New Study on Hitting Your Alarm Snooze Button Has Surprising Results

For years, my internal clock and the fact that I never needed to set an alarm were a source of great pride. Well, unless I had to be at the airport before dawn, which doesn’t count because everyone knows there is no REM sleep the night before an early flight. It was a random fact about me that honestly impressed only me, but I wore it like a badge of honor nonetheless. I pitied the poor alarm dependent.

That is until I married one.

Teen waking up to an alarm clock
There are benefits to hitting the snooze button. (Shutterstock/ VGstockstudio)

My husband is meticulous about setting an alarm

Like all other aspects of his life, my husband is meticulous about his alarm. He sets a radio alarm circa 1990 on the nightstand and his watch alarm across the room ten minutes later. And like clockwork, he makes the arduous trek to claim the beeping watch, tucks himself back in bed, and is snoring five minutes later.

While I stare at him with the radio blaring and wonder how and why.

And what happens when a body alarm and snooze alarm mate? You discover that the snooze alarm gene is dominant — that’s what. I spent decades harping on my dozers that rising when the alarm sounds or your body naturally wakes up leads to a better day. Early bird, worm, and all that. I had research to back me up as scientists and experts warned that bodies were not as well-rested after a return to sleep, causing possible cognitive issues.

Hitting the snooze alarm may increase your cognitive abilities when you wake

Last week, the fall from my high horse was swift and hard. The morning news teased new research regarding the snooze alarm. I smugly awaited more negative data and sciencey stuff to present to my snoozers. Imagine my surprise when the report chronicled a study by the Journal for Sleep Research claiming that hitting the snooze alarm may actually increase cognitive abilities.

The study’s lead author, Tina Sundelin, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Stockholm University in Sweden, concluded that

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.

Tina Sundelin

So, snooze you lose is not a thing?

Maybe my sons were right not to pop out of bed immediately

The foundation upon which I started each day suffered a seismic shift. These findings encouraging a more gradual return to the waking world meant my kids were maximizing brain power with each tap of the snooze button. By extension, all that nagging about popping out of bed immediately may have had a detrimental effect on my kids.

And worst of all, it meant my husband was right. Although, per the study, he is an outlier, researchers found that most snoozers were younger.

According to an NBC News story citing Dr. Beth Malow, the director of the sleep disorders division and a professor of neurology and pediatrics at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee,

It’s not surprising that snoozing is more common among young people because we already know that sleep cycles are shifted later in teens and young adults.

Dr. Beth Malow

With talk of moving to later high school start times and accommodating teen sleep patterns, this study offers pivotal information. The fact that hitting that snooze alarm can make you “more alert” upon rising is a crucial finding. Any parent of teens knows that getting them up and active is the hardest part.

The study found snoozers gained a cognitive advantage for about “40 minutes” after waking. This could be the difference in driving to school: more aware instead of groggy. It could potentially curb habitual dozing during first period. Although most students probably blame lame classes and teachers for that.

Of course, the goal for all ages is to get enough sleep overall. The snooze button will be of no help to kids staying up playing video games ‘til 3 a.m. or losing sleep due to stress. However, adding an extra 30 minutes of dozing to normal sleep patterns can make the transition from REM to reality less of a daily battle for families.

When it comes to sleep, maybe we need to listen to our bodies

Study participants cited deep reasoning, such as it “felt good” and still being tired of hitting the snooze button multiple times. This base explanation leads me to believe that snoozers, especially kids, are just listening to their bodies. Not a bad rule of thumb for life as kids gain independence, provided that snoozing isn’t making one miss obligations or other symptoms of diminished mental health are present.

I won’t be setting an alarm any time soon; I am an old dog in need of no new tricks. I will, however, show a little grace to my snooze-loving family, knowing they are not doing themselves any real harm. Now, if we could get a study on the advantages of listening to your mom the first time she asks you to do something…

More Great Reading:

Pediatrician, Sleep Medicine Specialist: How Teens Can Get More Sleep

About Maureen Stiles

Maureen Stiles is a Washington DC based freelance journalist, columnist and editor. With over a decade of published work in the parenting and humor sector, Maureen has reached audiences around the globe. In addition to published works, she has been quoted in the Washington Post and The New York Times on topics surrounding parenting and family life. Maureen is the author of The Driving Book for Teens and a contributor to the book Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults as well as regularly featured on Today's Parenting Community and Grown and Flown.

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