Hitting the snooze button in the mornings might not be as bad for us as previously thought, according to new research. In fact, for some people, it might even improve levels of cognitive performance.
Previous studies have looked at the damage snoozing can do to our sleep patterns, suggesting that mini-cycles of five or ten minutes aren't great for our body. However, researchers at Stockholm University in Sweden and Monash University in Australia, challenge that idea in a recent study.
They looked at 31 habitual snoozers in lab conditions, and found that 30 minutes of bonus snoozing either had no affect or actually improved their cognitive abilities on a task undertaken immediately after waking, compared to regular snoozers who were forced to rise abruptly.
"The findings indicate that there is no reason to stop snoozing in the morning if you enjoy it, at least not for snooze times around 30 minutes," says sleep scientist Tina Sundelin from Stockholm University.
"In fact, it may even help those with morning drowsiness to be slightly more awake once they get up."
Those 30 minutes of snooze time consisted of three delay periods lasting 9 to 10 minutes each. Compared to sleeping straight through that half hour, the repeat calls to wake up resulted in an average loss of 6 minutes of sleep per night.
Besides the cognitive boost seen in some participants, the researchers also suggest that snoozing could allow for an easier wake-up from a lighter part of the sleep cycle – rather than being jolted immediately out of a deep sleep – which could be easier on the body.
No differences between snoozing and not snoozing were noticed in terms of mood levels, stress, morning sleepiness, or sleep architecture (the different cycles we naturally go through while we're sleeping).
The team also surveyed 1,732 volunteers to see how widespread snoozing actually is: 69 percent of respondents said they hit the snooze button or set multiple alarms at least "sometimes". Snoozers were more likely to be younger and evening rather than morning people, with the average snooze time clocking in at 22 minutes.
In the larger sample, morning drowsiness and shorter sleep were more common among snoozers. The researchers do acknowledge that snoozing can potentially fragment sleep, while also pointing out some of the benefits observed. The conclusion is, as with some earlier studies, it depends a lot on you.
"A brief snooze period may thus help alleviate sleep inertia, without substantially disturbing sleep, for late chronotypes and those with morning drowsiness," write the researchers in their published paper.
The research has been published in the Journal of Sleep Research.