You're in good company if you rely on your snooze button in the morning--one out of every three Americans do not get enough sleep at night. Reaching for that feature on your clock or smartphone likely isn't helping you whip through tasks at work, though, based on what researchers know about the brain and body during and after rest.
What Happens When You Snooze
Scientists divide sleep cycles into light (non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and deep (rapid eye movement (REM) stages. Researchers further divide NREM sleep into at least three parts based on different types of brain waves and physiological responses. Additionally, when your body starts to feel like you're approaching a full energy tank again, mechanisms kick in to gradually prep you physically for being awake again. These "get going" signals typically start about two hours before you finally wake up.
What the Snooze Button Does to Your Body
Normally, a full sleep cycle takes 90 to 110 minutes to complete. Most people who hit snooze, however, are trying to squeeze in an extra 30 minutes or less. If you do this, you plunge yourself into a new sleep cycle there's no way to complete. When your alarm goes off again, the parts of your brain responsible for physiological functions will respond fast. The cortical regions of the brain, however, which take care of areas like decision making, attention, alertness and self-control, aren't as speedy to get going again. Subsequently, you might experience grogginess, or sleep inertia. It can take up to four hours for this condition to wear off and cognitive functions to reach their best. Not allowing your body's natural "get going" mechanisms to work also can be confusing for your body, which is actually getting less recuperative sleep. Subsequently, it can't maintain its hormonal balance or regulate sleep by itself very well.
How Work Can Suffer
With your brain in a haze, any of the tasks you have to do during the first half of your work day potentially can be compromised. You might take longer to remember information, such as passwords, for instance, or it might be difficult for you to stay engaged during important meetings. Coming up with new, innovative ideas also can become more of a chore. Moodiness and physical fatigue can trash how you respond to stress and communicate, too.
How to Put Snooze to Bed
If you're consistently hitting snooze, when your alarm goes off, get up and stay up. As you make this a habit, go to bed up to 60 minutes earlier for a week or two to undo your sleep deprivation. You'll know you're getting sufficient rest and your own internal clock is working when you consistently wake up just before your alarm.