Why Hitting Snooze Kills Productivity

Hitting snooze kills productivity, plain and simple, and yet, it’s something that so many people seem to do. We may think it’s not that big of a deal because it’s just five or ten minutes here and there. However, the reality and the science of the situation says something much different: hitting snooze kills productivity because it disrupts your performance for up to four hours after you wake up.

Here’s the science of why that happens and five things that are way better than those five extra minutes of sleep.

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We sleep in cycles that last anywhere from 90 to 110 minutes. If we get at least 6 hours of sleep and are doing about 90 minute (1.5 hours) cycles we are experiencing approximately four cycles. Hours 7 and 8 are considered the most restorative, but any more or any less and our bodies suffer. Of course this varies from human to human—some need even more than that and some can go on less.

What Happens When we Hit Snooze

We are so busy in our lives that we base everything on when. When do I need to wake up to get to work on time? How much sleep do I need to make it through the day tomorrow? These can be useful at times, but the better question we should be asking is HOW are we waking up?

When our alarm goes off the first time, our brain and body are ready to wake up. There are signals for this in our environment. Even though our lids are closed, we are absorbing light and our bodies are prepping us to start the day.

Why Hitting Snooze Kills Productivity

By hitting snooze, we send our bodies back into the sleep cycles. They are tricked into thinking this is happening when in reality, it is not. Five or ten minutes later, the alarm goes off again and our brain is ripped from its sleep cycle, causing us confusion and fatigue. This feeling of mental tiredness and grogginess is called sleep inertia.

Studies show that entering and exiting out of sleep cycles abruptly and not in the way our body needs (at least 90 minute cycles) causes damage.

The chordal region of our brain is affected by this response, which, as you might have guessed deals with decision-making, attention, and critical thinking. Now, imagine those first four hours of your day being compromised just because you want to get a few extra minutes of sleep. Five minutes of pseudo-respite in exchange for up to four hours of grogginess, low optimization, and perhaps crankiness too.

It is stunting your brain. Hitting snooze kills productivity.

What To Do About It

Do. Not. Hit. Snooze.

Life is busy and crazy and unpredictable and we value sleep, but do not compromise it by cheating our bodies in this way.

When I was living in Korea, I made this one small change almost overnight, because my brother would not stop ranting and raving about it. About how much better his life became after removing the snooze action from his life, and the word from his vocabulary. There is a reason the old adage, “You snooze you lose,” comes up again and again. Now hopefully it carries a whole new meaning for you.

Making the Change

From that day (that first month took some getting used to) forward my life was forever changed in this simple, but endlessly gratifying way. I will never go back to a life of snooze. I immediately noticed the effects it had on my life.

Even on nights where I’d get five hours of sleep because of this reason or that, I did not hit snooze because I knew that waking up right then and there was better than painfully prolonging it over the next thirty or so minutes. I found it was better to start my day then and there. If I really needed to I could take a nap later.

Because the truth is we aren’t THAT tired, we just think we are. We give ourselves a safety net because everyone else does it too, and we all seem to be working fine. But do we?

Imagine how much more you could get done in the morning or in general without asking yourself if you took your turmeric supplement, or if you locked the door as you were leaving the house. These things happen because we are not alert, because our brain is not performing as it should. Because hitting snooze kills productivity.

5 Things Better Than Hitting Snooze

Morning Sun (or Hue lights)

Morning sun is a no-brainer. Pull back the curtains and start your day. Alternatively, if you need the extra push to get out of bed so you can pull the curtains back, use Hue lights and set them so that they brighten as the minutes go on, giving you a “soft” wake up. Biologically and evolutionarily, your body will know this and respond accordingly. Light will cause our bodies to stop making melatonin slowly, and we will be pulled from our sleep naturally.


Your alarm doesn’t have to be the most annoying sound in the world. In fact, why not make it pleasant? Don’t make it so melodious that you miss the alarm because you still think you’re in a dream world but find that happy medium—that sound that makes you want to get up and do things. This will help release happy hormones and endorphins that will get you excited about the day.

Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle is an app that tracks your sleeping patterns based on your breathing, giving statistics like: sleep quality, time you went to bed and woke up, how much you snored, and your heart rate. It even provides statistics about the sleep patterns of other countries around the world and how certain weather or elevations affect your quality of sleep. It links up with your Health app by recording number of steps and there is even a section where you can add notes.


I cannot speak highly enough about the practice of meditation. It is another habit I picked up in Korea, and I notice that when I am doing it consistently (I try to do it every day) I sleep wonderfully. That means going to bed when I lie down and waking up on that first alarm. This has gone on consistently for me for the past 6 years. The app I recommend for this is Headspace.

Cold Shower

This is not one that I do a lot because I prefer when the water is warm or hot, but if I need a kick-start, cold showers are the way to go. Studies show that warming your hands and feet are a sure way to get your body in optimal performance mode. I want to do a thirty day challenge of cold showers one month. Anyone want to join me?

Don’t stunt your brain. Give it the chance it needs and wants. Set your alarm for a time you know you can wake up to, at the same time every day, and fight the urge to stay in bed.

I enjoy writing about habits and ways to improve them: here you can find a post about developing better habits and how to make them stick.

Tell me your sleep habits, and whether you hit snooze or not. Have you tried not snoozing? How’s that been going for you?