Monday, blogging, snooze, alarm, napping, S.A.Young, insomnia

Luckily not the button one pushes after entering the nuclear launch codes. I mean the other important button. To paraphrase the bard: “to snooze or not to snooze, that is the question”*. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I’m currently having a love/hate relationship with the snooze button on my alarm clock.

I don’t sleep well on Sunday nights, or a lot of nights really, but Sundays in particular. I know I’m not alone in this, not even in my close circle of friends and family.  My mind races with everything the new work week will bring including my expectations, the expectations of others, and all that I will need to do just to get to the other side of the next five day stretch.  We all have stuff.

My point is, no matter how early I go to bed, how many holistic rituals I perform, or whether or not I take a ZzzQuil or two, I get a couple of hours tops before I’m awake again. I do what I’ve read I’m supposed to do. I get up and go into another room. I don’t turn on the television, the computer or even a light, just as instructed. But what’s there to do in a dark room when you can’t sleep? Think! Maybe it’s just me, but this does not help.

Monday, blogging, snooze, alarm, napping, S.A.Young, insomnia

Of course, I will inevitably fall back to sleep approximately twenty minutes before my alarm is set to go off.  This is where the button comes in.

Most days I consider the snooze button to be one of those little conveniences that make modern living wonderful. It’s like an electronic “mom” who gives you five more minutes before trying to get your butt out of bed for the third time.

But am I really doing myself any favors by grabbing those extra minutes of shut-eye or am I doing more harm than good?   Suddenly news supporting the latter argument is popping up all over the place.

Monday, blogging, snooze, alarm, napping, S.A.Young, insomnia

Apparently all of this button pushing is scrambling my brain chemistry and definitely not helping me to get any real rest. Seriously? I’m in bed, lying down, eyes closed. How can any of this be wrong?

It’s the chemicals man. (I typed that in Tommy Chong’s voice.) When you initially fall asleep, your brain releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with well-being, into your bloodstream.  It’s your body’s own personal lullaby as you drift off to sleep.

Here’s the rub. On a normal night, after roughly 7-9 hours of sleep, your body knows when you’ve had enough, and pumps out a new chemical – dopamine – to prepare you to wake up. If you hit the snooze button and go back to sleep, even for five minutes, you re-start the process and your body becomes a chemical Cuisinart.  You might release some feel-good chemicals in the short term, but like a lot of things that feel good, there is a downside. When you eventually do haul yourself out of bed, the resulting chemical confusion can leave you feeling slightly punch-drunk.

Monday, blogging, snooze, alarm, napping, S.A.Young, insomnia

What’s worse, if you set the alarm earlier than you need to actually get up just so you can feel justified hitting that snooze button for half an hour, you’re cutting into your REM sleep, the hour or two before you wake when you dream a lot and process recent memories. Interrupting the process can mess with your mental function during the day. It’s called “sleepiness-related daytime impairment”. Fuzzy head anyone?

Experts say that we’re addicted to our snooze button because we’re not getting enough sleep and the best thing to do is go to bed earlier so that we can wake up before our alarm. Ha! If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. On the mornings that I hit the snooze the most, it’s because I haven’t been able to sleep, not that I haven’t been trying.

So if snoozing isn’t the answer, what’s Plan B?  It turns out that I really did learn everything I need to know in kindergarten**. The next best thing to getting enough sleep at night is napping during the day. One 20 minute cat nap will do you more good than all of those five to ten minutes between hits on the snooze bar combined.

Monday, blogging, snooze, alarm, napping, S.A.Young, insomnia

image via Google


Which means that all of those companies trying to lure millennials with “relaxation pods” are apparently on to something.

We’ve got an empty office here in my department. If they’re not going to fill it with a live body, I’m going to ask the powers-that-be if we can turn it into a daytime rejuvenation unit, with dim lighting, bunks and pillows, maybe some piped in whale song or white noise. Wonder if they’d spring for a massage chair?

Monday, blogging, snooze, alarm, napping, S.A.Young, insomnia


*Wm. Shakespeare, Hamlet’s soliloquey, Hamlet, Act 3, scene 1
**a reference to All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum