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Why You Shouldn't Hit Your Snooze Alarm

It’s the most tempting thing in the world – your alarm clock goes off to wake you up in the morning. You reach for the snooze button to get an extra few minutes of sleep.

It’s something you’ve likely done often as the daily ritual of getting up just a bit too early, staying up just a little too late and working just a few too many hours catches up to you.

“If I know I can sleep in, then I’ll probably hit it between 12 and 14 times,” laughs Annamaria. “If I know I have to get up, then it’s five or six.”

But is it working?

“No, I’m just fooling myself,” admits Brett.

That simple act of getting back to sleep may be costing you mentally.

The last hour or so before you wake up is when you should be in your longest period of REM sleep – the time of night when you dream the most.

It may be why so many people appear “dozy” during the day – that restful last period was constantly interrupted. The result: a long hangover effect the more you hit that time delay switch.

The acronym REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement, and that’s exactly what happens.

During this stage the eyes move rapidly in different directions – and major voluntary muscle groups are completely still.  Yet people without sleep disorders breathe faster and their heart rate increases during this time.

In fact, REM is sometimes called paradoxical sleep.

“The idea of the snooze button itself disrupting sleep itself is possible,” posits Dr Christopher Li, a sleep medicine specialist.

During sleep, the body cycles between non-REM and REM sleep. You start out in NERM sleep ( find out more here), then REM sleep occurs 90 minutes later.

“A lot of REM sleep occurs in the early hours of the morning, and so you may be actually sort of interrupting REM sleep,” Dr Li adds, choosing his words carefully.
 
The first period of REM typically lasts 10 minutes, with each recurring REM stage lengthening, and the final one may last up to an hour – making that snooze button a bad idea indeed.

The percentage of REM sleep is highest during infancy and early childhood. During adolescence and young adulthood, the percentage of REM sleep declines. Infants can spend up to 50% of their sleep in the REM stage of sleep, whereas adults spend only about 20% in REM.

The good doctor’s advice?

“It comes to setting the alarm at a more realistic time for yourself,” Li urges.

Want to find out more about the rolling alarm clock featured in the video of this story? Click here to find out what they are and how to buy one.  


Your best bet to stop the effects of too little sleep is to make sure you get the most from your down time. Here are some ways to do it:

  • Establish regular bed and wake times.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol near bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine in coffee, tea, colas after 4pm
  • Don’t use your bedroom for doing work or problem-solving. Use it only for sleep or sex.
  • Take a hot bath before bed.
  • Keep your bedroom cool.
  • Place the bedroom clock out of reach and facing away. Looking at the clock can aggravate sleep problems.
  • Have a light snack before bedtime: Foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan, such as milk and turkey, can help you sleep. But avoid heavy or fatty meals, which can cause acid reflux, too close to lights out.
  • If you frequently wake up to urinate during the night, cut back on fluids near bedtime.
  • If your partner snores, sleep in a separate bedroom or get a good pair of earplugs.
  • If lying in bed and unable to sleep, get up and go back when you feel sleepier. Don’t lie there stewing.
  • Seek medical help if you can’t sleep for long periods of time.

Tips source: The Canadian Press

How much sleep do you need?

For many of us the answer is ‘as much as I can get!’

But there’s a specified amount that researchers indicate is ideal and it changes as you age. Here’s a look:

Babies/Children
The smaller the child, the more sleep they need. Newborns generally should get about 16 hours a day. Infants from 6 months to 3 years need two hours less than that, but many get all they need by taking frequent naps during the day.

Teens
They require at least nine hours a night, although with school, homework, the Internet, dates, social activities and sports, few do. Scientists know sleep is essential to help guide the hormonal changes common to growing bodies.

Adults
Everyone is different but 7-8 hours is about right for most of us. Some can get by on around 5 hours, but sleeping too much or too little isn’t good for you. Some studies indicate getting less than six hours or more than nine can leave you prone to a host of health complications.

Pregnant Women
Expectant mothers may need more than those who aren’t in the family way. And besides, you can be sure you won’t be catching up on your sleep once junior arrives.

Online references:

How to stop hitting the snooze alarm

Why you’re so tired after getting that extra shuteye

Understanding sleep