The snooze button is the best and worst thing that's happened to us. It gives us more sleep, yes, but only so much! Have you noticed that's only about nine minutes? There's a reason for that. Kind of.
Going back to the pre-digital age (kids can tell time on a standard clock, right?), alarm clocks were made up of cogs and gears -- very mechanical stuff. The inner mechanisms had been standardized across the board, so engineers had only two options for how long they made the snooze button when the system was introduced in the ‘50s. The “teeth” of the gears had to mesh with the hardware that was already there, and the only places they could do that (while still making the snooze a decent enough length) was a little after the nine-minute or 10-minute marks.
At the time, 10 minutes was deemed too long, as it was assumed that you could fall back into a deep sleep (and wake up again crankier as a result) within 10 minutes. If you’re thinking, Does that one minute really make a difference? the answer is no, probably not. If you’re any form of a human being (and especially if you’re a parent), I think it’s safe to say that we have the ability to fall into a deep sleep in any allotment of time. (Disclaimer: My opinion is super subjective here.)
Obviously, you can choose your snooze length on your own now, because technology, and tons of gadgets exist to help you eradicate the habit from your morning routine altogether. We’re just used to the nine-minute mark now, so not a lot of people end up switching it. Even if you use your iPhone as an alarm clock (a bad yet way too convenient habit of mine), you’ll notice that Apple sticks to the nine-minute snooze.
But, let’s be honest, you’re hitting that snooze button more than once, anyway, right? So, what’s already arbitrary becomes even more random.
Sleep experts, though, swear that the snooze button is the single worst thing to happen to sleep patterns. Not that this is new information, but it’s still depressing to hear. Sleep is wonderful.
Medical Director of the Prescott Valley and Flagstaff, Ariz. Sleep Disorders Centers Robert S. Rosenberg told CNN in 2014 that hitting that button sets you up for failure in two ways.
“First, you're fragmenting what little extra sleep you're getting, so it is of poor quality. Second, you're starting to put yourself through a new sleep cycle that you aren't giving yourself enough time to finish. This can result in persistent grogginess throughout the day,” he said.
Messing with your sleep cycles can make you experience sleep inertia, or the feeling of utter grogginess that trails you for the rest of the day and makes you crave that 2 p.m. coffee.
Likewise, clinical psychologist and sleep expert Michael Breus called the snooze button “the single worst invention for sleep ever.”
“When you hit it, you don’t actually have the opportunity to get back into good, deep, refreshing sleep. You end up with light, fragmented sleep. So, what ends up happening is people feel worse and worse the more snoozes they hit,” he told the Huffington Post.
Yes, we know, we know. Go to bed earlier and set yourself up for a good night’s sleep, yada yada. I still love my snooze button.