You're mid-dream when the alarm starts blaring on your bedside table. You slowly open your eyes and see two options: stop or snooze. A few stolen minutes in your warm bed sounds heavenly—and hitting snooze couldn't hurt, right? But then the alarm goes off again—and again—and you realize you're running late before the day has even officially started. Sound familiar?
If it does, you're not alone. A study from Sleep Junkie found that 54 percent of people feel "dreadful" upon hearing their alarm. And most people end up hitting snooze at least once. But while snoozing might be gratifying in the moment, it can actually do more harm than good.
Snoozing is usually a sign that you're not getting enough sleep, says Kelly Baron, PhD, an assistant professor in the sleep program at Rush University Medical Center. Most of us should be aiming for seven to eight hours of quality Zzs (not 6.5 hours plus 35 minutes struggling with the snooze button).
But the reality is that snooze sleep isn't quality sleep, says Laura Vanderkam, author of several time management and productivity books. "Most snooze buttons are set for a short period of time, so it's not enough sleep to really rejuvenate you," she says. That means you aren't getting good sleep, but you also aren't getting out of bed to start your day, either: "It's like the worst of both worlds," she says.
If giving up the habit seems impossible, don't lose hope just yet. Both Baron and Vanderkam say it can be broken with a few small changes to your sleep routine. Start by identifying the root of the problem, and then try one (or a combo) of these four solutions.
If You Snooze Because You're Just. So. Exhausted. In the Morning…
Try finding an earlier bedtime
Sorry but there's no way around trying to find more hours between the sheets. Start at night. While an earlier bedtime is not the most glamourous idea, Vanderkam suggests trying to shift your outlook. "Sometimes it helps to tell ourselves that going to bed early is how adults sleep in," she says. "It makes it feel a little more special and luxurious instead of making you feel like a party-pooper by going to bed at 10 p.m."
If the problem is that your schedule feels too crammed for an early bedtime, Vanderkam has some suggestions. Audit your evening routine for pockets of lost time: it's easy to get sucked into social media or television at night (plus that screen time will inevitably make it harder to fall asleep).
Both experts suggest setting an actual alarm for the time you need to start getting ready for bed to hold you accountable. Creating a bedtime routine (no, it's not just for kids!) can help your body fall asleep faster. Vanderkam recommends setting an alarm for 15-30 minutes before the time you want to be asleep. Use that time to get ready for bed so that you can fall asleep on time, she says. One of the best things you can do before bed? Reading, says Vanderkam.
…Or move back your wake time
It's time to get honest with yourself: Maybe you set your alarm for 6:30 every morning because you have a fantasy that you're going to go to the gym, get to work early, or cook breakfast. But all that's happening is a prolonged date with the snooze button. "Set your alarm for the time you actually intend to wake up and get out of bed and then enjoy your sleep up until that point rather than chopping up that last half hour or hour of sleep," Vanderkam says.
This can be easier said than done because there's a stigma attached to waking up later. "People think it's irresponsible to set their alarms 10 minutes before they need to be out of the door or at the exact time they need to leave for work, so they don't do it," she says.
Not sure how to get started? Baron recommends gradually working your way there. "Set one less alarm, and set them for five minutes earlier each day or two until you get to your desired wake up time," she says.
If You're Anxious About Sleeping Through Your Alarm…
Create obstacles for yourself
Baron and Vanderkam say the best thing a snooze-lover can do is make it harder to press snooze. "Get a real alarm clock instead of using a smartphone because the smartphone makes it really easy to hit snooze," Vanderkam says. "Another thing you can do is set a real alarm clock and plug it in across the room. It's a lot easier to stay up if you're already out of your bed and on the other side of the room."
If setting multiple alarms gives you peace of mind, Baron suggests limiting yourself. "2 alarms, 5 minutes apart," she says. "No more!" She also recommends putting the alarm clock across the room.
For those who need a little extra help getting the day started, there are also apps for your phone that require you to do certain tasks before the alarm shuts off. Consider apps like Alarmy or Alarm Clock for Heavy Sleepers, which require you to take photos, solve equations, or scan a barcode in order to disable the alarm.
If You Just Can't Bring Yourself to Get Out of Bed In The Morning…
Create something worth waking up for
OK, so you're getting plenty of sleep. You've heard your alarm. But your bed is comfortable and it feels like a treat to have 8 more minutes of shuteye before a long day. And then that bleeds into 16. Then 24. If this is becoming a daily habit that has you feeling foggy and disoriented after bad snooze sleep, consider repurposing that time for another treat. Give yourself something you look forward to waking up to. Plan it ahead of time and have it waiting for you so it's more tempting than pressing snooze—think about it before you go to sleep. Maybe it's a breakfast popsicle you prepped on Sunday night, a FaceTime date with a beloved friend, or an uninterrupted cup of coffee before everyone else wakes up (set the timer on the pot the night before). Vanderkam says you can even use the time for reading a great book, writing, or exercising.
Added bonus? If you hate mornings, this will give you a chance to "warm up," before heading out the door, Baron says.