Snooze-sleep keeps us neither fully awake nor fully asleep, and is the enemy of productive wakefulness, says SHILPA AGARWAL

Every morning we get up after pressing the snooze-button 3-4 times, and silently thank the button for our wakefulness. We bargain for more sleep in nine-minute instalments, trying to trick our mind to sleep more, but snooze-sleep isn’t real sleep.

Reaching for the snooze button, you would think you’re giving yourself a few extra minutes to collect your thoughts, and it would help you to finish your natural sleep cycle, enabling you to awaken, feeling rested. However, after you hit snooze and fall asleep again, the sleep cycle starts from the beginning. What you’re actually doing is making the wake-up process even more difficult and drawn out. When the alarm goes off a second time, and if you manage to drift off again, you are likely to plunge your brain once again into the beginning of the sleep cycle. That is, the person is in an even deeper sleep than before, as he is in the earlier part of his sleep cycle, which results in making him feel worse than he did the first time and is the worst phase to be awoken from.

The harder we feel it is for us to wake up, the worse we think we’ve slept. “Waking up in this manner triggers an instant stress response, causing the release of adrenaline and cortisol, which makes the person feel immediately alert.” When this subsides, the individual feels disoriented and groggy. In these early waking minutes, our memory, reaction time, ability to perform basic mathematical tasks, and alertness and attention suffer,” says sleep medicine specialist, Dr. Preeti Devnani, M.D., Sleep Disorders Clinic.

Also, during ‘snooze-sleep’ we are somewhat conscious of not sleeping too deeply or sleeping for too long. The fear of sleeping past the time makes us subconsciously alert, and therefore doesn’t offer the value that good sleep would provide to our system. Snooze-sleep is not the same as the pre-alarm state, as it allows us to be neither fully awake nor fully asleep, and is the enemy of productive wakefulness.

Well-rested sleep

“Sleep problems are primarily due to lifestyle changes and stress. Most of us have longer hours of work, and longer commutes to work, which take a toll on our family time and sleep. Several of us cite early departure to work as a reason for not doing routine exercises such as walking, which help maintain the circadian rhythm,” describes Dr. N. Ramakrishnan, Senior Consultant and Director, Nithra Institute of Sleep Sciences.

Consequences of sleep deprivation in today’s work environment are absenteeism and brain fog. “Well-rested sleep helps maintain physiological functions — cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, gastrointestinal systems and neurocognitive functions — improves the quality of life, enhances daytime performance and productivity, prevents brain fog, and enhances neurocognitive and emotional functioning,” shares Dr. Preeti. In the accelerated lives we lead, sleep is crucial, and quality sleep works wonders. Research shows that well-rested sleep increases creativity, productivity, confidence, decision-making skills, relationships, careers and also reduces stress. Want of good sleep hinders our ability to focus and negatively impacts our mood.

Dr. Ramakrishnan adds, “The good old advice that a child should sleep well for adequate growth has a scientific justification. It has been noted that maintaining the circadian rhythm and sleeping well at night and being alert and active during the day helps maintain the right balance of hormones. There are reports that fighting this natural rhythm may create hormonal imbalance Want of good quality and quantity of sleep may, in the long run, lead to psychosocial problems (depression, irritability, memory impairment, behavioural problems and social dysfunction) and medical problems such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.”

Sleep inertia

If you regularly wake up feeling groggy, set your alarm for a few minutes later. Limit snoozing, as it reduces sleep inertia, and the fragmented sleep that follows reduces sleep efficiency. Sleep inertia is the period between waking and being fully awake, when you feel groggy. The more abruptly you are awakened, the more severe the sleep inertia. Keeping your alarm far from your bed also forcibly makes you get up from the bed and helps break the ‘pressing the snooze button’ habit. Also get realistic regarding your waking up time, and set the alarm only for the time you plan to wake up.