You’ve had a late night. Hitting the snooze once or twice the next morning to give yourself more time to ease into the day isn’t a big deal, according to W. Chris Winter, M.D., Men’s Health sleep adviser and author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It.
But when it becomes a chronic habit—say, slamming that snooze button multiple times, every day—you may actually be causing some changes to your body that aren’t so great.
“Everyone loves the relief of knowing you can go back to sleep,” says Dr. Winter. “That’s understandable, and it’s why we hit snooze. But you might be paying a higher price than you think for that all-too-brief relief.”
Your mind might be loving the cozy time, but here’s how your body is getting screwed up when you hit the snooze.
Your Hormones Get Jumbled
When you begin to wake up, your “sleep hormone” melatonin naturally begins to drop, and your go-go-go hormone, cortisol, starts rising. That causes a cascade of other chemicals—like serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline—to surge as well. That’s important, since these other hormones are what motivate you to feel awake and to get moving.
“When you’re hitting snooze 10 or 11 times a morning, your brain doesn’t understand when it’s supposed to make this change,” says Dr. Winter. As a result, your body doesn’t trigger the release of the hormones per usual, so it’s more difficult to feel refreshed.
You Get “Sleep Drunk”
There’s a phenomenon called “sleep drunkenness” and when this happens, your cognitive processes aren’t quite switched on, according to Dr. Winter. Overuse of snoozing could be part of poor quality sleep, which increases your risk of feeling disoriented during the post-sleep hours.
You have more trouble making decisions, you feel confused more easily, and you might even opt for some bad choices like, “That job performance review isn’t that important.” It’s very similar to being actually drunk, Dr. Winter says.
You Miss Your Morning Poop
Sleep and digestion work together, and both rely on circadian rhythms, according to Dr. Winter. When you wake up, it kicks off peristalsis, a series of wave-like muscle contractions that move food along in the digestive tract. That’s one of the reasons you’re more likely to poop in the morning.
But like other processes, if it gets thrown off schedule, your body may not create those necessary cues for regular evacuation. The result? Potential constipation and bloating.
Your Hunger Cues Are Messed Up
Ideally, Dr. Winter says, you should wake up somewhat hungry. Like other morning hormone surges, ghrelin— a hormone that regulates appetite—should come online when you awaken.
The body reduces ghrelin production while you sleep, and when your sleep stops and then starts again, the hormonal triggering process goes awry. This could change up your hunger cues.
That might cause ghrelin to kick in earlier— cue the night eating beforehand—or to get delayed until later in the morning, when it comes roaring back. Neither scenario is ideal, says Dr. Winter.
You Get Groggy
Snoozing does have its place if you’re someone who benefits from waking up in stages, adds Jerald Simmons, M.D., a sleep expert at Comprehensive Sleep Medicine Associates in Houston. If you need an extra three-to-five minutes to rouse yourself, that can be helpful, he believes.
But if you try to go back to sleep in that timeframe, it can make it more difficult to transition into your day. Usually, a high level of grogginess occurs because your body is trying to figure out if it is going to be getting more sleep, or if it should start that chemical cascade that comes with being awake.
This grogginess may even be a red flag that you have a sleep disorder, Dr. Simmons says, and that can range from insufficient sleep syndrome—which, true to its name, is simply not getting enough sleep consistently—to obstructive sleep apnea. With that condition, your throat muscles relax too much or your tongue falls against the back of the throat, with both of those causing a temporary airway block—cue the snoring and snorting when the body jerks you back awake to restore airflow.
If it seems literally impossible to get out of bed without ferocious snoozing first, he advises getting examined for a possible sleep problem.
By Elizabeth Millard