Is hitting the snooze button damaging your health?

Mar 26, 2014

Snoozing may bring short-term pleasure, but it could be doing you long-term harm

HITTING 'snooze' on an alarm clock could contribute to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease, a sleep scientist from the University of Pennsylvania has said.

Dr David Dinges, head of the sleep and chronobiology division in the university's department of psychiatry, told the BBC that people should not be tempted to hit snooze when they wake up.

"The reason for that is that many of us are waking prematurely by alarm clock," he said. "We are chronically partially sleep-depriving ourselves."

Dinges says that sleep deprivation is common in adults. "Large sections of the population are engaged in the use of an alarm clock for what is really a biologically premature awakening," he said. "When we use the snooze button we are in effect constantly disrupting the final ten, 20, or 30 minutes of sleep as opposed to just setting your clock another half hour later."

Over time lack of sleep can have negative health effects, Dinges says. They include diminished concentration, weight gain, and other serious illnesses.

"In studies in our lab, we've seen sleep restriction lead to weight gain. Other studies have shown a connection between reduced sleep time and morbidity illness such as diabetes and heart disease," Dinges revealed.

Most experts agree that seven to eight hours of sleep per night is optimal for adults, but the Wall Street Journal notes that according to Dinges's study many adults commonly sleep less than this.

According to data collated from 136,000 people between 2003 to 2012, people felt best when they awoke naturally, but snoozing was alse seen as a pleasurable experience. "It feels like a blissful dream state because the closer you get to wakening, the more rapid-eye movement and dreams occur," Dinges explained. However snoozing does not add to people's total sleep quota, it simply prolongs the act of waking up, he said.

Though it may be difficult to adjust, Dinges recommends that rather than snoozing, people should go to bed earlier, and set their alarm for the time they actually need to get up. "The short answer is that it is better to get the extra sleep," he said. "Give yourself that extra ten minutes and then force yourself out of bed."

Sign up for our daily newsletter