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The Snooze Button of Tiredness

July 23, 2014

The Snooze Button of Tiredness

If you are like me then you have a nemesis. A monster with glowing red eyes that watches you while you sleep, patiently waiting until the perfect moment to unleash a deafening roar that signals the end of comfort and warmth. What is worse is that hitting this monster does not mean that it is defeated, but rather only placated for a few moments before it returns. While I call my nemesis many unprintable words in the morning, most people call it an alarm clock.

While the few moments of sleep that you reclaim in between the alarm's ear ringing and pressing of the snooze button might seem blissful, some evidence is suggesting that this series of interrupted sleep is actually making getting up in the morning even more difficult. By beginning the sleep cycle all over again, the few minutes of sleep that you do results in you waking up closer to the beginning of our sleep cycle than desirable. Waking up at the beginning of a sleep cycle makes it more difficult to think straight early in the morning. This is in part due to the fact that various parts of the brain 'wake' up in different stages, something that is made worse by waking up in the beginning of your sleep cycle.

While your brain-stem might be fully functional as soon as you wake up, your prefrontal cortex takes longer to wake up. This means that while you might be perfectly capable of pouring a cup of coffee in the morning, making decisions and thinking clearly is not so easy. This also explains why you are perfectly capable of making a hot cup of coffee and then adding orange juice to it instead of milk. Most of our higher functions, such as memory, reaction time and alertness, take a while to kick start - this is called sleep inertia and can take up to four hours to dissipate.

Of course, while this is more likely to affect people who are suddenly awoken, it does not affect everyone in the same way. Some people are genuinely morning people and are able to be chipper and energetic early in the morning, while others might need a cup of coffee or three before they can function clearly. Of course, if you want to ensure that you are super awake and alert early in the morning all you have to do is to put a drawing pin on top of the snooze button.

Are you a morning or night person?

photo credit: muctoff via photopin cc

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