If you’re like most people, the temptation to steal a few more precious moments of sleep before facing the day is just impossible to refuse. Snooze button smashed. Once. Twice. You’re far from alone. And guess what? According to a new study, those few extra minutes might be more than just a guilty pleasure.
Researchers in Sweden found that 69% out of 1,732 adults admitted to using the snooze function, or even setting multiple alarms, at least “sometimes.” Delving deeper, on mornings when these participants chose to indulge in a little more rest, they snoozed an average of 22 minutes, though this could be as brief as a single minute or stretch to a whopping 180 minutes.
The most commonly reported reason for snoozing was ‘feeling too tired to wake up’ (25% of all snoozers mentioned this), followed by ‘it feels good’ (17%), and wanting ‘to wake up more slowly/softly’ (17%).
The portrait of a typical ‘snoozer’ is intriguing. They’re often younger and are more inclined to identify as night owls. If you’re hitting that snooze button, chances are you might experience morning grogginess or perhaps even shorter sleep spans, the researchers found. But does that mean snoozing is bad in general? Not necessarily. On the contrary, for some people, snoozing can be beneficial.
The cognitive edge of snoozing
Here’s where it gets really interesting. A subsequent investigation focused on 31 habitual snoozers. The results? An additional half-hour of snoozing either enhanced or had no bearing on their cognitive performance upon awakening, as opposed to those who sprung out of bed immediately. There were four cognitive tests, each lasting about three minutes, which assessed processing speed, episodic memory, and executive functioning.
This luxury of lingering under the covers might cost about 6 minutes of lost real sleep, but it also has the perk of preventing you from being jolted awake during the deep, restorative phase of sleep known as slow-wave sleep. Snoozing was also associated with more stage N1 sleep (the stage when a person first falls asleep lasting 1-7 minutes) and REM sleep (the stage of sleep where most dreams happen).
However, it’s worth noting that hitting the snooze button didn’t exhibit any discernible impact on factors like stress hormone levels, the structure of overnight sleep, or even one’s morning mood. The findings appeared in the Journal of Sleep Research.
“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. In fact, it may even help those with morning drowsiness to be slightly more awake once they get up,” said corresponding author Tina Sundelin, PhD, of Stockholm University.
The real sleep power play: not using alarms
This is not the first study that found reaching for the snooze button might not be as detrimental to sleep quality as once believed. A 2022 study from the University of Notre Dame also suggests that there’s little difference between waking up to one alarm or hitting snooze several times.
However, there’s a catch: it’s not that snoozing is a problem, but rather setting alarms in the first place. Alarms interfere with our sleep cycles, which can result in sleep inertia — a state of grogginess and fatigue. As you jolt awake with the ringing of an alarm, you’re essentially bypassing the body’s innate stress response and tampering with the brain’s chemistry.
This study highlighted that participants who woke up naturally, sans alarms, not only slept longer but also reached for their coffee mugs less frequently.
Aaron Striegel, a professor at Notre Dame, points out, “If you’re relying on an alarm due to sleep deprivation—that’s the real concern.”
But if you’re like most people, not setting up an alarm is not an option. While the jury’s still out on the potential adverse effects of snoozing, current research suggests there might be some hidden perks. If you can’t help setting up an alarm, there’s no harm in snoozing if it makes you more alert or helps decrease caffeine intake.