyjamas can help sleep but, honestly, I don’t think there is sufficient enough evidence to say if they do or don’t, so I would say it’s down to personal preference,” says Artis. You don’t want to be too hot or too cold, because both can affect the quality of your sleep.

Does the temperature of my house affect my ability to wake up?

It can certainly affect how easy it is to fall asleep in the evening – a room temperature of 16C-17C is considered ideal. “Your body temperature needs to drop to initiate and then maintain sleep,” says Walker. This is why bed socks or a hot-water bottle by your feet can help you to fall asleep: they cause the blood vessels in your skin to open up and shed heat.

The opposite seems to be true for waking up, however. Body temperature reaches its nadir during the early hours of the morning, then rises progressively throughout the day. Several studies suggest that the reduction in sleepiness we experience after we wake up is mirrored by a transfer of heat from the extremities to the core. There is no research into whether stepping on to a cold floor increases the transition to wakefulness, but there is reason to think it might. “If you lower your skin temperature, it may help to wake you up,” says Gordijn.

You don’t want your house to be too cold in the mornings, however, as your body is now trying to raise its temperature. Setting the thermostat to come on shortly before waking may aid this, says Walker; it may also help explain why people crave a warm drink in the morning.

So, a morning coffee is a good idea?

“There is nothing inherently wrong with needing a good cup of coffee in the morning,” says Artis. “But what you have to ask yourself is: why do you need it to feel awake and alert?” If you are only able to function with a shot of coffee inside you, the chances are you’re not sleeping properly, so you should try and examine why that is. “If you need caffeine to function before 10 or 11 o’clock in the morning, you are probably self-medicating a state of sleep deprivation,” Walker adds.

• Linda Geddes is author of Chasing The Sun: The new science of sunlight and how it shapes our bodies and minds

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How to Wake up Immediately in the Morning

Habits are behaviors and patterns that you showcase by default. They enable you to carry out crucial activities like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting prepared for work.

Interestingly, you follow this routine every day without considering them. Your unconscious habits create room for your brain to perform more advanced activities like problem-solving and choosing what book to read.

Everyone has habits, and several of those habits are activated every day. I would classify them into three groups:

  • The first category includes the habits that you hardly notice as they have become a major part of your life- such as brushing teeth or wearing clothes.
  • The second category comprises good habits to have to be more successful-like eating healthily, exercising your body and reading books.
  • The last group consists of those habits that are harmful-like procrastinating, smoking or overeating.

Habits are fundamental to becoming successful in life — or probably ending up a failure. Yet, as significant as habits are, some lack the knowledge of their capabilities.

Habits are default activities that you engage in without giving an afterthought. They are automatic behavioral or mental activities. They help you carry out some actions without exerting too much energy. They simplify your life.

Several people aspire to break bad habits. For instance, some people diet to stop overeating. They exercise to reduce obesity. Habits can hinder or impact your performance and productivity.

That’s why I would share 10 good habits to have to be more successful in life.

1. Begin Your Day with Meditation

I recommend mindful meditation early in the morning. This practice helps you to be in the present moment. Consequently, it enables you to be mindful of challenging situations during the day.

Different stressors may trigger as you go through the day; meditation helps you to remain calm before taking on the challenges.

Personally, it helps me to devise strategies and think about ideas. Meditation is a good habit to have if you want to be connected to what’s significant in your life.


2. Be Grateful for What You Have

Sometimes, you waste time thinking of what’s not enough. You become immersed in those daunting challenges. However, challenges justify the presence of hope. When you have life, you have expectations. You will be free from challenges when you are six feet under. The only strategy you have to stop focusing on your problems is to focus on what you have.

Gratitude is a time-tested pathway to success, health, and happiness. It redirects your focus to what you have from what you lack. Here’s what James Clear does every day,

“I say one thing I’m grateful for each day when I sit down to eat dinner.”

3. Smile

Can you pause and smile before you continue reading this?

Now here is what just happened based on research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science; you set a pace for living a happier life when you smile. A genuine smile or what’s called a Duchenne smile is a good habit to have if you want to find spiritual, emotional and mental peace of mind.

Smiling induces the release of molecules that function towards fighting stress. The physiological state of your body determines the state of your mind. When you slouch or frown, your mind takes cues relating to unhappiness and depression. But, once you adjust yourself by putting up a smile, you begin to feel a new level of excitement and vibrancy.

Can you smile again?

4. Start Your Day with a Healthy Breakfast

Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is a good habit to have and forms a crucial part of your life. Nevertheless, about 31 million Americans skip their breakfast each day.

If you are fed up hearing that breakfast is a crucial component of your day, you are only fighting the truth. If you want to become more successful, you need to ‘break your fast’ with healthy foods every morning.

This habit is not difficult to form if you usually rush out the door every single morning. You can wake up earlier to fix yourself a meal so you don’t break down during the day.


Get inspired by these 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time.

5. Exercise Daily

One of the good habits to have is to exercise your body and muscles every day. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift a weight. You only need to engage in less strenuous activities that oxygenate your blood and inject endorphins in your body.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, classified exercise as a good habit to maximize his already jam-packed schedule. He said,

‘I wake up by 5, meditate for 30 minutes, seven-minute workout times three, make coffee, and check-in.’

He said on Product Hunt that he follows this routine every day as it gives him a steady-state that empowers him to be more productive.

6. Manage Your Time as You Manage Your Finance

Another good habit is the act of managing your time effectively. This goes a long way to impact your achievement.

Time management is what separates the successful from the rest of the world as we all possess the same amount of time. How you leverage time determines your potential to succeed in life.

So how do you manage your time effectively?

Here’s Jack Dorsey’s recommendation in one of the Techonomy events;

“I accomplish effective time management by theming my days and practicing self-discipline. These themes help me handle distractions and interactions. If a request or task does not align with the theme for that day, I don’t do it. This sets a cadence for everyone in the company to deliver and evaluate their progress”.

And this is Dorsey’s weekly theme:

  • Monday – Management
  • Tuesdays – Product
  • Wednesday – Marketing and growth
  • Thursdays – Developers and partnerships
  • Fridays – Culture and recruiting
  • Saturdays – Taking off
  • Sundays – Reflection, feedback, strategy, and preparing for Monday

No wonder he was able to run two companies when others were struggling with one job.

7. Set Daily Goals with Intentions

Everyone has goals. It may relate to business or personal life. The truth is, we’re all tending towards a particular direction or another. Nevertheless, while long-term goals can offer you direction, it’s your daily goals that you establish that help you develop short-term goals that are essential for your success.

Long-term goals may not give you the motivation you need to keep on. But when you implement your short-term milestones daily, you become fired up, and you can overcome the challenges that come with taking on bigger tasks.

Here’s the main truth:Successful people don’t set goals without establishing their intentions. According to Jennifer Cohen of Forbes,

“What helps you to achieve your desired expectation is ensuring intentions accompany your daily goals.”

Be intentional about your daily goals!

8. Seek Inspiration

It is usually difficult to be inspired for a considerable length of time. Sometimes, you become discouraged and feel like giving up on your goals when things are not working out as intended.

A practical approach to stay on top of the situation is to inspire yourself each day. When you wake up in the morning after meditation, watch some motivational videos, and let the story of great leaders inspire you.

Establish what Anthony Robbins called the ‘hour of power.’ Determine how many minutes you spend but make it count. Inspiration is the fuel for achievement because when you can conceive it in your mind, you can accomplish it.


Michal Solowow, an investor and the founder of Mitex, a construction company puts it this way,

“The problems I encounter in everyday life motivates me to find solutions. This is a self-propelling mechanism. becoming a billionaire was never a motivating factor.”

9. Save Steadily, Invest with All Prudence

I can exhaust the good habits to have without talking about saving and investing. Most times, you overlook the significance of saving for the future when you are living in your present moment. According to CNBC, a $1000 emergency will propel several Americans into debt.

However, it is not enough to save, and you must invest your fund and be wise with it. If you pay attention to this now, you will set yourself for a life of success in the future. Ensure you save at least six months in your emergency account so you can be prepared for any future emergency.

10. Budget and Track Your Spendings

Benjamin Franklin warned of taking the precaution of little expenses. He said,

“A small leak sinks a great ship.”

It is easy to discard little expenses, but the truth is they always add up. This happens when you fail to budget.

Budgeting is a good habit to have, which can impact your financial life significantly. The money you spend on extravagant lifestyles can be saved and invested in your future.

The Bottom Line

Endeavor to cultivate these good habits to have to become more successful as you journey through life. The quicker you cultivate them, the faster you achieve your goals.

More About Habits

  • 16 Everyday Habits of Highly Productive People
  • 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away
  • 11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Andrijana Bozic via



^ James Clear: Gratitude Habit
^ APS: The Psychological Study of Smile
^ NPD: 31 Million U.S. Consumers Skip Breakfast Each Day, Reports NPD
^ Product Hunt: Jack Dorsey’s Comment
^ Forbes: The Jack Dorsey Productivity Secret That Enables Him To Run Two Companies At Once
^ Forbes: The Most Successful People Don’t Set Goals — They Do This Instead
^ CNBC: Author who studies self-made billionaires: 9 things that motivate the ultra-rich to succeed
^ CNBC: A $1,000 emergency would push many Americans into debt

What does a friend having their status as Snooze mean?

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more hot questionsThe Duo Benny from Snooze with a chile verde and steak and eggs egg benedict. Photo by Ozzie C. Davis

Although brunch is often thought to be a weekend activity, thankfully with a place like Snooze in the neighborhood, which is open for brunch daily, your breakfast/lunch options just improved dramatically. Snooze, an A.M. Eatery, henceforth simply known as Snooze, opened their first store in Denver, Colorado in 2006. I know what you are thinking, Denver is already famous for its omelet, but Snooze does much more than just omelets. The Heights location, which is the company’s fourth Houston location, opened for business January 24. Snooze as a company strives to source locally and has noteworthy programs of partnering directly with Central American coffee farmers.

Since I was able to research Snooze on a Saturday morning with the other C. Davis’s on a family brunch date, we were able to do it at their most busy hour. Be forewarned, that it is highly likely that you will wait in line, especially on the weekend. From my two hours of dining research, the line starts stacking up at 8:45 a.m. on Saturdays give or take fifteen minutes, so plan accordingly. I even polled a few patrons and the average wait time for the weekend varies from 20 to 40 minutes; some have reported longer wait times extending beyond an hour. Outside the front door there are games while you wait such as cornhole and nice aesthetics and seating so you will be as comfortable as possible.

Without further ado, allow me to take your mind on a delicious journey that begins at the coffee bar, winds to the alcohol bar, and staggers to the breakfast table.

Snooze has all the coffee options that one would expect from a top notch breakfast joint. What I mean by this is that although I know we can get lattes and cappuccinos from other places, at Snooze, I can see the barista make it from the espresso machine and steam the milk themselves.

O.C.D.’s Recommendation – Latte with Cinnamon

Although it may be frowned upon by your employer, Snooze offers a full bar open at 6:30 a.m. Not only do they have local beer options, but also very creative breakfast cocktails that are sure to please all tastes.

O.C.D.’s Recommendation – Boss Hog, which is bacon infused Noble Bourbon and House Bloody Mix

From what I can tell, there are two types of breakfast people, those that prefer hearty and those that prefer sweet. I am entrenched in the hearty camp and my bride is obviously sweet. My kids’ taste buds aren’t sophisticated enough to matter yet so they are in breakfast purgatory. If you are craving pancakes or French toast, this is your place. If you are craving Eggs Benedict, this is also your place.

O.C.D’s Sweet Camp Recommendation – Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes

The Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes are what put Snooze on the map. When you go, you must order them as a main course or as a side. Or both.

O.C.D.’s Hearty Camp Recommendation – Chile Verde Benny

Feel free to do a Benny Duo and try multiple benedict styles. But the Chile Verde is slow cooked pulled pork or barbacoa beef topped with green chili hollandaise, pico and cotija cheese. All breakfast dishes are served with Hash Browns that truly are some of the best I have ever had.

For those among us who aren’t looking for the breakfast scene yet still want to check out Snooze, there are many options of sandwiches, salads as well. I still would recommend a side of pancakes or hash browns with your dish since you only live once.

Downfalls: fluctuating wait times can vary depending on the day. It is best to go early before the early afternoon crowd. Parking is currently a problem for the Heights location, Montrose neighbors also chiming in on this topic. The highly popular spot provides parking, but not enough. Patrons utilize on-street parking within nearing neighborhoods, but not always correctly or respectfully – causing neighbors to get involved and talk with management. If you plan to go, consider carpooling or even a ride share program.

The Reason The Snooze Button Only Gives You 9 Extra Minutes Of Sleep

4FR/Getty Images

Ever wonder why the snooze setting on your alarm only doles out extra sleep in the form of nine minute increments instead of say 10, or even five?

It turns out that the seemingly arbitrary allotment actually pays homage to clockmakers of a bygone era. According to Mental Floss, before digital clocks, engineers were restricted to nine minute snooze periods by the gears in a standard clock. They could either set the snooze for a little more than nine minutes, or a little more than 10 minutes. And because the consensus was that 10 minutes was too long, and could allow people to fall back into a “deep” sleep, clock makers decided on the nine-minute gear.

So how important are those nine-minute tastes of extra sleep in the morning? Most doctors and scientists agree that they do more harm than good.

WATCH: Why You Should Never Sleep Through Takeoff or Landing

“The snooze button is the single worst invention for sleep ever,” Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and sleep expert, told HuffPost. “When you hit it, you don’t actually have the opportunity to get back into good, deep, refreshing sleep. You end up with light, fragmented sleep. So what ends up happening is people feel worse and worse the more snoozes they hit.”

So really, the best amount of snoozing is zero. Sorry!

When your alarm went off this morning, did you leap cheerfully out of bed like some kind of psychopath… or did you do the predictable thing and hit that snooze button?

Love it or hate it — or even love to hate it — the snooze button is as much a part of our modern morning routine as breakfast radio shows and scoffing cereal.

But what’s the story behind this quirk of modern life? And by tapping that fateful nine-more-minutes-of-sleep option, are we really cheating the system — or just ourselves?

A brief history of the alarm clock

Image: Anuj Biyani/Flickr

Before we consider the concept of snoozing, we have to look at the bigger picture. That’s right, it’s time to do a deep dive into the history of the alarm clock.

Way back in the 4th century BC, the Greek philosopher Plato had a water-based alarm clock that would rouse him and his students for dawn lectures.

Skip forward a few hundred years to around 725, when Buddhist monk and polymath Yi Xing created another water-based contraption with gongs that went off at certain times.

Mechanical clocks as we’d recognize them today emerged around the 14th century. Monks get most of the credit for creating them, in order to stick to prayer schedules.

From then on, clock towers in town squares would chime in the mornings to wake people nearby. If you weren’t close enough to hear, you might employ a knocker-upper to bang on your bedroom windows. With the advent of the industrial revolution, some factories would sound a morning whistle to wake workers.

Leap all the way to the 1780s, when American Levi Hutchins is said to be the first man to make a personal alarm clock. It could only be set to 4 a.m. (the time Hutchins considered proper to wake). Despite being a clockmaker by trade, he never commercialized the concept.

The first U.S. patent for an alarm clock that could be set to the owner’s required time was registered in 1876 by Seth E. Thomas, who went on to manufacture such devices through the Seth Thomas Clock Company.

When was the snooze button invented?

Image: Telechron

In the mid-1950s, arguably a time of huge technical advances and massive growth in the household appliance market, the first bedside alarm clock with a snooze button was released.

Rivals Westclox swiftly followed with a “Drowse” button, offering a 5- or 10-minute respite from your alarm, a standard it continued for many years after.

However, it was the “snooze” description and nine-minute duration that won, eventually becoming the industry standard still recognized today.

Few manufacturers have since tried to mess with the format, although the popular Sony range of Dream Machine alarm clocks boasted a large snooze button labelled as a “Dream Bar” for many years.

Why was snooze set to nine minutes?

Image: GollyGforce/flickr

The main theory behind why the snooze period was set to nine minutes is a technical one. The snooze function had to be worked in around the existing gearing of a small alarm clock, and keeping the time period in single digits is said to have presented a more logical technical solution.

The secondary reason, which may be due more to user experience, is that nine minutes is a satisfactory time for a brief rest. If you get past the 10-minute mark, your body may start to fall into a deep sleep, making waking up again more unpleasant.

But why is it still nine minutes?

In a completely programmable digital era, the fact that snooze is set to a default (and in many cases, an unchangeable default) nine minutes is what is described as a “nostalgic artificial standard.”

Apple’s iOS platform and Amazon’s Alexa both default to the nine-minute norm. The more fragmented Android market offers five-minute, 10-minute, and user-defined periods.

Of course, now we don’t hit a physical button on an actual clock. We tap a touchscreen, or simply tell our devices to “snooze.”

Snooze button stats

A recent survey of nearly 20,000 people by Withings found that around 50% admitted to hitting the snooze button at least once in the morning, with a sleepy 15% putting off their alarm three times or more.

Withings found the under-30 age group are the guiltiest for multiple snoozes. A similar British YouGov survey supports this data, suggesting 58% of under-35s use snooze at least once when their alarm goes off.

Is hitting snooze good for you?

There are two major reasons, according to science, that snoozers are losers.

Professor Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist and director of the University of California’s Centre for Human Sleep Science, states that “when we are artificially wrenched from sleep by an alarm clock, a burst of activity from the fight-or-flight branch of the nervous system causes a spike in blood pressure and a shock acceleration in heart rate.”

Repeating this wrenching process by pressing snooze frequently puts your cardiovascular system through such a shock again and again, causing what Walker says is “multiplicative abuse to your heart and nervous system.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, then snoozing can also adversely affect you on a hormonal level by increasing your body’s level of cortisol, a hormone that is released when you’re stressed.

Sleep expert Neil Robinson explains that “by dozing off for those extra minutes, we’re preparing our bodies for another sleep cycle, which is then quickly interrupted — causing us to feel fatigued for the rest of the day that lies ahead.”

A bonus reason to not be tempted to press snooze is for the sake of your relationship. A Sleep Junkie survey of more than 1,000 Americans found that the more people’s partners hit the snooze button, the lower they rated their relationship satisfaction.

Sooo, what’s the alternative?

Image: Phillips

So, we now know we should steer clear of the snooze option, but what are the alternatives?

One increasingly popular option is to ditch an audio-based alarm clock in favor of a light therapy solution. These “sunrise alarm clocks” or “wake-up lights” gradually illuminate in a way that simulates the sun rising, promising a more gradual and natural wake-up process.

Lumie, MOSCHE, and Phillips are just three manufacturers that offer products along these lines. Depending on the model, some also give you a sunset option for a bedtime chill-out session, the ability to wake to different sounds, and options to change the amount of time the light gradually brightens.

More recently, wearables are a viable alternative to a traditional alarm solution. Smartwatches will not only gather useful data about your night’s rest, they’ll also wake you gently in the morning.

Apple Watch owners can take advantage of the device’s haptics by setting the alarm to vibrate for a more sedate way to wake, and manufacturers like Withings and Fitbit offer smartwatches with vibrating alarms to wake you silently.

Finally, if you can’t afford to splash out on a new alarm clock or a smartwatch, you could opt for audio that wakes you in a more civilized manner than the traditional blaring alarm. Birdsong, gentle music, or even a song from your own music collection could be considered a better alternative, especially if the sound increases gradually.

TL;DR: Step away from that snooze button, people…

(Picture: Getty)

Hardly anyone in the world can get up when their alarm first goes off. But have you ever noticed how long you’re given after hitting the snooze button before it goes off again?

Apple alarms and lots of other digital clocks give you nine minutes in between each snooze.

But nine is such a random number. Why not 10?

Alarm clocks are ancient. They’ve been around before Plato – who is said to have had a large water clock with a water organ alarm device.

But it wasn’t until 1956 when the snooze button came into existence. General Electric-Telechron came out with their Model 7H241 ‘Snooze-Alarm’, which had a bar at the top which when pressed, gave you about 10 more minutes of sleep.

The 7H241 was a mechanical snooze. Once you hit the bar, the flywheel attached to the alarm would trigger the sound. But was imprecise and would reset for just under 10 minutes.

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It’s also been suggested that when the idea of a snooze button first came up, reports indicated that anything over 10 minutes was deemed to be too long as it was thought that people would just drop back to sleep.

And now, the good people of Quora have been trying to work out where the imprecision came from and why we still have the nine minute standard today.

One contributor, David J. Slavik, suggests that it’s due to the already standardized gear system for alarm clocks when snooze buttons were invented.

‘A specific timed snooze was not possible as the gearing was affected by the spring tension, size of the clock and since most relied on a separate spring drive, how long the entirely of the alarm function would be energized,’ he writes.

‘It is my belief that when the first hybrid electric clocks arrived, that is when a seeming nine minute standard was adopted.’

He goes on to say that old electric clocks gave a standard of 10 minutes but when the snooze was activated, a number of seconds had already passed and the function had no way to deal with the time lapse. And that’s how the alarms came to be more or less nine minutes.

Andrew Stack, an Apple expert, agrees that the standard might come from the mechanical limitations of older clocks says that used ‘rolling tumblers to show time’.

‘Most of the early designs only allowed setting the snooze until the dial rolled back to 0. Since the dial only had to go from 0-9 for telling time, we ended up with a maximum snooze of nine minutes. Now with digital clocks, it’s just a nostalgic artificial standard.’

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And because not all phone alarms have a nine minute snooze, it seems pretty logical to assume that Apple’s are a throwback to a bygone era.

MORE: This is how people felt about sleeping last night

MORE: The 15 stages of sleep deprivation as experienced by parents

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8 Tips to Make Waking Up to Your Alarm Easier

If there’s one genuine, universally accepted truth, it is this: alarms suck. Unless an alarm is set to remind you that a delicious chocolate cake has finished baking in the oven, they usually serve only to remind you that you have to do something, and that something is more likely than not something you’re not looking forward to doing. And nobody likes to be told what to do. Especially when that thing is “wake up and get out of bed and be an adult and accomplish things, lest your body make an imprint on your mattress and you develop bed sores from lack of movement, you lazy, lazy fool.”

Is there anything that will make the soul-crushing, dream-ruining, sleep-stealing alarm easier to bear? Turns out, there are. And we’re going to break them down for you. Here are a few things that you can do to make hitting the snooze button a little bit harder.

Get Motivated

If you know why you want to wake up, get out of bed, and seize the day, it might be a little big easier to do so. This suggestion doesn’t mean you have to figure out your joie de vivre, by any means. It would be great if we all had awesome jobs with supportive bosses, or a general life situation where we can’t wait to get up and get to work. But that’s not always the reality. Instead, concentrate on the little motivations of getting up, like having extra time to read the newspaper while enjoying a cup of coffee, an early morning workout, or to simply sit and think about your plans for the day. By carving out a little time in the morning to do what you want to do, rather than being in a perpetual rush, you might not hit the snooze quite as hard.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

It seems a little obvious, but the best way to make waking up in the morning easier is by getting enough sleep. For most people, that mans between 7.5 and 8 hours, but each person is different. How much sleep you need depends on a variety of factors, including your genetics. If you know that you need six hours of solid sleep to function, and you have to get up at 7 a.m. for work, don’t fool yourself into thinking you can stay up until 2 a.m., working through your latest Netflix binge. Get to sleep on time and your body will thank you.

Keep a Consistent Schedule

One of the tricky things about being both a Responsible Adult with a 9-to-5 schedule and a Young Adult with a social calendar is merging the two lives. Sure, during the week you’re hitting the books at school or building your career, but you’re young enough that you feel like you should still down to party on the weekends. But switching between getting up at 8 a.m. on the weekdays and rolling out of bed for a noon brunch on the weekends can hurt your sleeping, big time. If you keep a consistent schedule, your body will learn what time to wake up, naturally. A regular schedule can increase the amount of sleep you can get each night, along with improving the quality of sleep you’re getting. And when you’re well rested and your body knows the deal, it’ll make getting up to your alarm that much easier.

Invest In the Sunrise

Getting up in the winter is especially hard. No one likes to wake up before the sun does, right? Try using a sunrise-simulating alarm clock. It will gradually become brighter, like the natural spring or summer sunlight, before waking you up with your chosen sound. The light helps regulate your biological clock and will ease you into the morning, waking you up gradually and helping to increase your mood and energy levels in the morning. This Wake-up Light, while on the more expensive side, will start casting your bedroom with a dim, sunny glow 20-40 minutes before your alarm time.

Be Prepared

Here’s the thing about snoozing: it comes at a cost. Because, although there are things we have to do in the morning (like brushing your teeth), there are also things that we can convince ourselves we can skip in favor of a few more minutes of cozy bed time (like packing a lunch). But if you tend to skip making a salad because you wanted to finish your steamy dream involving Chris Pratt, you’re probably going to regret it around lunch time when you’re buying a $13 salad. Chop up those greens the night before. Pick out your outfit. Pack your work bag. By doing as much as you can before you hit the sheets, you can minimize the amount of time you need in the morning and set that alarm a little bit later. And since you’ll only have enough time to do necessary things, you’ll have to get up.

Use Technology for Your Body’s Benefit

If you’re sick of getting woken up by your alarm in the middle of an epic dream, this one’s for you. Sleep Cycle, which is available in the App Store for $1, monitors your movements during the night and learns your sleep patterns. Before you go to sleep, set your alarm. The app automatically begins watching for the lightest portions of your sleep cycle 30 minutes before your alarm is set to go off, waking you up at the optimal time in your REM cycle. This way, you won’t be disturbed during the deepest portion of your sleep. The extra bonus? You can choose to wake up from either the app’s preset tone, soothing sounds, or your own music that is stored on your phone.

Choose Your Jam

There’s something really, really depressing about waking up to Marimba, or whatever default alarm sound is on your phone. It’s soul-killing, really. Switch it up and download a nice, calming song to wake up to, so you aren’t jerked into reality every day by phone-engineered church bells, or whatever other options there are on your iPhone. But if you do go this route, may we suggest something classical? Because if you choose a pop song, you will end up hating it after about a week. Also, who the hell would want to wake up to something like “All About That Bass” every day? Try Bach’s Suite for Solo Cello No. 4 in G Major.

Move Your Alarm

Hey, if all else fails, put your alarm clock (ok, let’s face it, it’s your phone) across the room so you have to get up to turn it off.

Image: robandstephanielevy /Flickr

The Smartest Way to Use Your Snooze Button


Let’s face it: Waking up is no easy task. But if you’re pressing the snooze button a dozen times or pre-setting six different alarms on your smartphone (sound familiar?), getting out of bed may be even more of a drag.

“The biggest problem with the snooze button is that it creates a lot of inconsistency in your wakeup time,” says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A snooze-happy habit also impacts the quality of your sleep so it can be counter-productive. “Waking up and falling back asleep several times each morning fractures your sleep so there’s not enough time to achieve a deep, restorative rhythm again,” Winter says. He likens repetitive snoozing to patients with sleep apnea who fall asleep, stop breathing, wake up to catch their breath, and fall asleep again. Even if they spend eight hours in bed each night, they never feel well rested. “You’re better off sleeping until the time you need to get up versus waking up early and going back to sleep several times, which may leave you feeling more tired,” Winter says. How else can you improve your snooze?

Set a Routine-Stat!

If you have a hard time getting going in the morning, the ideal fix is to start your day at the same time every single day. That means first figuring out your routine to avoid a 6 a.m. wakeup call, a 7:30 a.m. wakeup time, and then sleeping until 10 a.m. on weekends. This setup doesn’t allow your body the opportunity to adjust to any kind of routine. Of course, sometimes sticking to your routine isn’t always possible-like when you need to catch the first flight out or you’re out late with friends on a Friday night. But you can compensate: “If you have to get up earlier than usual, try to adjust your bedtime so you go to bed earlier and still get the same amount of sleep,” Winter says. After a late night, plan to wake up at your usual time to keep yourself on a set schedule, even if it means catching up on lost zzz’s with a nap later in the day.

The goal is to create a situation where your body begins to anticipate your awakening at a set time, says Winter. As a result, you become one of those annoying people who actually wake up a few minutes before your alarm clock buzzes (yes, it could happen to you).

RELATED: Why Sleep Is the Most Important Thing for a Better Body

Lighten Up

Seamlessly start your day by turning on a light or opening your curtains as soon as your alarm goes off, Winter says. “The light tells your brain to stop making melatonin, a neurotransmitter that has a sedating effect, so you feel more awake.” Starting your day with light every morning means that your body will eventually start to anticipate it-and begin to suppress melatonin around the same time every morning making you more alert faster.

Take Advantage of Tech

When it comes to resetting your internal alarm clock, technology may be on your side. Many devices are designed to help you wake up when you’re in lighter stages of sleep, Winter says. During those lighter stages of sleep, your body is able to move (you may toss and turn, for example) and this means your brain is already starting to wake up on its own. So when your alarm goes off, you’re able to transition to alertness more easily and, possibly, even make it to that 7 a.m. spin class. “When you wake up during deeper stages of sleep, you feel more tired and have a more challenging time getting going since structures of your brain involved in thinking and problem solving are still resting,” Winter says.

Here are four of our top gadget picks that promise to make your mornings more tolerable.

Wear It: Up by Jawbone

The bracelet-like device tracks your movements while you sleep. With the Smart Alarm feature, Up by Jawbone wakes you within 30 minutes of your set time if it picks up physical movements, indicating you’re no longer in deep sleep. (So if you set it for 7 a.m. it wakes you up between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m.)

Set It: Renew SleepClock

It’s an actual alarm clock (though slightly larger than most) that sits on your bedside table and functions very similar to the Jawbone, but you don’t need to wear it. Sensors in the clock detect your motion and trigger the alarm within a preset timeframe whenever it detects that light sleep motion. The Renew also connects with an app that allows you to track information about your snooze patterns.

Sleep with It: Sleep Cycle app

This low maintenance option only requires downloading the app to your smartphone. Place your phone under your sheets and the app will use an accelerometer to monitor your movements, waking you up when you start to stir during a pre-determined timeframe.

Brighten up with It: Philips Wake-Up Light

Using a combination of light and sounds, this scientifically proven device promises a gradual, non-jarring wakeup experience. Thirty minutes before your preset alarm time, the device emits colored light, changing from soft reds and warm oranges to bright yellow (just like a sunrise) to slowly stimulate your body to wake up. Finally, a natural sound (a bird song or seaside waves), completes the wakeup process and leaves you ready to start the day.

  • By Paige Fowler

11 One-Minute Actions to Boost Your Daily Productivity

When your alarm wakes you up in the morning, is it hard for you to get up right away? Do you find yourself hitting the snooze button and going right back to sleep?

That used to be part of my daily awakening ritual too. When my alarm would blare its infernal noise, I’d turn the damned thing off right away. Then under the cloak of that early morning brain fog, I’d slowly ponder whether or not I should actually get up:

It’s nice and warm under the covers. If I get up, it’s going to be cold. That won’t be too pleasant.

Oh, I really should get up now. C’mon legs… move. Go, legs, go. Hmmm… that isn’t how I move my legs, is it? They don’t seem to be listening to me.

I should go to the gym. Yeah. Hmmm… I don’t really feel like working out right now though. I haven’t even had breakfast. Maybe I should have a muffin first. Banana nut. Now that’s a good muffin.

Maybe I’m trying to get myself up too early. I’m still sleepy, aren’t I? Maybe getting up with an alarm is unnatural. Won’t I function better with more sleep?

I don’t have to get up right this minute, do I? Surely I can relax another five minutes or so. The world isn’t going to end if I don’t get up right now.

I’ll bet my wife is toasty warm right now. She told me she hates it when I try to snuggle her at 6am, but so what… she loves me enough to forgive me, right? I know… I’ll start massaging her back and shoulders first. She can’t resist a good massage, even so early in the morning. Then I’ll transition to a head scratching. Yeah, that’ll do it. And then slide right into the spoon position. Won’t that be a pleasant way to start the day?

Two hours later…

Me: What time is it? I don’t even remember the alarm going off. That was a good snuggle though. Oh well, guess I’ll have to skip exercise today.

Wife: Why do you keep setting your alarm if you aren’t going to get up when it goes off?

Me: Oh, did you think that was my wake-up alarm? It’s actually my snuggle alarm.

OK, so I wasn’t really intending for it to be a snuggle alarm. I had intended to get up when it went off, but my foggy brain kept negotiating me right back to sleep.

Fast forward to present day…

My alarm goes off sometime between 4:00 and 5:00am… never later than 5:00am, even on weekends and holidays. I turn off the alarm within a few seconds. My lungs inflate with a deep breath of air, and I stretch my limbs out in all directions for about two seconds. Soon my feet hit the floor, and I find myself getting dressed while my wife snoozes on. I go downstairs to grab a piece of fruit, pop into my home office to catch up on some emails, and then it’s off to the gym at 5:15.

But this time there’s no voice inside my head debating what I should do. It’s not even a positive voice this time — it’s just not there. The whole thing happens on autopilot, even before I feel fully awake mentally. I can’t say it requires any self-discipline to do this every morning because it’s a totally conditioned response. It’s like my conscious mind is just along for the ride while my subconscious controls my body. When my alarm goes off each morning, I respond just like Pavlov’s dogs. It would actually be harder for me not to get up when my alarm goes off.

So how do you go from scenario one to scenario two?

First, let’s consider the way most people tackle this problem — what I consider the wrong way.

The wrong way is to try using your conscious willpower to get yourself out of bed each morning. That might work every once in a while, but let’s face it — you’re not always going to be thinking straight the moment your alarm goes off. You may experience what I call the fog of brain. The decisions you make in that state won’t necessarily be the ones you’d make when you’re fully conscious and alert. You can’t really trust yourself… nor should you.

If you use this approach, you’re likely to fall into a trap. You decide to get up at a certain time in advance, but then you undo that decision when the alarm goes off. At 10pm you decide it would be a good idea to get up at 5am. But at 5am you decide it would be a better idea to get up at 8am. But let’s face it — you know the 10pm decision is the one you really want implemented… if only you could get your 5am self to go along with it.

Now some people, upon encountering this conundrum, will conclude that they simply need more discipline. And that’s actually somewhat true, but not in the way you’d expect. If you want to get up at 5am, you don’t need more discipline at 5am. You don’t need better self-talk. You don’t need two or three alarm clocks scattered around the room. And you don’t need an advanced alarm that includes technology from NASA’s astronaut toilets.

You actually need more discipline when you’re fully awake and conscious: the discipline to know that you can’t trust yourself to make intelligent, conscious decisions the moment you first wake up. You need the discipline to accept that you’re not going to make the right call at 5am. Your 5am coach is no good, so you need to fire him.

What’s the real solution then? The solution is to delegate the problem. Turn the whole thing over to your subconscious mind. Cut your conscious mind out of the loop.

Now how do you do this? The same way you learned any other repeatable skill. You practice until it becomes rote. Eventually your subconscious will take over and run the script on autopilot.

This is going to sound really stupid, but it works. Practice getting up as soon as your alarm goes off. That’s right — practice. But don’t do it in the morning. Do it during the day when you’re wide awake.

Go to your bedroom, and set the room conditions to match your desired wake-up time as best you can. Darken the room, or practice in the evening just after sunset so it’s already dark. If you sleep in pajamas, put on your pajamas. If you brush your teeth before bed, then brush your teeth. If you take off your glasses or contacts when you sleep, then take those off too.

Set your alarm for a few minutes ahead. Lie down in bed just like you would if you were sleeping, and close your eyes. Get into your favorite sleep position. Imagine it’s early in the morning… a few minutes before your desired wake-up time. Pretend you’re actually asleep. Visualize a dream location, or just zone out as best you can.

Now when your alarm goes off, turn it off as fast as you can. Then take a deep breath to fully inflate your lungs, and stretch your limbs out in all directions for a couple seconds… like you’re stretching during a yawn. Then sit up, plant your feet on the floor, and stand up. Smile a big smile. Then proceed to do the very next action you’d like to do upon waking. For me it’s getting dressed.

Now shake yourself off, restore the pre-waking conditions, return to bed, reset your alarm, and repeat. Do this over and over and over until it becomes so automatic that you run through the whole ritual without thinking about it. If you have to subvocalize any of the steps (i.e. if you hear a mental voice coaching you on what to do), you’re not there yet.

Feel free to devote several sessions over a period of days to this practice. Think of it like doing sets and reps at the gym. Do one or two sets per day at different times… and perhaps 3-10 reps each time.

Yes, it will take some time to do this, but that time is nothing compared to how much time you’ll save in the long run. A few hours of practice today can save you hundreds of hours each year.

With enough practice — I can’t give you an accurate estimate of how long it will take because it will be different for everyone — you’ll condition a new physiological response to the sound of your alarm. When your alarm goes off, you’ll get up automatically without even thinking about it. The more you run the pattern, the stronger it will become. Eventually it will be uncomfortable not to get up when your alarm goes off. It will feel like putting on your pants with the opposite leg first.

You can also practice mentally if you’re good at visualizing. Mental practice is faster, but I think it’s best to run through the whole thing physically. There are subtle details you might miss if you only rehearse mentally, and you want your subconscious to capture the real flavor of the experience. So if you do use mental practice, at least do it physically the first few times.

The more you practice your wake-up ritual, the deeper you’ll ingrain this habit into your subconscious. Alarm goes off -> get up immediately. Alarm goes off -> get up immediately. Alarm goes off -> get up immediately.

Once this becomes a daily habit, you won’t have to do anymore daytime practice. This type of habit is self-reinforcing. You only have to go through the conditioning period once. Then you’re basically set for life until you decide to change it. Even if you fall out of the habit for some reason (like an extended vacation in a different time zone), you’ll be able to return to it more easily. Think of it like muscle memory. Once you’ve grooved in the pattern, it will still be there even if you let some weeds grow over it.

Any behavior pattern you experience when your alarm goes off will become self-reinforcing if you repeat it enough times. Chances are that you already have a well-established wake-up ritual, but it may not be the one you want. The more you repeat your existing pattern, the more you condition it into your subconscious. Every time you fail to get up when your alarm goes off, that becomes ever more your default physiological response. If you want to change that behavior, you’ll need to undertake a conscious reconditioning program such as the one I described above.

Beating yourself up about your bad wake-up habits will not work — in fact, you’ll just condition these mental beatings as part of the very routine you’re trying to change. Not only will you not get up when your alarm goes off, but you’ll also automatically beat yourself up about it. How lame is that? Do you really want to keep running that dumb pattern for the rest of your life? That’s exactly what will happen if you don’t condition a more empowering pattern. For good or ill, your habits will make or break you.

Once you establish your desired wake-up ritual, I recommend you stick with it every single day — 7 days a week, 365 days a year. And for the first 30 days, set your alarm for the same time every day. Once the habit is established, then you can vary your wake-up times or occasionally go without the alarm if you want to sleep in, but until then it’s best to keep the pattern very tight. That way it will become your default behavior, and you’ll be able to stray from time to time without serious risk of deconditioning it.

I’m confident that once you establish this habit, you’ll absolutely love it. I consider this to be one of my most productive habits. It saves me hundreds of hours a year, and it keeps paying dividends day after day. I also found this habit extremely valuable during my polyphasic sleep experiment.

Think about it — if you oversleep just 30 minutes a day, that’s 180+ hours a year. And if you’re at 60 minutes a day, that’s 365 hours a year, the equivalent of nine 40-hour weeks. That’s a lot of time! Now I don’t know about you, but I can think of more creative things to do with that time than lying in bed longer than I need to.

I encourage you to give this method a try. I know it seems silly to practice getting out of bed, but hey, what if it works? What if you knew with total certainty that if you set your alarm for a certain time, you would absolutely get up at that time no matter what? There’s no reason you can’t create that for yourself over the next few days. Practice makes permanent.

And if you want some tips on establishing the habit of getting up early, I encourage you to read these two articles:

  • How to Become an Early Riser
  • How to Become an Early Riser – Part II

Make it so. You won’t regret it!

On a typical workday morning, if you’re like most people, you don’t wake up naturally. Instead, the ring of an alarm clock probably jerks you out of sleep. Depending on when you went to bed, what day of the week it is, and how deeply you were sleeping, you may not understand where you are, or why there’s an infernal chiming sound. Then you throw out your arm and hit the snooze button, silencing the noise for at least a few moments. Just another couple of minutes, you think. Then maybe a few minutes more.

It may seem like you’re giving yourself a few extra minutes to collect your thoughts. But what you’re actually doing is making the wake-up process more difficult and drawn out. If you manage to drift off again, you are likely plunging your brain back into the beginning of the sleep cycle, which is the worst point to be woken up—and the harder we feel it is for us to wake up, the worse we think we’ve slept. (Ian Parker wrote about the development of a new drug for insomnia in the magazine last week.)

One of the consequences of waking up suddenly, and too early, is a phenomenon called sleep inertia. First given a name in 1976, sleep inertia refers to that period between waking and being fully awake when you feel groggy. The more abruptly you are awakened, the more severe the sleep inertia. While we may feel that we wake up quickly enough, transitioning easily between sleep mode and awake mode, the process is in reality far more gradual. Our brain-stem arousal systems (the parts of the brain responsible for basic physiological functioning) are activated almost instantly. But our cortical regions, especially the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain involved in decision-making and self-control), take longer to come on board.

In those early waking minutes, our memory, reaction time, ability to perform basic mathematical tasks, and alertness and attention all suffer. Even simple tasks, like finding and turning on the light switch, become far more complicated. As a result, our decisions are neither rational nor optimal. In fact, according to Kenneth Wright, a neuroscientist and chronobiology expert, “Cognition is best several hours prior to habitual sleep time, and worst near habitual wake time.” In the grip of sleep inertia, we may well do something we know we shouldn’t. Whether or not to hit the snooze button is just about the first decision we make. Little wonder that it’s not always the optimal one.

Other research has found that sleep inertia can last two hours or longer. In one study that monitored people for three days in a row, the sleep researchers Charles Czeisler and Megan Jewett and their colleagues at Harvard Medical School found that sleep inertia took anywhere from two to four hours to disappear completely. While the participants said they felt awake after two-thirds of an hour, their cognitive faculties didn’t entirely catch up for several hours. Eating breakfast, showering, or turning on all the lights for maximum morning brightness didn’t mitigate the results. No matter what, our brains take far longer than we might expect to get up to speed.

When we do wake up naturally, as on a relaxed weekend morning, we do so based mainly on two factors: the amount of external light and the setting of our internal alarm clock—our circadian rhythm. The internal clock isn’t perfectly correlated with the external one, and so every day, we use outside time cues, called zeitgebers, to make fine adjustments that mimic the changes in light and dark that take place throughout the year.

The difference between one’s actual, socially mandated wake-up time and one’s natural, biologically optimal wake-up time is something that Till Roenneberg, a professor of chronobiology at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, calls “social jetlag.” It’s a measurement not of sleep duration but of sleep timing: Are we sleeping in the windows of time that are best for our bodies? According to Roenneberg’s most recent estimates, based on a database of more than sixty-five thousand people, approximately a third of the population suffers from extreme social jetlag—an average difference of over two hours between their natural waking time and their socially obligated one. Sixty-nine per cent suffer from a milder form, of at least one hour.

Roenneberg and the psychologist Marc Wittmann have found that the chronic mismatch between biological and social sleep time comes at a high cost: alcohol, cigarette, and caffeine use increase—and each hour of social jetlag correlates with a roughly thirty-three per cent greater chance of obesity. “The practice of going to sleep and waking up at ‘unnatural’ times,” Roenneberg says, “could be the most prevalent high-risk behaviour in modern society.” According to Roenneberg, poor sleep timing stresses our system so much that it is one of the reasons that night-shift workers often suffer higher-than-normal rates of cancer, potentially fatal heart conditions, and other chronic disease, like metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Another study, published earlier this year and focussing on medical-school performance, found that sleep timing, more than length or quality, affected how well students performed in class and on their preclinical board exams. It didn’t really matter how long they had slept or whether they saw themselves as morning people or not; what made a difference was when they actually went to bed—and when they woke up. It’s bad to sleep too little; it’s also bad, and maybe even worse, to wake up when it’s dark.

Fortunately, the effects of sleep inertia and social jetlag seem to be reversible. When Wright asked a group of young adults to embark on a weeklong camping trip, he discovered a striking pattern: before the week was out, the negative sleep patterns that he’d previously observed disappeared. In the days leading up to the trip, he had noted that the subjects’ bodies would begin releasing the sleep hormone melatonin about two hours prior to sleep, around 10:30 P.M. A decrease in the hormone, on the other hand, took place after wake-up, around 8 A.M. After the camping trip, those patterns had changed significantly. Now the melatonin levels increased around sunset—and decreased just after sunrise, an average of fifty minutes before wake-up time. In other words, not only did the time outside, in the absence of artificial light and alarm clocks, make it easier for people to fall asleep, it made it easier for them to wake up: the subjects’ sleep rhythms would start preparing for wake-up just after sunrise, so that by the time they got up, they were far more awake than they would have otherwise been. The sleep inertia was largely gone.

Wright concluded that much of our early morning grogginess is a result of displaced melatonin—of the fact that, under current social-jetlag conditions, the hormone typically dissipates two hours after waking, as opposed to while we’re still asleep. If we could just synchronize our sleep more closely with natural light patterns, it would become far easier to wake up. It wouldn’t be unprecedented. In the early nineteenth century, the United States had a hundred and forty-four separate time zones. Cities set their own local time, typically so that noon would correspond to the moment the sun reached its apex in the sky; when it was noon in Manhattan, it was five till in Philadelphia. But on November 18, 1883, the country settled on four standard time zones; railroads and interstate commerce had made the prior arrangement impractical. By 1884, the entire globe would be divided into twenty-four time zones. Reverting to hyperlocal time zones might seem like it could lead to a terrible loss of productivity. But who knows what could happen if people started work without a two-hour lag, during which their cognitive abilities are only shadows of their full selves?

Theodore Roethke had the right idea when he wrote his famous line “I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.” We do wake to a sleep of sorts: a state of not-quite-alertness, more akin to a sleepwalker’s unconscious autopilot than the vigilance and care we’d most like to associate with our own thinking. And taking our waking slow, without the jar of an alarm and with the rhythms of light and biology, may be our best defense against the thoughtlessness of a sleep-addled brain, a way to insure that, when we do wake fully, we are making the most of what our minds have to offer.

Maria Konnikova is the author of “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.”

Photograph: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty.

Why Do I Wake Up Right Before My Alarm Goes Off?

Because your body’s internal clock is just as good, if not better, than the contraption shrieking atop your nightstand.

At the center of your brain, a clump of nerves—called the suprachiasmatic nucleus—oversees your body’s clock: the circadian rhythm. It determines when you feel sleepy and when you feel bright-eyed. It controls your blood pressure, your body temperature, and your sense of time. It turns your body into a finely tuned machine.

That machine happens to love predictability. Your body is most efficient when there’s a routine to follow. So if you hit the hay the same time each night and awake the same time each morning, your body locks that behavior in. And that’s where things get sciency.

Beat the clock!

Your sleep-wake cycle is regulated by a protein called PER. The protein level rises and falls each day, peaking in the evening and plummeting at night. When PER levels are low, your blood pressure drops, heart rate slows, and thinking becomes foggier. You get sleepy.

If you follow a diligent sleep routine—waking up the same time every day—your body learns to increase your PER levels in time for your alarm. About an hour before you’re supposed to wake up, PER levels rise (along with your body temperature and blood pressure). To prepare for the stress of waking, your body releases a cocktail of stress hormones, like cortisol. Gradually, your sleep becomes lighter and lighter.

And that’s why you wake up before your alarm. Your body hates your alarm clock. It’s jarring. It’s stressful. And it ruins all that hard work. It defeats the purpose of gradually waking up. So, to avoid being interrupted, your body does something amazing: It starts increasing PER and stress hormones earlier in the night. Your body gets a head start so the waking process isn’t cut short. It’s so precise that your eyelids open minutes—maybe even seconds—before the alarm goes off.

You snooze, you lose

There’s evidence you can will yourself to wake on time, too. Sleep scientists at Germany’s University of Lubeck asked 15 volunteers to sleep in their lab for three nights. One night, the group was told they’d be woken at 6 a.m., while on other nights the group was told they’d be woken at 9 a.m..

But the researchers lied—they woke the volunteers at 6 a.m anyway. And the results were startling. The days when sleepers were told they’d wake up early, their stress hormones increased at 4:30 a.m., as if they were anticipating an early morning. When the sleepers were told they’d wake up at 9 a.m., their stress hormones didn’t increase—and they woke up groggier. “Our bodies, in other words, note the time we hope to begin our day and gradually prepare us for consciousness,” writes Jeff Howe at Psychology Today.

Incidentally, if you don’t wake before your alarm, you probably aren’t getting enough sleep—or you aren’t sleeping on a consistent schedule. Waking up at different times on weekdays and weekends can quickly throw your clock out of whack. Without any consistency, your body may not know when to get up. So when your alarm starts screaming, you feel dazed and grumpy.

Enter the snooze button. Since your body’s gone through all that work to rise gradually, a quick nap sends your internal clock spinning in the wrong direction. All the hormones that help you fall asleep meddle with the hormones that help you wake up. Your body gets confused. You feel groggier. And with each slap of the snooze, it gets worse. The snooze, it seems, is the worst way to start your day.

How to wake up to an alarm easier?

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