My mornings are set up around my penchant for the snooze button. First, an alarm goes off at 7 a.m. Though, it's not even set for the purpose of waking me up. It's like the first whisper of having to move—a reminder that soon I'll have to force myself out of bed and start my day. But not yet. Then, 7:30 a.m. But still, this is not an alarm set to keep me awake. It's another wake-up suggestion, one that I choose to turn off yet again. Then comes 8 a.m., the alarm meant as a concrete wake-up call. Most days, after two snoozes, I'll use this one to get up. On others, though, I wait until 8:30 a.m., the last alarm I set for each morning and then rush around the house like a frantic lunatic.
Clearly, this is not a healthy habit. It shapes each morning with feelings of fatigue, grogginess, and anxiety. It makes it so I don't have time to collect myself, spend time planning my day, make breakfast, or do much of anything before scrambling out the door. In fact, sleep researcher Lauren Hale, Ph.D., associate professor of preventive medicine at the Stony Brook Medicine Program of Public Health, confirms, "I know people who set their alarm 30 minutes earlier than it needs to be so they can have an extra half hour of restless sleep in which they are regularly having to check the clock. Who wants that? You want your sleep to be as deep and uninterrupted as possible. Hitting the snooze button after you first hear your alarm isn't going to help you get the deep restorative sleep that you are seeking."
As I began to organize my life with wellness in mind (first my diet, then massage and body care, as well as purging clothing and other unnecessary knickknacks from my living space), learning to be productive in the morning felt like a natural next step. So I decided to say sayonara to the snooze button—for at least a week because baby steps—and see how it made me feel after all was said and done. Here's the thing: I did it and I feel so much better. And I learned a few tricks in the process. Here are my thoughts and best advice from three weeks strong sans snooze.
Leave the Curtains Open
Waking up with natural light is so much easier than tearing yourself out of bed in pure darkness. In fact, studies say "if you condition your body to wake up via light, you might just be more alert and physically productive for the rest of your day." It also allows me to peer around my newly organized, redecorated bedroom (one I feverishly decluttered with my mental health and new proclivity for minimalism in mind) the moment I open my eyes. I feel a sense of calm wash over me, certainly less stress than usual, and a sense of pride in my living space.
Drink Coffee in the Living Room (Not Your Bed)
I used to love drinking coffee in bed—it felt luxurious and relaxing. But it also led to sluggishness, a harder time getting up, and even falling back asleep on most days. Once I vowed to stop snoozing, I would only allow myself to have my coffee in the living room, far away from the lure of my soft, warm bed. It helps me start the day, rather than delay it, and makes my morning coffee feel like a productive period of time—I'll go through emails, catch up on texts, or read through the news.
Use Jet Lag to Your Advantage
I attribute a lot of my success in this experiment to the simple fact that I began abstaining from the snooze button directly after returning from a trip to Switzerland. I was jet-lagged and naturally waking up hours earlier than usual. But instead of trying to ward off the jet lag with my usual tendencies (going to bed super late and trying to sleep in rather than rise early), I went with it. For the entire first week, I was getting a ton of sleep, only on an entirely more healthy sleeping schedule. I'd let myself go to sleep at 10 p.m. when I got tired and wake up at 6:30 a.m. with the sunrise. I ended up getting far more sleep than I usually did and found myself shockingly productive during the day. Jet lag doesn't have to be all bad—you just have to make it work for you.
Put on Pants
Sure, this one doesn't exactly sound scientific, but there has to be a correlation between getting dressed and maintaining productivity. Once I put on pants, I no longer feel like a lounging bed rat, and because they're less comfortable to sit in, I leave the house far faster. Your choice of legwear will ensure you won't snooze or fall back to sleep, and you'll immediately feel more ready to take on the day. I guarantee it.
Breakfast is usually the last thing on my mind on a workweek morning. I'm not particularly hungry when I first wake up, and because I previously never afforded myself enough time to make it, it was always out of the question. But spending time solo while making and enjoying food is now one of my favorite morning activities. It allows me to stay full longer (i.e. less snacking throughout the day) and puts me more in charge of what I'm eating rather than running out for a desperate meal filled with refined, fried, or pre-packaged ingredients.
The Bottom Line
"Letting your body decide when to sleep instead of pushing limits helps reset your circadian rhythm much like desperate mom of a newborn," explains Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a NYC-based neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University. "You will end up with more quality and quantity of good sleep. Instead of immediately grabbing your phone, try light stretching in bed, and once in motion, you'll want to get out and stretch more. Splashing cold water, tying up your hair or even brushing it, brings blood flow to the forefront, waking you up in a natural way. And finally, make the bed. It gives you a feeling of clarity, accomplishment, and a nice, clean bed to return to later that night."
Thompson A, Jones H, Gregson W, Atkinson G. Effects of dawn simulation on markers of sleep inertia and post-waking performance in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2014;114(5):1049-1056. doi:10.1007/s00421-014-2831-z