With stress and tension at an all-time high, our ability to get a good night’s sleep takes a hit. As a result, many of us tap snooze to grab a few more minutes. However, hitting that button on your alarm clock (or commanding Alexa to do it) teases us with the promise of more rest. But what actually occurs: Our natural sleep cycle is disrupted, setting us up to be tired, cranky, and less focused for the rest of the day.
“You’re starting yourself on a new sleep cycle that you won’t have time to complete,” explains Adam Perlman, meQ’s Chief Medical Officer, of hitting snooze. “You’re fragmenting what little extra sleep you’re getting so it’s not good quality, ultimately causing more harm than good.”
Are you ready to kick the snooze button habit? Here are 6 tips to help:
1. Retrain Your Internal Clock
Set your alarm for the actual time you need to wake up and then, actually, get up when it goes off, every day at the same time. “Our internal clock is highly trainable and our bodies respond best to regular patterns,” says Perlman. “Eventually, this consistency will encourage you to feel naturally sleepy at the end of your day, so you’ll want to go to bed when your body needs to.” Consider programming your alarm or smartphone with something you’ll be happier to wake up to—maybe a favorite song or sounds.
2. Move Your Alarm Across the Room
It’s simple, but physically getting out of bed to turn off the alarm sets you up for success better than if your clock or smartphone is within reach.
3. Let the Sunshine In
Humans have evolved over millions of years to rise with the sun and the subsequent increase in natural daylight. Keeping the curtains open or shades up in your bedroom let’s natural light in the morning, which signals to our body that it’s time to get up. Studies show that conditioning the body to wake up with light can help you be more alert and physically productive for the rest of your day.
If it’s still dark at your wakeup time, which may happen during the winter months, turn on the lights in your home. Or consider a sunrise alarm clock, which produces a gradually increasing amount of light, reaching optimal brightness at your set wakeup time.
4. Reward Yourself
Let’s face it: extricating yourself from a cozy, comfy bed is challenging. Having something to look forward to when you get up makes it easier to resist the snooze button. If you have an automatic coffee maker, set it to begin brewing 10 minutes before your alarm goes off, so a fresh hot cup of morning joe will be there waiting for you. Or maybe you reward yourself with a delicious smoothie. Even try calling a friend or family member who lives in a later time zone. “Connecting an immediate reward to a short-term goal will help make it stick,” says Perlman.
5. Wake Up Hungry
Hunger is a great natural alarm clock. So have your last meal at least two hours before you go to sleep and see if it helps. Besides, eating a big meal or sugary or fatty foods late at night can cause indigestion and stir up acid reflux, which means more restless sleep, and a harder time waking up.
6. Try a Sleep Tracker
We sleep in cycles of about 90 to 110 minutes and go through five stages of sleep ranging from light to deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement). To feel rested in the morning, we need to spend enough time in REM, which happens at the tail end of a sleep cycle and wake up at the end of a cycle or in a light sleep stage, so we’re not interrupting a deep sleep phase.
Timing your wakeup has shown to be as important to feeling more rested in the morning as the number of hours you spend asleep. That’s where a sleep tracker comes in. You’ll increase your chances of waking up more refreshed by timing your alarm to correspond with a lighter stage of sleep.
If you’ve been regularly hitting snooze, it may feel like a tough habit to break. “So set a small goal to start,” says Perlman. For example, tell yourself you’ll move your alarm clock out of reach and actually get up when it goes off for just one week. When you struggle to get out of bed, remind yourself that it’s only for seven days. “When it comes to making positive changes or breaking bad habits,” he says, “the key is to think big…but start small.”