I know the science says that we're all different in how much sleep we need, but we're also a sleep-deprived nation, bent on maximizing our wakeful hours so we can get shit done. So there's social pressure on sleeping less. And doing more. Which often winds up being a self-defeating pursuit, because sleeping more actually helps us to be high achievers: It provides better mental clarity and focus, improved muscle recovery, and a stronger immune system.
Which brings me to the love-hate relationship I have with my snooze button. Ideological person that I am, I set my alarm as early as I can fathom so I can wake up and start achieving. I have real ambitions of waking up to that alarm, but in reality, I end up snoozing three, four, sometimes five times. I have, on occasion, hit the snooze button every 10 minutes for an hour.
Over time, this behavior has become my routine. Somehow, I've come to consider it normal behavior—I give myself credit for an early alarm, but then I spend the next 30 minutes to an hour fighting the day's encroachment on my sleep.
So when I was asked whether or not I could quit my snooze button cold turkey for at least a week, I was nervous. Would I actually get out of bed when the first alarm sounded for seven whole days? Or would I not and say I did?
I started the experiment on a Tuesday. I didn't use those time-tested magazine strategies for better sleep, like turning off your phone before bed. I'm too attached to my cell phone for that, and the blue light wakes me up as I scroll through social media before I get out of bed to pee. And even though I went to sleep later than I should have (ahem, 2 am), I still forced myself out of bed without my beloved snooze at 8 am.
I wasn't happy about it—I need eight, ideally nine, hours of Z's to really perform at my best. So I launched into my day—sending emails, writing copy, pleasing editors—feeling lousy. I loaded up on black tea (yeah, I don't drink coffee either) and plowed through what I could. Day one: mission accomplished.
But on day two, I stayed up until 2 am again, netting me only about six hours of sleep. Late-night habits die hard, I suppose. I cursed myself all day, but on day three, I finally managed to get a full eight hours of shut-eye before rolling out of bed for a morning workout. I didn't feel refreshed though. Because of my lack of sleep the prior two evenings, I would've have happily snoozed the hell out of my alarm. But on top of a commitment to going snooze free, I had a workout scheduled—not to mention a cancellation fee if I missed the class. And hey, I was slowly moving toward a sustainable sleep cycle, and starting to feel like I was living up to my productivity dreams (not snoozing for that hour really does add more time to your day).
By Friday, things started to turn around. I realized from the day before that it was easier for me to jump out of bed if I had a workout scheduled and if my alarm was set appropriately late to maximize sleep and make me feel a little rushed. So I packed my bag and laid out my fitness clothes the night before, then set the alarm so that I had a mere 20 minutes to get up, get ready, and get out the door. To further increase my odds of success, I roped in a colleague to join me at the class. Now I was accountable.
The method worked great, and I was up early for a Saturday workout. I'll pat myself on the back here: That's impressive weekend behavior, plus I carted myself from Queens to Brooklyn to sweat. On day six, I discovered a much-needed loophole: I didn't set an alarm. No alarm, no snooze. It was a Sunday morning, and I had no plans. So I racked up an impressive nine hours of sleep while still meeting my goal. Come Monday, I was shocked at what happened: I woke up 20 minutes before my alarm went off, fully rested, and ready to go.