Does Hitting Snooze Make You Tired? New Research Says So

You've probably uttered "just 5 more minutes" at some point in your life. In a post-sleep daze, hitting the snooze button on your alarm may even feel like just about the most logical reaction in the world. You may not even remember punching the alarm to shut it up — until you're suddenly bolting out of bed to catch the last morning bus to work. But your body sure remembers it. Even if being awoken by a blaring alarm seems like the most natural thing in our 9-to-5 world, research indicates that unnatural patterns of sleep may be harmful in the long run.

Even though humans convince themselves otherwise, it turns out the snooze button actually hinders our ability to fully wake up — and makes us feel as if we gotten a worse night's sleep than in actuality. In our early waking moments, we experience sleep inertia (which is why you may not be able to find the light switch for a little while), but it can be extended for much longer time. The New Yorker explains:

Sleep researchers Charles Czeisler and Megan Jewett and their colleagues at Harvard Medical School found that sleep inertia took anywhere from two to four hours to disappear completely. While the participants said they felt awake after two-thirds of an hour, their cognitive faculties didn’t entirely catch up for several hours. Eating breakfast, showering, or turning on all the lights for maximum morning brightness didn’t mitigate the results. No matter what, our brains take far longer than we might expect to get up to speed.

In addition, about 30 percent of people suffer from what is termed "extreme social jetlag," which is sleep inertia of two hours or more — "the difference between one’s actual, socially mandated wake-up time and one’s natural, biologically optimal wake-up time." And nearly 70 percent of people have a mild form of what's called "social jetlag."

These shifts in sleep times are not just short-term blips. In fact, as seen with people who work nights, abnormal sleeping may bring on higher cancer rates and heart conditions. Not getting proper sleep also leads to increased use of alcohol, cigarette, and caffeine. For each hour of social jetlag you experience, you're about 33 percent more likely to develop obesity.

Our ancestors didn't have sleep-related problems because they slept and woke up along with the sunrise and sunset.

In the early nineteenth century, the United States had a hundred and forty-four separate time zones. Cities set their own local time, typically so that noon would correspond to the moment the sun reached its apex in the sky; when it was noon in Manhattan, it was five till in Philadelphia. But on November 18, 1883, the country settled on four standard time zones; railroads and interstate commerce had made the prior arrangement impractical.

If modern folks simply woke up naturally, researchers suggest we wouldn't need to hit that snooze button at all. When neuroscientist and chronobiology expert Kenneth Wright took a group of young adults on a camping trip, he found that negative sleep effects could be reversed. By syncing their sleeping times to the amount of melatonin released — which meant going to sleep at 10:30 p.m. and waking up around 8 a.m. — the group as a whole was able to wake up more fully and effectively.

Yes, we know everyone complains about not getting enough sleep. That's why the sleeping-app market has exploded recently. People can't seem to regulate their own REM cycles, so why not get technology to do it for you, right? But do they really work, or is it just a placebo effect?

While Jordan Gaines at Psychology Today says that his friends claim the apps work wonders, he found many flaws with various sleep apps. The apps, attempting to graph a perfect restful sleep, don't take into account things that go bump in the night — whether that's a loud outside sound, or a quick potty break. Gaines also reports that no two sleep cycles are identical; your sleep tonight depends on last night's sleep, and it takes people a differing amount of time to fall asleep each night. The best bet for a good night's sleep? Stay consistent, and don't worry too much, he says.