This September was a special month for me. It was the first month in many years when I got up right away when my first alarm went off for 27 days. While waking up to the first alarm may not be a big deal for some, I’m almost certain that many of you can relate to the “snooze addiction.”
Prior to this September, every morning my alarm clock would go off and I would hit the snooze button. One more alarm ten minutes later. Then another one. Eventually I would manage to get out of bed 20, 30 or even an hour later than I originally planned. I would find myself still feeling tired and rushing around trying to get ready as quickly as possible since I would be running late.
I’ve tried giving up this habit of hitting the snooze button for many years using various strategies such as changing my alarm clock, putting the alarm clock in the bathroom, using multiple alarm clocks, etc. I even tried an app that sends money to charity every time when I hit the snooze button.
I logically understood that hitting the snooze button was not the best way to start my day, but I did it anyway. I wanted to be able to get up at an intended time but could not get myself out of bed and kept on sleeping instead. It was very tempting to hit the snooze alarm when I did not get enough sleep and felt groggy. However, I felt even more tired when I finally got up.
Does it sound familiar?
According to the American Sleep Association, there are five stages of sleep during the sleep cycle. Based on the characteristics of the brain and body during sleep, scientists categorized stages 1, 2, 3 and 4 as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and Stage 5 as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
Stage 1 of the sleep cycle is the lightest stage of sleep. The brain frequency is slightly slower than during wake time. There is muscle tone present in the skeletal muscles. Breathing occurs at a regular rate. Eyes are closed, but it's easy to wake up.
During Stage 2, a person is in light sleep and less likely to be awakened. Stage 2 sleep is characterized by slower heart rate and lower body temperature. Your body is getting ready for deep sleep.
Stages 3 and 4
Stages 3 and 4 are progressively deeper stages of sleep. These stages of sleep are also called “slow wave sleep” (SWS). During SWS, it’s often difficult to wake up as body becomes less responsive to outside stimuli. During this stage, the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function, and builds up energy for the next day.
Stage 5 is a REM phase of a sleep cycle, which is associated with dreaming. It is characterized by low muscle tone, but your brain becomes more active. The heart rate often increases, and breathing is more irregular and shallow.
On an average night, you move through the sleep stages sequentially and go through four to five cycles of sleep. The first cycle takes about 90 minutes and cycles after that average between 100 to 120 minutes.
If you are not getting enough sleep, you are more likely to fall back into the beginning of a new sleep cycle after hitting the snooze button. However, you don’t have time to complete a full sleep cycle. When your next alarm jolts you awake in the start or the middle of a new sleep cycle, you’ll likely feel more tired and sleepy. So those extra minutes of sleep do not help much. In fact, interrupted sleep can negatively impact your mood, memory and attention.
Hitting a snooze button also takes its toll on your self-esteem. Not only it depletes your willpower and creates additional stress as you are rushing through your morning, it also creates the feeling that you have no control, no self-disciple and can’t keep a promise you made to yourself. It’s definitely not a great way to start your day.
I’ve realized that numerous strategies to stop hitting the snooze button that I tried over many years did not work because they all required me to use my willpower and self-discipline to get myself out of bed each morning. While that worked on some mornings, I could not do it consistently.
On September 1st, 2019, I made a 100% commitment that getting up when my first alarm goes off will become my daily habit.
Daily habits do not depend on motivation, will-power or mood. They are just repeated actions that later become automatic and do not require any thinking or decision-making (for example, the habit of brushing your teeth every morning).
The only way to develop a habit is by doing an action repeatedly until it becomes a usual part of your daily routine. The book Atomic Habits by James Clear provides a lot of useful information on how to create good habits and break bad habits.
There are different opinions on how long it takes to build a new habit, ranging from 21 days to 90 days. As I committed to my new habit for 30 days, I got rid of the voice inside my head debating whether I have another 10-20 minutes to stay in bed. Now getting up right away when my first alarm goes off happens on autopilot, even before I feel fully awake mentally.
If you want to stop hitting the snooze button, you don’t need more motivation or self-discipline. You just need to make a commitment to practice it until it becomes part of your daily routine. If you get off track, use it as a learning experience. Figure out what caused you to stumble, address the issue and try again. There is something very empowering and satisfactory in starting each morning with getting up when you say you will get up.