Why Do I Set 10 Alarms & Then Sleep Through All Of Them? Experts Say There's A Method To Your Madness
You're cozy underneath your comforter, dreaming of fluffy puppies and perfectly gooey cookies, and then your alarm goes off. All of a sudden, you have a choice to make: pull yourself out of your warm bed and face the world, or enjoy 10 more minutes of relaxation until your next next alarm goes off. (You know — the extra one you set because you knew the first one, and the second one, weren't going to be enough to get you up.) I rarely jump up the instant I hear my alarm, and I don't exactly spring out of bed at the second or third (or even fourth) one either. So why do I set 10 alarms and then sleep through all of them? Does that extra "sleep" actually make me more rested, or does it just confuse my brain?
Setting multiple alarms in the morning and then sleeping through every single one might not sound like it makes much sense, but that doesn't mean you're the only one doing it. A survey of over 1,000 people in the U.S., which included millennials, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Zers, by the mattress company Sleep Junkie, found that 21 percent of people set at least two alarms in the morning before they actually get out of bed.
But the tendency to hit snooze again and again and again doesn't just mean you're lazy and don't want to wake up. In an interview with Elite Daily, Jason Piper, sleep coach and owner of the coaching platform The Alpha Human Project, says there are two potential reasons why you can't get out of bed the first time your alarm sounds. First, he says, it's possible that you're simply not getting enough sleep each night. This would mean that when your first alarm goes off in the morning, your body has a very high sleep inertia (aka that super disoriented feeling you have when you wake up feeling exhausted), and it wants you to stay asleep, which makes it very hard to wake up and get going right away.
You could be unknowingly setting your first alarm to go off in the middle of your sleep cycle.
On the other hand, your circadian rhythm — your body's internal clock, which your brain uses to make you feel sleepy or awake, per the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) — might be off, and you could unknowingly be setting your first alarm to go off in the middle of your sleep cycle, says Piper.
According to the NSF, a sleep cycle includes two distinct parts — rapid eye movement (better known as REM) sleep and non-REM sleep — and about five separate stages. In the first two stages of a sleep cycle, you're basically in a light slumber. At first, you're "somewhat alert and can be easily woken," the foundation explains, but pretty soon, your "brain waves slow down," and you start to drift further into sleep. Then, stages three and four are considered "deep sleep," per the NSF, meaning you're at the point where it'd be pretty hard to wake you up, and your body's beginning to build up energy for the next day, though you're likely not dreaming just yet. Dreams almost always happen during REM sleep, the last (and arguably most important) stage of a sleep cycle, when "your brain consolidates and processes information from the day before so that it can be stored in your long-term memory," according to the NSF.
There are some people who just struggle getting up with an alarm.
Overall, your body goes through these stages about five or six times during one night's sleep, and when you wake up in the middle of, say, REM sleep, it can feel really disorienting and therefore much harder to get out of bed. "Naturally, our cortisol [the stress hormone] levels will rise and wake us up in the morning," Piper says, "but if their rhythm is not in sync with when we need to wake up, then they are trying to wake up while they still have melatonin [the sleep hormone] circulating through their system." In other words, if you tend to be a major night owl, your body might want you to sleep from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m., instead of a sleep schedule more conducive to the average 9-to-5 day job.
Of course, some people set multiple alarms every day to save themselves the stress of worrying about whether they'll actually wake up on time in the morning. It's like a safety net of sorts, you know?
In a way, says Christopher Lindholst, sleep expert and CEO of the nap pod company MetroNaps, this could be helpful, if it genuinely allows you to avoid lying awake all night worrying about the next morning. But according to Dr. Andrea Lopez-Yianilos, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in treatments for trauma, sleep issues, depression, and more, snoozing multiple alarms on a regular basis isn't really a great habit to have in general, in terms of your overall sleep quality. "It would be more beneficial to set one alarm at your desired wake time and be able to sleep up until that time, instead of having multiple awakenings leading up to the final wake time," she says.
Bill Fish, sleep science coach and founder of the sleep/mattress company, Tuck.com, tells Elite Daily that the truth is "there are some people who just struggle getting up with an alarm." But gradually getting into the habit of waking up at the first sound of your alarm is definitely doable, he says, especially if you invest in something called a sunrise alarm clock.
"Nobody likes to get jarred out of a deep sleep by a piercing alarm, so a sunrise alarm clock gradually fills your room with natural light over the course of 30 minutes," Fish explains. "This allows your body to wake up slowly yet naturally with more and more light filling your room." This gentle approach means you won’t be woken from a deep sleep, and you'll probably feel more ready to rise and take on the day's challenges the first time your eyes flutter open.
Even though setting lots of alarms every day isn't exactly ideal, it doesn't seem to be a terrible habit, as long as you're genuinely satisfied with your sleep quality. "If you are a 'snoozer' and don't have sleep issues or daytime symptoms (for example, fatigue), then keep doing what you're doing," says Dr. Lopez-Yianilos. But if you take an honest look at how you feel during the day and find that this habit is an issue for your energy levels or your sleep quality, consider using something like a sunrise alarm clock to help your mornings run a little more smoothly.
Additionally, Paul Bromen, who runs the website UponaMattress.com, suggests setting your alarm for the next day in the morning rather than at night just before you go to sleep because, in the evening, he says, you're tired, "your willpower is depleted," and you probably won't have a realistic perspective on how much time you actually need to wake up and get ready the next morning. "Set [your alarm] for the last possible moment you can wake up so that snoozing has consequences," he says.
In other words, when you set a dozen alarms for the next morning, it's basically as if you have an idea in your mind of who you're going to be when those alarms go off and you wake up, but that idea might not exactly align with reality. As Lindholst tells me in an interview for Elite Daily, there's a "fundamental disconnect between your own aspirations for each day, and what you are able to achieve," and that disconnect can cause you to experience unnecessary stress.
Once you recognize that disconnect and how it's affecting you, Lindholst suggests creating "a realistic list of things you can achieve" in your bedtime and wake-up routines, such as going to bed a little earlier to ensure you'll wake up at the sound of your first alarm, and making sure you're clocking in at least six hours of sleep (though he notes this is the absolute bare minimum for a healthy night of sleep).
Maybe you want to be the kind of person who springs out of bed at the sound of the first alarm, immediately ready to tackle the day. But the real you is probably someone who, like any normal human being, needs a good night's sleep and who doesn't always respond well to the blaring sound of an alarm clock. That's OK. You don't have to force yourself to be someone you're not — even if that means pressing snooze again.