Hitting "snooze" may do more than irritate your partner. It could also be bad for your health.
According to Dr. Victoria Sharma, medical director of the Sharp Grossmont Hospital Sleep Disorders Center, the snooze button interrupts the natural waking process for both your body and mind, and replaces needed Z's with a series of poor-quality sleep periods.
To start, frequent morning wakes break up the restful portion of your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM sleep happens at intervals throughout the night and causes you to dream. While there are different theories about the purpose of REM sleep, many experts believe your body uses this time to process what you've done and learned during the day.
“More REM sleep takes place in the early morning, shortly before awakening,” says Dr. Sharma. "Having your alarm go off too early cuts short this important body process and deprives you of quality sleep. Allowing yourself more continuous sleep in the morning can make a big difference.”
In the morning, your body warms itself in preparation for waking and facing the day. The room feels warmer, the blankets feel cozier and jumping out of bed feels like a daunting task. Hitting snooze tricks your body into thinking it's going back to sleep — throwing off its natural warming. Waking once, and easing out of bed, can put less stress on your body and help you feel less groggy throughout the day.
But beyond the fog, there are larger health risks. Most people need between seven and eight hours of sleep, depending on the person. Without it, your mind loses focus and your body is more susceptible to bigger issues.
"Good sleep is as important as eating well and exercising," says Dr. Sharma. "It impacts your body more than people realize. Aside from becoming less attentive and increasing the chance of accidents, insufficient sleep can put you at a higher risk for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease."
Breaking the habit
There are many ways to tackle morning wake ups, but your best bet is giving yourself a set schedule. Your body has a natural inclination to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, so a routine can help your body fall asleep quicker and wake up more easily on its own.
While it may be hard to commit to the same schedule on the weekend, your mind and body will thank you for it. And without the frequent alarm beeps, your partner will, too.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Sharma about sleep and health for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.