To Increase Your Brain Function, Quit Snoozing

The snooze button is the devil. Let’s just get that out of the way. It’s slippery; it’s sneaky; it’s subtle and nasty. But, we seem to think of it as this “little helper.” We have come to think of it as a little favor the clock makers cooked up to help us be better. But, it’s the opposite. It’s a demon intended to kill your day. Maybe that’s a bit harsh. But, here’s what I mean.

You set your alarm to go off at 6am (or 4:14 if you are like me) and your body gets startled at the sudden onset of melodic bells or harsh beeping. You jump up and blindly feel for the button. You know where it is because you’ve become accustomed to clicking it. It’s now your friend and you can find it in the dark. You press it with partial relief and partial angst. Ahhh, now you have 9 more minutes. No you don’t. You’ve actually just LOST 9 minutes but somehow the “little helper” has bamboozled you into thinking you are gaining something.

Some people defend the “little helper” by saying it helps them wake up more slowly. It helps them warm up to the day.

Let‘s unmask this. The “little helper” is actually:

1.Causing you to start your day with a weakened decision. You made the decision to get up at a certain time. But every time you click that button, you are essentially saying your first decision didn’t really count. You are going with the back-up plan. Your first decision wasn’t a solid one and you are giving in to the safety plan. It may be a stretch to take this from clock to character. But, every time you practice a weakened decision, it transfers to other areas of your life. Is the snooze button the only time you weaken and give in to the back-up plan? Start with strength. Jump up and seize the day when you said you were going to seize it. Be on fire. Time is not in control. You are!

2. Teaching you the art of procrastination. Procrastination is simply the art of delaying the inevitable. You’re going to wake up at some point. Why try to push the time? Besides, once you hit that button, it takes your body time to return to the full state of rest, then it subconsciously anticipates the ringing of the next interval. So, in a 9 minute snooze cycle, you might get a 4 minute period of rest. When repeated with continual “snoozing”, this is simply interrupted rest or what is known as sleep fragmentation. Some sleep fragmentation is unintentional, such as when a person has a medical issue or is under undue stress. But, the snooze button version of this is self-inflicted.

Studies at the Sleep Disorder and Research center show decreased psychomotor and cognitive performance when sleep is continually interrupted, even in small intervals such as your “little helper.”

3. Interrupting your focus. We think of focus as something we do when we are awake. But, in The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington notes that sleep “helps us keep the world in perspective. Sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are. And in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away.” The time just before awakening is usually referred to as REM sleep. This is the state where it is thought most of our dreaming takes place. Dreaming is one way of organizing and making sense of the world around you and what is to come.

4. Robbing you of time. Either way you look at it, the “little helper” is a thief. It’s either causing you to fall behind by getting in a few more useless, unrestful winks or it’s interrupting the extra time you could have had if you had just made the strong decision to wake up at a certain time.

I have yet to find a study showing any real benefits to hitting the snooze button. The closest came when David Dinges, chief of the Sleep and Chronobiology division at the University of Pennsylvania, defended the “little helper” as not being a great villain. His noted benefit was use of the snooze button to gently awaken the body instead of falling back into a deep sleep. However, even he ended his “defense” by stating, “You’d be better off getting that extra 10 to 20 minutes of real sleep rather than doing that dance with the alarm clock.”

Getting enough rest is critical. It’s better to go to bed a bit earlier in order to get enough sleep than it is to succumb to the “little helper” and lower your daily brain function in the process.

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