March 24, 2019

Is Hitting Snooze (Once, Er, Maybe Three Times) Bad for Your Health?

A sleep expert weighs in

Man hitting snooze button on his alarm clock while in bed

You stayed up a wee bit too late (again) binge watching Game of Thrones. Or perhaps your 18-month-old was crying at 2 a.m. — and again at 3:45 a.m. Whatever the reason, there are times when hitting that snooze button is awfully tempting!

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But according to Reena Mehra, MD, MS, Director of Sleep Disorders Research, all of that snoozing isn’t helping our bodies get the restorative sleep that we need.

“Much of the latter part of our sleep cycle is comprised of REM sleep, or dream sleep, which is a restorative sleep state,” Dr. Mehra explains. “And so, if you’re hitting the snooze button, then you’re disrupting that REM sleep.”

Why disrupting REM sleep isn’t good

We all have different arousal thresholds during different stages of sleep, and if we’re disrupting late stage REM sleep, it can cause a ‘fight or flight’ response – which increases our blood pressure and heartbeat, Dr. Mehra says.

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Plus, she notes, the short period of sleep that we get in between hitting the snooze button – five, 10 minutes at a time – isn’t restorative sleep.

While, some people can get conditioned to hitting the snooze and actually get used to it, Dr. Mehra says if a person feels the need hit snooze again and again, it could be an indicator that they’re either not getting enough sleep or they might have an underlying sleep disorder.

What you should do instead of snoozing

If you find yourself hitting the snooze every day, Dr. Mehra says it’s time to take a look at your sleep habits.

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Make sure you’re getting seven to eight hours of sufficient sleep and good quality sleep. And if that’s happening — and someone still feels the need to hit that snooze button — then they should probably see their physician to make sure there’s no undiagnosed sleep disorder that could be contributing to their need to hit the snooze.

The best way to de-condition yourself from hitting snooze every morning? Make sleep a priority. Dr. Mehra says many people mistakenly think they can operate on less than seven hours of sleep per night. But research shows that over time, insufficient sleep contributes to weight gain, cardiovascular risks and even death.

“We have so much going on. In this day and age with technology, and phones and TVs in the bedroom contributing to light at night, combined with work and family obligations, the time we spend asleep often gets short-changed,” she says. “Prioritizing seven to eight hours of sleep for our overall well-being and health is very important, so that we can optimize functioning during the day and have healthy relationships with our loved ones.”

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