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Is the snooze button bad for you?

By Erinn Bucklan, upwave.com
February 7, 2014 -- Updated 1749 GMT (0149 HKT)
Relying on your snooze button may be doing you more harm than good, experts say.
Relying on your snooze button may be doing you more harm than good, experts say.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hitting the snooze button may make you less alert and productive
  • It's a phenomenon known as "sleep inertia"
  • Try going to bed earlier to combat chronic sleep deprivation

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(upwave.com) -- Beep, beep, beep. Nothing pushes my buttons quite like that irritating sound coming from my bedside alarm clock in the morning. Luckily, my ticker comes with a snooze feature. Just one tap and I buy myself another nine minutes of slumber.

The rumor: Slapping the snooze button actually makes you more sleepy

I've always assumed that those extra snooze-induced minutes of rest are good for me. But recently I've heard they're not helpful -- in fact, it's said hitting the snooze button can actually make me more tired throughout the day. Is it true?

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The verdict: If you hit snooze, you may lose (productivity, that is)

When you doze off after your alarm wakes you in the morning, you're actually setting yourself up to feel less alert and productive later in the day.

"When you hit the snooze button repeatedly, you're doing two negative things to yourself," says Robert S. Rosenberg, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott Valley and Flagstaff, Arizona.

"First, you're fragmenting what little extra sleep you're getting so it is of poor quality. Second, you're starting to put yourself through a new sleep cycle that you aren't giving yourself enough time to finish. This can result in persistent grogginess throughout the day."

Scientists have identified the culprit behind this stupor that's brought on by a too-brief slumber: sleep inertia. The National Sleep Foundation defines this state as "the feeling of grogginess and disorientation that can come from awakening from a deep sleep."

It slows down your decision-making abilities, impairs your memory and hurts your general performance once you do get out of bed. Even worse, coffee and a cold shower can't combat it: It can take up to an hour and a half to shake off sleep-inertia grogginess.

According to Rosenberg, that's because the snooze button messes with your brain hormones. "You're throwing off your circadian cycle," he says. Disrupting the circadian cycle can impair your ability to feel awake during the day and sleepy at night.

upwave: 14 tips to help you sleep better

So, is banishing the snooze button enough to make you feel your best during the day? Nope, says Rosenberg. The urge to sleep a bit longer is really a symptom of a larger problem.

"Most people are doing this because they're not getting enough sleep on a daily basis," he says. This chronic sleep deprivation (which is defined as six or fewer hours of sleep a night) is called "social jetlag." Over time, some sufferers have been shown to have a higher body-mass index and an elevated risk of diabetes.

If hitting the snooze button isn't the key to better sleep, what is? Rosenberg has a few suggestions to help you stay alert and refreshed:

Turn in earlier, consistently. Rosenberg suggests going to bed a half-hour earlier than you have been. Over time, he says, this will reduce your overall sleep deprivation. And if it doesn't? Turn in an hour earlier.

upwave: How dangerous is sleep deprivation, really?

Banish computers from the boudoir. Devices like smartphones, digital tablets and laptops emit blue light that hurts your sleep. "The exposure to blue-light-emitting devices results in a delay in melatonin production," says Rosenberg. So give yourself a tech curfew: Turn off those electronics 90 minutes before lights out to help promote sounder sleep.

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Make mornings a scavenger hunt. If you're still having trouble getting up, hide the alarm from your groggy early-morning self. "Put that alarm clock where you can't reach it," Rosenberg advises. That search to put an end to the annoying beeping sound is sure to foil your desire to sneak in more Z's. It may seem silly, but it's doctor-approved.

This article was originally published on upwave.com.

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