As an editor at Health, I’ve spent a fair amount of time writing about the secret behind the perfect night’s sleep. No matter which sleep experts I talk to, there is one thing none ever suggest: the snooze button. In fact, when I talked to Michael J. Breus, PhD, a sleep psychologist and the author of the new book The Power of When, he described the snooze button as “the worst invention ever.”
Breus warned me that relying on the snooze button can cause memory problems and bring on daytime drowsiness. Still, I was fully addicted to tapping the button each morning. But he was right—my daytime fatigue was becoming an issue. Plus, one snooze alarm became two, then three, and my shortened morning routine was becoming stressful as a result.
I thought the only way to kick my snooze button habit would be to knock it out cold turkey. So one Sunday night, I started by placing my phone across the room where I would physically have to get up out of bed to turn off the ringer. The hope was that once I was out of the sheets, it would be easier for me to stay up for the day. And to my delight, the first few days were a breeze. I woke up, no problem.
It didn't last long. The cooler air of autumn snuck in, and it suddenly wasn’t as bright out at 7 a.m. I found myself falling back into my old habits. In my groggy state, I truly believed I would only function if I could lie in bed for an extra 10 minutes.
I went back to Breus for advice. He promised me that no one really needs the snooze button, and that it was more likely that I was going against my chronotype. Breus has a quiz that helped me figure out that I’m a wolf, meaning that I prefer to stay up late and sleep in. He explained that wolves have such a hard time getting up in the morning that he generally recommends that they set two alarms, each 20 minutes apart. “That 20 minute interval won’t get you in to REM,” he explained, “but you can get into a more reasonable amount of sleep where it makes it easier to wake up.”
At this point, I was willing to try anything, but was skeptical that those 20 minutes (compared to the 5 to 7 that I usually get from the snooze button) would really make a different. Boy was I wrong. I felt myself having an easier time getting up by the time the second alarm went off and there were even times that I woke up just a few minutes before, which Breus says is the best indicator that you are getting enough sleep. On top of that, knowing that I still had 20 minutes of sleep when my first alarm went off gave me the same sort of satisfaction that came with hitting the snooze button. I also learned that once I am up and out of bed, I feel generally alert and awake, compared to before when my brain fog lingered until my first (sometimes second) cup of coffee.
So although I don't love my 7 a.m. wake-up call any more than I did before, I do find myself enjoying my new morning routine. I have more time to get ready, which keeps my stress levels in check, and then more energy throughout the day. See ya, snooze button—for good.