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A controversial clock with the option to snooze or not.

The Snooze-Button Controversy

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To Snooze Or Not To Snooze? (Science Has Answers)

This is Dr. Jennifer Kanaan. She’s a medical doctor with a focus on pulmonary critical care, sleep disorders, and sleep medicine.

What does she want to tell us?

She wants us to be wary of the many news articles that have jumped on a certain recent sleep study, such as:

For the curious, here is the paper itself, by Dr. Tina Sundelin et al. It’s actually two studies, by the way, but one paper:

Is snoozing losing? Why intermittent morning alarms are used and how they affect sleep, cognition, cortisol, and mood

The authors of this study concluded:

❝There were no clear effects of snoozing on the cortisol awakening response, morning sleepiness, mood, or overnight sleep architecture.

A brief snooze period may thus help alleviate sleep inertia, without substantially disturbing sleep, for late chronotypes and those with morning drowsiness.❞

Notably, people tend to snooze because an alarm clock will, if not “smart” about it, wake us up mid sleep-cycle more often than not, and that will produce a short “sleep hangover”. By snoozing, we are basically re-rolling the dice on being woken up between sleep cycles, and thus feeling more refreshed.

What’s Dr. Kanaan’s counterpoint?

Dr. Kanaan says:

❝If you’re coming in and out of sleep for 30 minutes, after the alarm goes off the first time, you’re costing yourself 30 minutes of uninterrupted, quality, restorative sleep. This study doesn’t change that fact.❞

She advises that rather than snoozing, we should prioritize getting good sleep in the first place, and once we do wake up, mid sleep-cycle or not, get sunlight. That way, our brain will start promptly scrubbing melatonin and producing the appropriate wakefulness hormones instead. That means serotonin, and also a spike of cortisol.

Remember: cortisol is only bad when it’s chronically elevated. It’s fine, and even beneficial, to have a short spike of cortisol. We make it for a reason!

If you’d like to hear more from Dr. Kanaan, you might like this interview with her at the University of Connecticut:

You Snooze, You (Still) Lose: health sleep disorders specialist warns of misleading takeaway from study suggesting snooze button benefits

Want the best of both worlds?

A great option to avoid getting woken in the middle of a sleep cycle, and also not needing to hit snooze, is a sunrise alarm clock. Specifics of these devices vary, but for example, the kind this writer has starts gently glowing an hour before the set alarm time,and gradually gets brighter and lighter over the course of the hour.

We don’t sell them, but here’s an example sunrise alarm clock on Amazon, for your convenience 😎

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