There are few things in life that feel better than getting a good night’s sleep. But since you’re reading this article, chances are you rarely feel that way. For by the time you step out of your bed, you’ve already wrestled with yourself to get up for minutes or even hours. And the devilish device helping you do so is of course: the snooze button. Here is how to stop hitting snooze…
I’ve never been a snooze person, but many of my friends are. And they are far from happy with the situation. So I got to work to figure out why they are addicted to their snooze button and made up a system on how to end their eternal tiredness once and for all. So here it is. Your ticket to become a snoozebuster.
Why Hitting Snooze Is Not Ideal
Sleep is supposed to recharge our energy reservoirs, and it does so by cycling back and forth between 2 different kinds of sleep. First, early on and at various times during the night, you’re in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in which your muscles and your brain are actively discharging electrical currents. The function of REM sleep is to calm down your body and get you over into a relaxing non-REM (NREM) or deep sleep.
But REM sleep doesn’t only transition you into deep sleep during the night – it also prepares you for waking up in the morning. Yet, if the alarm clock rings and you hit snooze, your REM will have been disrupted and you’ll likely not be able to go back into REM sleep. So you’re losing out on valuable REM time and if you do this on a daily basis this can affect your reaction time, your memory and your emotional states.
Why You’re Still Doing It
I don’t know you, but I know for a fact that you weren’t born with an alarm clock next to your bed. So think about the time when you first started hitting the snooze button on a regular basis. And ask yourself what made you do so.
Perhaps staying in the warm bed for 10 more minutes seemed more desirable than exposing yourself to a dark and cold room. Perhaps it felt nice to not think about the dreaded meeting later today for just now. Many things are more desirable than getting out of bed in the morning.
And what happened to your physiology in that process is this: in the beginning, hitting snooze was a conscious decision. But as the days went by and you repeated that decision and the ensuing action again and again, it became less conscious and more of a thing that ran almost on autopilot.
In other words, hitting the snooze button had become a habit. (It’s like brushing your teeth. I bet you rarely think about whether to do that or not either. You just go to the darn sink and stick that brush into your mouth.)
The good news is: neither brushing your teeth nor hitting the snooze button are programmed into our genes. Just like you “practiced” hitting snooze (which eventually led to it becoming automatic) you can practice and automate getting up even before your alarm has beeped twice.
How To Become A Snoozebuster
So I’ve already introduced the crucial concept here: practice. Ending your habit of hitting snooze means nothing else than practicing to get up every day for a number of days – until this becomes automatic.
And the difficult thing is: practice requires willpower. You need to push yourself to perform an action you’re not used to. And you need to do so day after day after day.
But there’s also an upside: if you manage to do that for a few dozen days, you’ll have habitualized getting up. And the amount of willpower you need to do it will decrease and eventually almost vanish. Just like you need no willpower to brush your teeth any more.
So the crucial question is: how do you get yourself to get out of bed for those first few dozen days – instead of following your habitualized impulse to hit the snooze button?
The obvious answer is the one NIKE would give: just do it! And if that works for you: awesome!
But sometimes “just” doing it doesn’t work. Sometimes your willpower “just” doesn’t suffice to get you out of bed on a really cold day with many annoying customer calls waiting for you.
In that case, you need some extra (i.e. extrinsic) motivation, and here’s where you can get it:
Snoozebusting Aid #1: Motivation
The fact that you’re reading this article attests to the fact that somewhere inside you simmers at least some motivation to enter the esteemed ranks of the snoozebusters.
Now you need to amplify that motivation. And you can do that in a simple way that has shaped human behavior for thousands of years: You set up a reward for performing the desired action – or a “punishment” for not doing so. (Yes, that’s textbook operant conditioning. And it works darn well!)
And before I say something about why I prefer reward over punishment techniques when seeking motivation, I’m going to show you a few examples of how they could look in real life.
Motivation through avoiding further discomfort (punishment):
– The sleep industry hasn’t been ignorant of the snooze problem, so they came up with all kinds of crazy alarm clocks. These work so well because they are extremely annoying and won’t shut up until you’ve finally climbed out of bed. Clocky, for instance, is a particularly nasty representative of that breed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=20&v=DvNGnkY_S6I
– Put your alarm clock inside a locked box and store the key in another room
– Give your partner a sum of money that would hurt you if you didn’t get it back ($100+). Tell her she can keep it if you ever hit the snooze button again in the morning.
This is just a taste of what’s feasible here. You can of course come up with your own techniques. The mechanism behind it is always the same though: your perceived discomfort or loss should be higher than your gain when not getting up.
At the same time, this mechanism is also why I don’t prefer this negative approach to motivation. For when you get up to avoid discomfort on daily basis, getting up itself will become associated with these negative attributes.
So when habitualized through punishment techniques, getting up wouldn’t be something you positively know you can do, but something you dread. That said, motivating yourself through discomfort does work and might be necessary in cases of especially deeply ingrained snooze habits.
So, what I prefer is…
Motivation Through Rewards
The mechanism here is: what you gain when getting up should be more valuable, comfortable, enjoyable to you than what you gain by staying in a warm bed. So before you go to bed in the evening, decide on what you’re going to reward yourself with immediately after getting out of bed. (The quicker the reward follows the desired action, the better the motivating / conditioning effect.) For example, you could:
– Listen to your favorite music
– Read a book that fascinates you
– Enjoy your favorite espresso. (This study found that smelling coffee wakes up the brain particularly well.)
– Exercise – for a health boost I especially recommend the Wim Hof breathing exercise
– Browse your favorite websites / social media
Again, you can get creative, but most importantly it’s up to you to choose, since you know best what you enjoy most.
Snoozebusting Aid #2: When & How
Now that you’ve chosen how to motivate you in order to get out of bed without the snooze button every day, you’re theoretically good to go. But there’s one more set of things that can make life easier for you.
I’m talking about the circumstances under which you sleep and which will determine the quality of your slumber. For if you’ve gotten a good night’s sleep and if your batteries have been recharged in the process, it will be easier for you to get up than without these preconditions. And in order to sleep better I recommend the following:
– Avoid caffeine, nicotine and foods that are hard on your stomach before going to bed
– Establish fixed times for going to bed and getting up. Here comes a habit again. The more often you go to bed and get up at the same time, the less conscious effort (and opportunity for interference) it will take you.
– Provide a pleasant sleeping environment. Make sure your bedroom has a comfortable temperature, you’re not exposed to excessive unnatural light or noise (TV, cell phone etc.), and ensure that you’re sleeping on a good mattress.
– Use smart technology to wake you up at the optimal time. Sleep tracking apps monitor your movements during sleep in order to estimate your sleep phases. And they wake you up when you’re sleeping most lightly. This will greatly reduce the amount of willpower you need to get out of bed. I recommend Sleep Cycle for iPhone or Sleep as Android.
That’s it. You’re good to go.
And I promise: if you jump into it and stick with it, you will be a snoozebuster very soon!
If you have another snoozebusting tip, technique or hack – let us know by leaving a comment below!
Credit to the feature image photographer: https://unsplash.com/@stillsbyhernan