health

Why you need to stop setting multiple alarms to wake up.

A peek at my phone alarm settings instantly reveals I’m not what you’d call a morning person.

For my 6:30am wake up, I set no less than six alarms spaced at 10-15 minute intervals leading up to the very last possible moment where I actually have to get out of bed or risk being late to work.

My logic is that if I’m awoken earlier than I need to be, I’m in a lighter sleep and can gently dose for a little bit longer without worrying about failing to wake up. #Science.

I’m not alone – statistics show more than a third of us hit the snooze button at least three times each morning in order to steal a few extra moments of precious ZZZs. Foolproof and harmless, right?

Wrong. So very wrong.

Watch: Segmented sleep, explained. (Post continues after video.)

“Although we are all different, generally speaking from a mood and sleep quality point of view I would never recommend this,” says Angela Bradley, Principal Psychologist and Director of Therapeutic Services at the Gold Coast’s Mood & Mind Centre.

“Multiple alarm-wake episodes will repeatedly draw you out of the deeper, more productive stages of sleep. Your brain is actively healing and resetting during deep sleep stages and unnecessary disruption to those processes is not going to help your energy and mood in the long run.”

This activity is important – it’s your brain sorting out and filing the previous day’s activities and consolidating memories. Depriving your brain of this chance is what leaves you feeling scrambled and confused.

Although you think you’re getting more sleep through staggering your waking up process, it’s actually not really benefiting you anyway.

“The disruptions by multiple alarms repeatedly arouse the brain then settle, and it’s these repetitive awakenings that disrupt the continuity of the sleep. It’s not an efficient way of getting the extra sleep,” says the Sleep Health Foundation‘s Professor David Hillman. (Post continues after gallery.)

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“By misbehaving sleep-wise, you’re putting pressure on yourself and also making it more likely that you’ll sleep through your alarm.”

What’s important to work out is why you’re relying on so many alarms to get you out of bed in the morning.

“If this is the only way you can wake up, it suggests you have a significant problem with your sleep. You could be chronically sleep deprived and your brain is desperate for just a couple more minutes sleep, or you have a sleep disorder,” says Dr Jenny Brockis.

The average adult requires seven and a half to eight hours of sleep a night, something many of us aren’t getting. In fact, the Australian average is just seven hours.

“A lot of us are walking around in sleep-restrictive state; we have enough sleep to function but not enough to function optimally. Our tendency to sleep through alarms is result of this,” says Professor Hillman.

The most affected group is women between the ages of 35 and 55, when we are often at our busiest — juggling work, family, social lives and our own needs.

Image: iStock

While missing out on half an hour's sleep might not seem a lot, do that regularly and each week you're accumulating a sleep debt of almost four hours.

Experts also recommend looking at what's keeping you in bed.

"The urge to avoid getting up and facing the day is likely to be an indicator of an avoidance of getting on with what your day has in store for you. It would be far more helpful to get proactive about why those feelings exist rather than just sliding though life hitting the snooze button," says Bradley.

So what's the magic waking-up trick? It's all to do with what you do the night before.

  1. Take a look at the quality of your sleep. From experience you'll know how much you need and try to stick to a regular routine of both going to sleep and waking up. Even going to bed 20 minutes earlier can help ensure you feel more refreshed.
  2. Try ditching the electronics (yes, that includes Netflix) in the last hour to 90 minutes before you sleep to allow your mind to wind down.
  3. Put your alarm away from your bed so you have to get up to turn it off.
  4. Ban the snooze, period. Sleeping in causes rushing to be prepared, which is a horrible and easily avoidable way to start to your day. (Post continues after gallery.)
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These will all work together to help regulate your sleeping patterns and train your body to wake up without the need for multiple alarms.

While it might be challenging, the pay off is worth it.

"It's one of the simplest lifestyle changes you can make. Others like exercise take time, but changing your sleep habits will give you instant benefits - you'll very quickly notice the differences," says Professor Hillman.

You snooze, you lose.

What's your trick to waking up in the morning?

Featured image: supplied

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