If you’re not getting enough sleep, simply getting out of bed can be the hardest part of the morning. It’s nice and warm under the covers, your pillow is soft, and the room is dark and cozy. Then, suddenly… you hear the “BEEP BEEP BEEP!” of your alarm clock.
And, it’s time to get up and start your day….Sigh. Your inner child whines, “Five more minutes?” and you hit the snooze and drift back to sleep. It’s so decadent, right? That time between waking up and actually getting up. But did you know that your friend, the snooze button, can actually be doing you more harm than good?
Now, I know what you’re thinking- “How can more sleep be bad? It’s just a few more minutes…” But those few minutes can actually risk undoing all the wonderful things about a good night’s sleep. Believe it or not, our body’s rhythms are so delicate that we could be paying for those precious, five-extra-minutes for the rest of the day.
Understanding Your Sleep Cycle
We all know how important good sleep is for our bodies, but you may not know how important a good sleep cycle is. A sleep cycle generally lasts about 90 minutes and covers 5 main stages of sleep. Moving from Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep (NREM) in the first 4 stages into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep in stage 5, the stages of sleep continue with REM duration increasing throughout the night.
NREM ushers your body from Stage 1 (a very light sleep) all the way to Stage 4 (a much deeper sleep in which you experience very limited muscle activity). In Stage 5, REM, you are in the deepest level of sleep in which most dreaming occurs. Your muscles are essentially paralyzed, but your brain activity and heart rate both increase. It’s this stage where your brain is able to recover from the constant activity of the day.
We typically experience about 4-6 sleep cycles per night, moving naturally through the five stages of sleep. Interruptions to your sleep cycle cause the body to have to start all over again, and this can impede your ability to get to those final stages of deep, restorative sleep.
Sleep cycles are also why bedtime routines are so important. You essentially train your body to start the sleep cycle around the same time every night and then wake you up in a more natural way around the same time every morning. In a perfect world you wouldn’t need an alarm to jar you out of sleep, your body would awaken on its own- refreshed and ready to start the day!
Sleep Inertia and Sleep Drunkenness
Hitting snooze is disruptive to your sleep cycle…especially if you require an alarm to rise and shine. It’s a sign that you’re body isn’t ready to awaken yet. “Sleep drunkenness”- otherwise known as sleep inertia- is that can’t-quite-wake-up, groggy-foggy feeling that comes from being woken up mid sleep cycle. A study out of Tel Aviv University argues that the sleep inertia caused from interrupted sleep can result in a feeling that mimics sleep deprivation of only 3-4 hours!
So, if your alarm jolts you awake at 6:00 am and you snooze until 6:15 am, this could send your brain back through the sleep stages. When you do inevitably have to wake up, you will be interrupting your sleep cycle a second time. Now, were those extra 15 minutes worth the hour and a half it typically takes for feelings of sleep drunkenness to fade away? We don’t think so…
Your sleep cycle is sacred! It makes sure your brain and body wake up ready for the challenges of a new day. Give yourself enough time to have that good night’s sleep without needing to snooze in the morning…those last few minutes may just throw off your entire day.