It’s easy to trace feeling groggy, foggy or just plain tired back to a number of things: poor diet, stress, noisy neighbors, or hormonal/metabolic issues. While these factors may definitely contribute to your energy levels throughout the day, your sleep habits could be the culprit too, dragging you down more than you think. We know the benefits of a good night’s sleep--and the downfalls of a bad one--and how the quality of our sleep can set the course for the day.
Good sleeping habits, like avoiding screens before bedtime, exercising during the day for better sleep and keeping your bedroom dark and quiet, are essential, but avoiding bad sleeping habits can be just as important. Perhaps the hardest habit to break? Hitting the snooze button.
Studies show that 57% of Americans regularly hit the snooze button after their alarm clock first goes off. While most people think that catching “just a few more minutes” of sleep will help them wake up more easily, the truth is actually the opposite.
In fact, fragmented sleep may be just as bad for us as a night of very little sleep when it comes to mood and performance of daily tasks. When we sleep and wake in fragments, we disrupt our body’s natural sleep rhythms, which lead to poor rest and worse next days.
The benefits of waking during the lightest part of your sleep cycle are often discussed, but here’s a quick recap: people who wake up during the lightest parts of their sleep cycles report waking up more easily and feeling more energetic, even if they’ve slept less than others who have been woken from deeper sleep stages. Throughout the night, we cycle through a progression of sleep stages from light (stages 1 and 2) to deep (stages 3 and 4) of non-REM (NREM) sleep, followed by REM sleep--sleep characterized by rapid eye movement and dreaming. For healthy sleepers who are getting enough uninterrupted sleep, most pre-waking sleep time is spent in Stages 1 and 2 and REM sleep.
Sleep stages are important when it comes to waking up. That’s where sleep inertia comes in. Sleep inertia refers to the transitional period of delayed performance following waking. When you wake up from deep Stage 3 or 4 sleep, sleep inertia is that groggy feeling of dragging your feet and not being able to ‘wake up’ all the way. Sleep inertia is at its shortest when we wake from light sleep and waking from REM sleep tends to fall between the two. Since we’re typically in lighter or REM sleep in the morning, we’re able to wake with minimal sleep inertia--in a perfect world. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world where we can wake with the sun as our bodies are wired to do. We have jobs, families and other commitments that often require us to wake out of sync with the sunrise.
So what can we do to combat poor quality sleep and the groggy feeling we get from waking up from deep sleep?
1. Give up your snooze button.
Hitting snooze may feel like a luxury, but doing so may plunge you back into deep sleep between alarms, making your sleep fractured. Waking up from the deep sleep is also what leads to the greatest sleep inertia. Not convinced that skipping the snooze button will make you feel better than a few extra winks in the morning? Try it for yourself and give it up for a week.
2. Set a schedule and stick to it.
In absence of the cue of morning sunlight, your body can learn to wake based on a consistent sleep schedule. By going to bed at the same time every night and waking at the same time every morning (yes, this includes the weekends!), your body will recognize the pattern and begin the process of transitioning to wakefulness so you can rise before or with your alarm. Just don’t hit snooze once you’re up!
3. Use data to wake up at the optimal time.
Using an app like Sleep Time or the Sleep TIme feature in Argus can help you analyze your sleeping patterns so you can more accurately understand the way you cycle through sleep stages throughout the night. As a bonus, Sleep Time is a smart alarm that can be set to wake you during the lightest stage of sleep.
Giving up those precious extra minutes granted by the snooze button or waking up early on weekends may seem like a sacrifice, but good sleep, and therefore good health, is worth it. So sleep well and catch enough zzzz’s to power you through your day, then skip the snooze and face your day head on.
Sara Vallejo is a self-confessed happiness, health and self-development junkie from Chicago. She writes professionally in a business development and marketing capacity, and as a volunteer for a digital nonprofit. Miss Vallejo is a passionate mental and holistic health advocate who believes that good health is an ongoing journey best undertaken with supportive peers. Sara’s areas of expertise include nutrition, weight loss, women’s health, mental health and disability issues. She is returning to weight loss and fitness following orthopedic surgery and is excited to encourage and inspire fellow Azumio community members and readers to achieve the best health they can.
Main Photo Credit: number-one/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: tab62/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Woody Ang/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: Vladimir Gjorgiev/shutterstock.com