How to stop hitting the snooze button: the ultimate guide

Reaching for the snooze button feels so good, but the truth is, it wrecks your sleep quality. Here are our tips to help you finally break your snooze habit.

In 1956, the General Electric Company  unveiled the the Telechron 7H241. Billed as ‘the world’s most humane alarm clock’, it heralded the dawn of the snooze button. It promised a new, gentler way to wake up, guaranteeing a few extra minutes of precious sleep with just a simple click.

Telechron 7H241 - the world's first snooze alarm clock
Telechron 7H241 – the world’s first snooze alarm clock

Six decades later however, that luxury has turned into an unhealthy addiction for millions of people round the world. But fear not, Sleep Junkies is here to help. So read on and find out exactly how you can quit your snoozy habits.

Why snoozing is bad for your health

In a perfect world we wouldn’t need alarm clocks. Every morning, we’d wake up at exactly the right time feeling refreshed and ready to leap out of bed. Sadly this is a fantasy for most people. We’re slaves to our alarm clocks and to a lesser extent, the snooze button.

Snoozing is a guilty pleasure and deep down we know it’s not good for us. At best it’s little more than a psychological crutch.

But did you know that the snooze button can have more serious consequences, messing with your biological clock and ultimately making you feel more tired?

Robbing you of REM sleep

There are two main types of sleep, REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-REM). During NREM (also referred to as deep, or slow-wave sleep) your body and brain relax. REM, on the other hand is very much an active state.

During REM your muscles twitch constantly and your brain exhibits high levels of electrical activity.

At night we constantly move between these two states. Slow wave sleep occurs more frequently at the start of the night whilst REM sleep increases as morning approaches. In order to feel sleep’s full restorative benefits you need to get your full quota of both REM and NREM.

If you set your alarm much earlier than you intend to get up so that you can keep pressing snooze, you could be missing out on vital REM in the morning. Because once your alarm goes off, you’ve already disrupted your sleep cycle, and you’re unlikely to fall back into REM again.

The bottom line is, the snooze button can seriously affect your health. Disturbing your sleep in this way can impair your mental functioning throughout the day, affecting memory, reaction time and even your emotional state.

How to break the snooze habit

The most common cause for snooze addiction is a straightforward lack of sleep. Waking at an inappropriate time causes sleep inertia – the groggy, transitional state before you’re fully awake.

Sleep inertia normally lasts for just a few minutes but can sometimes go on for hours. It is worst if you wake up during slow-wave sleep, where studies have shown the effects can be worse than being legally drunk.

To minimize sleep inertia, first try to examine your own circadian rhythms ie your natural body clock. Are you a lark or an owl? Do you need 8 hours sleep or can you survive on 6 .5 hours?

Next  take a look at your current sleep habits. Are you practicing good sleep hygiene? Rather than trying to fight your natural instincts, try to establish a routine that works for you.

Professor Kevin Morgan a scientist from Loughborough University’s sleep research unit recommends focussing on setting a regular wake up time, rather than a fixed bedtime .

“If your sleep is vulnerable you would be much better advised to set your body clock to the same time every morning by always getting up at the same time. This tells your biological system when it needs to start and it works better than always going to bed at the same time in the evening.”

If you think there may have a deeper underlying issue to your sleep problems, you should consult your doctor or a sleep professional. However, if you just need a little extra  to break your snooze habit, we’ve got a comprehensive list of tips, from quick solutions you can try in the short term to some serious behaviour modifying rituals guaranteed to get you to kick the snooze button habit.

1) A sunrise alarm clock

Humans are not designed to wake suddenly. We’ve evolved over millions of years to gradually rise in synchrony with the dawn, and the subsequent increase in natural daylight.

Human circadian clocks are programmed to respond to the early dawn light – triggering the release of cortisol, a wake up hormone, whilst stemming the flow of the ‘darkness hormone’ melatonin.

Sleeping under the stars clearly isn’t an option, but fortunately, there’s an effective alternative – a sunrise alarm clock. Also known as a wake-up light, or dawn simulator, these devices mimic the dawn sunlight.

Instead of blaring out the traffic report at 9:30, a sunrise alarm clock will slowly produce a gradually increasing light which reaches full brightness at your desired wake up time. Most wake up lights also allow you to play an alarm tone as well just in case the light wasn’t enough to rouse you.

Research has show that sunrise alarms have are effective at waking you, and preventing the effects of sleep inertia.

2) Put your alarm clock out of reach

This is an old favourite, but works a treat. Put your alarm on the other side of the room so when it goes off you’re forced to get out of bed. There are lots of variations on this theme, some people use two different alarm clocks, although I think this is only slightly better than pressing snooze.

3) Give yourself a reward

Our brains respond incredibly well to incentives, so if you give yourself some kind of enjoyable mental activity in the morning, you’re less likely to want to drift off to sleep afterwards. Try to think of a reward that’s mentally stimulating and enjoyable.

Watching TV doesn’t count as it’s more of a passive activity. As soon as your alarm goes, switch on the lights and engage your brain for 5 or 10 minutes. When you’re done your mind should be sufficiently occupied to stop you falling asleep again. Here are a few suggested activities if you’re stuck for ideas:

  • read your favourite book
  • play a musical instrument
  • check your email/Twitter/Facebook
  • play a computer game

4) Wake up and smell the coffee

We all know how caffeine acts as a powerful stimulant to your brain and nervous system. But did you know the effect can be triggered just by smelling a cup of coffee? Scientists tested the theory on rats and found that a sniff of coffee activates several genes in the brain in ways that reduce the effect of sleep deprivation.

You can test the theory by getting a coffee machine with a timer; place it within sniffing distance and set it to start brewing 10 minutes before your alarm goes off. Not only will the aroma wake gently wake you up, you’ll have a steaming cup of your favourite brew ready as soon as you get out of bed.

5) Increase the temperature

In the hour before waking, your body starts to gear up for action. Sleep becomes lighter, ‘wake’ hormones are released and body temperature starts to rise. But if your alarm is out of sync with your body clock you might be attempting to wake up when your core body temperature isn’t quite up to the task.

Gradually increasing the temperature of your bed, or your bedroom can help to give you the subtle nudge to ease you out of bed. Smart temperature-based gadgets like Moona and Eight can do this for you, but equally, you can set the central heating to start warming the bedroom half an hour before your alarm, or get an electric heater with a simple timer.

6) Clocky, the alarm that forces you out of bed

The Clocky is a unique alarm clock that forces you to get out of bed whether you like it or not. Looking and sounding like a distant cousin of R2D2 on wheels, Clocky is an ideal gadget to help you quit your snooze habit.

When the alarm goes off, the little creature jumps off your bedside table and starts running around the room making cute but annoying noisesalong the way. Clocky runs on carpet and hard floors, and sets off in a random direction every time.

7) A really loud alarm clock

Heavy sleepers sometimes need more than a little persuasion to get out of bed. If that’s sound like you, the only soution may be a really loud alarm clock. The king of loud alarms is the aptly named Sonic Boom SBB500ss Sonic Bomb.  Packing a 113db extra loud alarm, this one could have a go at waking the dead.

If the noise isn’t enough, the Sonic Bomb comes with a 12 volt vibrating pad that you place under your mattress to shake you out of bed.

You can also try shops that cater for the hard of hearing. Hearing Direct has a whole range of flashing, vibrating and very loud alarm clocks guaranteed to get you going in the morning.

8) A smart alarm to wake you at just the right time

In the last few years, a new breed of  alarm clocks have emerged, promising to wake you at the optimum time to prevent you from feeling groggy in the morning. These ‘smart’ alarms use sleep tracking technology, effectively creating a mini sleep lab in the comfort of your own bedroom.

A sleep monitor with a smart-alarm incorporates sensors which measure your body signals including movement, breathing, heart-rate and even your brainwaves . Algorithms then use these measurements to calculate your sleep stages and adjusts your wake up time accordingly.

A cheap and easy way to try sleep tracking is by using one of the numerous iPhone/Android sleep tracking apps like Sleep Cycle or Sleep as Android.

Long term fixes

9) Go to bed earlier

If you’re constantly struggling to get up in the morning, before you try anything else, just use common sense and set yourself an earlier bedtime.  Whether or not early means 10pm or 1pm, it’s down to you, but you need to be strict with yourself.  Get into the habit of unwinding at night, substitute reading for TV once in a while. If you can’t get yourself in a sleepy mood try enforcing some basic rules to give yourself a fighting chance of success.

  • set a cut-off time for working late
  • limit your exposure to sleep-zapping blue light at night
  • avoid late night stimulants such as alcohol, nicotine, big meals
  • take a warm shower or bath two hours before bedtime

10) Train your brain

This technique comes from smart guy Steve Pavlina who amongst other achievements has written the most comprehensive online case study of polyphasic sleep. It’s a way to trick your mind into waking immediately, by turning the whole ‘getting out of bed thing’ over to your subconscious mind.

Any psychologist will tell you that when setting goals, determination and force of will rarely succeeds on it’s own. Steve Pavlina’s method works by embedding new behaviour into your brain by practise, practise and more practise.

The twist here is to practise not when you’re in bed, but in the day time, when you’re fully awake. This may sound like a slightly crazy idea, but eventually your subconscious will take over and run the script on autopilot. Want to give it a try? Here’s a step by step how-to:

  1.  Try to recreate your bedtime routine as accurately as possible. ie brush your teeth, put on your pajamas, draw your blinds or curtains ( practice in the evening if possible when it’s already dark)
  2. Set your alarm for 5 minutes later, then lie down in bed and close your eyes.
  3. Try to relax as much as possible, imagine you’re asleep in the early hours of the morning.
  4. When your alarm goes off, turn it off immediately, then take a deep breath, stretch out all your limbs and jump out of bed.
  5. Do the next action you normally do on waking, ie get dressed, open the curtains, put on the radio, walk out of the bedroom etc
  6. Shake yourself off, return to step 1, rinse and repeat for the next few days until the whole ritual becomes automatic.
You can think of this like doing reps at the gym. Try 2 sets a day with 3-5 reps at a time. As Pavlina says, “Practice makes permanent.” Here’s a link to the full article here

If all else fails, get one of these.

10 thoughts on “How to stop hitting the snooze button: the ultimate guide”

  1. I was thinking of a pressure plate under the mattress that connects to the alarm. When the alarm goes off the pressure plate detects whether or not you have gotten out of the bed. If you do not get out after 15 seconds from when the alarm went off, it then initiates a steadily increasing heat pad that gets so hot it burns you out of bed. Other versions include a shaker that shakes you out and a wetter that pours water onto your head…. all needed for my wife.

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