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That Snooze Button Habit Is Putting Your Productivity To Sleep, So Quit Hitting It

You need to respect the alarm. But don't just take it from us—consider recent research. Here are five ways to get out of bed the right way.

Every morning, millions of people fight a battle—with themselves.

The battlefield is the bedroom, and the weapon is the snooze button. When the alarm goes off, and you’re not yet ready to greet the rosy-fingered dawn, this devilish invention lets you put off the inevitable for nine more minutes. And then maybe nine more minutes. And so forth, until you’re dashing out the door, late again.

Hitting the snooze button is a bad idea, for two reasons. First, the quality of sleep you get in snooze intervals is incredibly low. Dr. Matthew Mingrone, lead physician at Eos Sleep’s California centers says that, "Hitting the snooze button is, in fact, bad for sleep and can leave you groggier and more tired than initially getting out of bed after the first alarm. Instead of achieving an additional nine minutes of restful, deep sleep, our bodies endure nine minutes of light sleep."

But even more important, as Roy Baumeister and John Tierney write in their book, Willpower, is that "You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it." If you spend your limited supply of willpower battling with yourself about what time to get out of bed, it’s not there when you need it to stay calm with a difficult colleague. Here are some strategies people have used to kick the snooze button habit for good.

1. Wake up at the right time.

The body goes through cycles of deeper and lighter sleep. It’s far more painful to get up during deep sleep than light sleep. Meghan Miller Brawley, a freelance indexer and researcher, says that once her first baby was finally sleeping through the night, "I used an app on my phone called Sleep Cycle. It uses movement and the phone’s motion sensor to determine (roughly) when you’re at the lightest sleep level." She reports that "It worked pretty well, and I usually was able to get up when my alarm went off."

2. Build a new morning habit.

Shauna Lambert, who lives outside Seattle, says that "I conquered my snooze button earlier this year when I decided I wanted to run in the mornings." She learned from Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, that habits require a cue. "I decided that my cue would be a snippet of a favorite song that I programmed on my phone to act as my alarm. When my alarm goes off it is a few feet away from bed, so I have to get out of bed and turn it off." Her exercise clothes are right there, so she practically trips over them. "I try to follow the same order of things each day so that it becomes an ingrained habit rather than something I have to think about. It took me about a month for this to really become a habit, but now when I hear my ‘cue’ in the morning I am up and have my running shoes on before I even think about if I really want to go run. On the mornings when I don’t run, I don’t use my running cue alarm."

3. Go ahead and sleep in.

Rather than hit snooze three times, why not set your alarm half an hour later? That’s the time you’ll be getting up anyway, and you can enjoy every minute of sleep until then. There’s no moral virtue in setting your alarm to reflect a life you’re not actually living.

4. Bribe yourself.

Chrissy Das of Jacksonville, Florida, reports that she learned to forego lazy mornings by "planning a fun activity for first thing in the morning so I have a reason to get up." For instance, she bought a new book, and "I allow myself to read it in the mornings only." If she wants to find out what happens, she has to skip the snooze button. Some people buy programmable coffeemakers and put them near (or even in) their bedrooms. That way, when the alarm goes off, the aroma is wafting in, and the caffeine is right there. That’s a cue and a reward in one fell swoop.

5. Make failure difficult.

Carrie Willard wakes up early so she can get some work done before she homeschools her seven children. "My alarm clock is a $2 Ikea special, and it doesn’t have a snooze button," she says. Hence, no temptation. "I get up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. every day, even on weekends."