When your morning alarm goes off, do you jump right up or hit the snooze button a few times? Contrary to popular belief, the groggiest among us — those habitual snoozers — might be reaping some unexpected benefits.
New research suggests that snoozing is not, in fact, losing. And using the snooze button in the morning might actually help some people wake up.
Is hitting the snooze button bad for you?
For some people, hitting the snooze button and getting an extra several minutes of sleep can help with getting out of the deeper stage of sleep and into a lighter stage, which can make it easier to wake up, explained Dr. Carol Ash, a board-certified sleep specialist at RWJ Barnabas Health, in an Oct. 18 segment on TODAY. (Ash was not involved with the research.)
The study, published Oct. 17 in the Journal of Sleep Research, came to this finding by performing two experiments to examine the effects of repeated snoozing, also called intermittent alarms.
The first experiment surveyed 1,732 people about their sleeping habits and found that pressing the snooze button is quite common. Nearly 70% of the respondents reported that they set multiple alarms or use the snooze function at least sometimes.
On average, people spent 22 minutes snoozing their alarms and often fell back asleep in between the alarms. Those who reported snoozing their alarms tended to be younger than non-snoozers. The most commonly cited reason for snoozing an alarm was that the participant felt too tired to wake up.
In the second experiment, researchers had 31 participants spend three nights in a lab to monitor their sleep and the effects of snoozing on their memory, processing speed and executive function. That included solving arithmetic problems and memorizing lists of words, for instance. Researchers also kept tabs on participants' mood and measured cortisol levels in participants' saliva, which can indicate their level of alertness upon waking.
“When snoozing, as opposed to when having to wake up right away, I would say that they came to alertness quicker, even though there was no difference in how sleepy or alert they felt subjectively,” the study’s lead author, Tina Sundelin, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Stockholm University in Sweden, told NBC News.
Ash added that snoozing could be especially beneficial for night owls, who are more likely to be in a deeper stage of sleep when it's time to wake up than people who to go bed early. "What the study showed is when you hit the snooze button, you actually wake up and have ... better thinking," Ash said.
How long should you hit snooze for?
Snoozing for 30 minutes or less led to no major differences in cognitive performance or any of the other measures compared with when participants weren't allowed to snooze.
“The findings indicate that there is no reason to stop snoozing in the morning if you enjoy it, at least not for snooze times around 30 minutes," Tina Sundelin, Ph.D., one of the study authors and a sleep researcher at Stockholm University, said in a press release. "In fact, it may even help those with morning drowsiness to be slightly more awake once they get up."
It's true that different people have different sleep personalities. And, for those who find it harder to get out of bed when their alarm goes off, the new study suggests hitting snooze a few times isn't likely to do major damage to your day or your sleeping habits.
When daylight saving time ends in November, our sleep schedules will adjust again soon. And if that means you're hitting snooze a few times, science might just be on your side.