How to break the snooze button habit?
February 13, 2020 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I have a bad habit of hitting the snooze alarm, wasting time on my phone in bed, or just falling back asleep every morning. Looking for advice on how to reset my brain/body so I can get out of bed at the first alarm and have a more productive morning.

I have a really hard time getting out of bed in the morning. I’ve been struggling with this most of my life. I work from home and my work day starts at 9:00. I’d like to get up early enough to have an hour or two before work, so that I can exercise, eat breakfast, and do a couple of chores. But instead, I hit the snooze button and finally get out of bed at 8:30 at the earliest, and end up eating breakfast at my desk & wearing my pajamas until noon.

I go to bed around 10:00/ 10:30 but don’t actually go to sleep until 11:30 or midnight. My husband comes to bed later than I do and likes to read, and I have a really hard time falling asleep when he’s up and moving around. (Ear plugs and an eye mask help, but then I can’t hear my alarms in the morning!)

I set my alarm for 8:00 or 8:15, but I hit snooze over and over again until it’s absolutely time for me to get up and rush to my desk. Or, I waste time in bed looking at my phone, checking emails and Instagram. I will sometimes even get up to use the bathroom and then get back in bed and fall asleep. My numerous snooze alarms drive my partner crazy.

I don’t think it’s a matter of not getting enough sleep. When I do manage to get up and moving at a reasonable time, I feel just as rested as when I sleep til 9:30. I can’t use a dawn simulator alarm clock or super annoying loud alarm because it will annoy my husband. Anyway, my lizard brain would just turn it off and go back to sleep. I know the typical advice is to put an alarm clock across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off, but I will literally crawl back in bed and go back to sleep, and my husband would probably divorce me!

I’m really fed up with myself lately and just can’t seem to figure it out. I go to bed thinking, tomorrow will be the day that I just get out of bed at the first alarm and have a productive morning. But then, I am just super cozy and sleepy or having a good dream and can’t convince myself that it’s worth it to get out of bed.

Any tips/ life hacks/ apps/ strategies for a better morning experience? I know it’s just a matter of building better habits, but I’m hoping for some advice on how to get started and break out of this cycle.
posted by jschu to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I know it’s just a matter of building better habits
Not always, sometimes there are real medical reasons that you might have a hard time getting out of bed. I would talk to your regular doctor about tiredness. They might suggest checking your thyroid and/or talking to a sleep medicine specialist.

I also think your sleep partner keeping you up late isn't fair if you aren't aloud to wake him up early. You two need to compromise on quiet/dark hours in the bedroom and that includes phone lights.
posted by soelo at 8:45 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


There was a time when my father had to get up at 4:00 AM to be at work at 5:00. He set up four alarm clocks placed in different locations around his bedroom, none of which were accessible from his bed. After getting up and racing around the room to turn off the alarms he had woken up enough that he didn't climb back into bed.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 8:50 AM on February 13


I wonder if you might find it helpful to switch to a smart watch that buzzes you as an alarm clock, rather than a loud alarm. Then you could do the mask/plugs thing at night and get better sleep overall.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:53 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I use Sleep Cycle on my phone. You tell it when you want to be awake, and it wakes you up when it thinks you’re already waking up, in the 30 minutes before the target time.

You can snooze it, but the snooze is progressively shorter so you can’t snooze past your target time.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:55 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Get an old-fashioned mechanical alarm clock like this. No snooze, and you will wake with a surge of adrenaline! Problem solved, though anyone else nearby may hate you.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:03 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Is the only reason you want to get up earlier to get a few extra things done before you start work? I'd say try setting your alarm for later (maybe enough time to shower & dress) and see if that takes away the urge to snooze. It seems like you're conditioned to take every extra minute, and I feel a lot of stress when I keep snoozing an alarm, so maybe take away the possibility of snoozing and see if that changes the habit? Then you may be able to progressively move the alarm earlier, once the habit is, "Alarm sounds and I'm up."
posted by xingcat at 9:06 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Don't bring your phone in the bedroom, and put the alarm clock across the room so you have to get up to turn it off.
posted by something something at 9:11 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I do exercises in my bed upon awakening the first time in the morning. Try working up to 200 pelvic rocks with strong exhale on the uplift. Follow that with 50 abdominal crunches with strong exhale on the exertion. By the time you have made 250 strong breaths, you are wide awake. Get the CO2 out, and then awakening is a snap. The pelvic rocks are minimal they exercise all the muscles in the pelvic area, including your lower back, lower abdomen. Walking around is much easier, rather than stumbling around first thing.
posted by Oyéah at 9:11 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Try a different tack. Mel Robbins talk on the 5 second rule worked for me ( I have the same problem). Basically, she says that if you don't act on an idea (getting up) within 5 seconds or so, your brain will try to kill the idea (snooze button).
posted by dhruva at 9:16 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Thank you for the answers. A lot of people are suggesting the "loud alarm clock across the room so you have to get out of bed, but in my post I mentioned that hasn't worked for me in the past, and I don't want to overly annoy my husband more than I am already.
posted by jschu at 9:26 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


When I get up to go to the bathroom after waking up, I run my hands and feet under ice cold water if I need to get myself away from going back to sleep.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 9:32 AM on February 13


For me it's motivation. Do I want to get out of bed? Or am I dreading having to deal with the day?

Do you have a favorite breakfast food? Is your husband willing to make breakfast for you - something to look forward to, to get out of bed?
posted by porpoise at 9:33 AM on February 13


I'm favoring a lot of the more extreme ideas. Put alarm clocks all over the house. Lock up your phone somewhere so you won't waste time on it in the morning.

You say you will annoy your husband, but tell him (and yourself) that it's temporary. You're trying to establish new habits. Give yourself two months or so. Once you're better at waking up, you won't need these techniques anymore.
posted by Leontine at 9:46 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


You've got to get your phone out of the bedroom. Don't keep a charger by your bed. It'll help you get to bed at night and help you get going in the morning.

Next, you need to pick something that you're going to do *immediately* after you wake up. As simple as having a shower, or making breakfast, or exercising if that works for you. Do that every weekday.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 9:50 AM on February 13


The Sleep Cycle app really helped me through some rough sleep issues. I don't like any of the alarms on my phone but I loved waking up to Sleep cycle. It wakes you up during a predetermined 30 min window (although you can narrow it down to 10 or 20 minutes) at a moment when your sleep is shallow. It changed my mornings.

I ultimately stopped using it because I developed a habit of listening to audiobooks at night but I like to think it fixed my sleep for good.
posted by M. at 9:58 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I have a couple tricks:

1. Biology is clear that sunlight triggers your circadian rhythm. So, about 45 minutes before I want to get up, I set an alarm to stumble over the window and open all the blinds. Then I get back in bed and sleep/doze. For the next 45 minutes my brain is actually responding to the sunlight in a way that helps me wake up!

2. Get a real alarm clock and put your phone in the kitchen. You'll want to look at it in the morning and this will trick you into leaving the room.

3. When it's time to actually get up, I throw the covers off my body. I'm allowed to keep laying there for a few minutes, but it's not warm and cozy anymore.

4. Once I'm no longer warm and cozy (or some days as an alternative to the covers move), I force myself to get up and immediately leave the bedroom. I don't get dressed, I don't stretch, I don't check my phone (phone is in the kitchen), I just immediately leave. I make coffee in my pajamas. My kitchen is flooded with even more sunlight, so after ~2 minutes walking around my kitchen I'm pretty solidly awake.

5. Another thing I do is schedule a workout class (yoga or boxing or pilates) that I have pre-paid for around 7:00 or 7:30am. Then I don't want to lose the money I've spent so I haul my butt out of bed and go. I hate it in that moment but I feel SO good afterward. I would never ever motivate to go unless I had pre-paid.
posted by amaire at 10:06 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Also: get a coffee maker with a clock so you can have coffee ready for you in the morning when you get up.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:09 AM on February 13


One suggestion I have heard is to practice responding to your alarm. You get yourself ready for bed, set your alarm to go off in about a minute, then lie down and relax like you are going to sleep. When the alarm goes off, you immediately get up (which ought to be no problem because you are not actually asleep), and go through as much of your morning routine as you would need to guarantee you are awake and not going back to bed. Repeat this regularly.

When I tried this, it did work pretty well. But I did not stick with it for long and eventually lost the benefits. It might only have worked because I was focusing on waking up in the morning.
posted by eruonna at 10:12 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I had this exact same problem for years, and what mostly solved it for me was working with my slow rise habits than against them. That is, baking the time I need to meander slowly to existence into my schedule rather than hoping I suddenly became a different person.

I have one alarm that goes off 20 minutes before I have to actually get up (which for me is 6:40). This allows me to luxuriantly crash back into bed, guilt-free, and the 20 minutes gives me a nice cat nap. That way when I do wake up for real, I'm not in a super deep level of sleep.

At 7:00 when the next alarm goes off I wake up for real, but I do not get out of bed. I give myself another nice 20 minutes to - this is important - sit up in bed and put on my glasses (Awake signals!!) Then I turn on my brain by reading, most often by browsing MeFi. A slow, quiet luxury of steps up, no guilt tripping, mind slowly sparks awake. (Throwing away the self-guilt-trips was really important to this.)

Then at 7:20 I have to get actually out of bed, but by then I'm awake enough for it not to be totally terrible, and by the time I've showered and brushed my teeth a mostly functional person.

Other important factors:
+ Keeping a pretty similar system on the weekends. I delay bedtime and rise by an hour (12-8 vs 11-7), but try not to stay up super late or sleep in super late unless there's specific reasons.
+ Getting enough sleep. I'm pretty strict about my bedtime and getting eight hours, although with my bedtime, if I am sneakily ignoring the hour (i.e. reading a super good book), I'll still get at least seven plus hours of sleep. I've found that if I routinely get less than eight hours, or have a chaotic schedule, it makes it impossible for me not to hit the snooze button over and over.
posted by hapaxes.legomenon at 10:13 AM on February 13 [13 favorites]




Get an alarm clock that runs away.
posted by mkb at 10:29 AM on February 13


There are two parts to this for me:

First, making it easier. This is accomplished by going to bed at a reasonable hour, practicing sleep hygiene, and so on. I also have a bedside lamp with a Philips Hue white lightbulb (one of the ones where you can change the warmth). I control it with the iConnectHue app, and on weekday mornings it fades in for about 15 minutes before I actually want to get up. At night, I can set a sleep timer with it so that it stays on for 20 minutes but is fading for the last 5 or so; this is a reminder to go to sleep.

The second part is giving a crap in the moment when the alarm goes off. I have a hard time with this in general - there are plenty of things I want to do and make plans to do and then just... don't. To help with this, this year I have started using a paper planner that focuses on goal setting, and reflecting on meeting them. The specific one I'm using is the Clever Fox Planner (recommended to me by a fellow mefite) and I have found that tracking goals and thinking about them at different levels on a daily/weekly/monthly basis helps a lot with the motivation to actually do them. I recently fell off the wagon with it for a couple of weeks when I had the flu, and suffice it to say that I didn't floss once during that time but now that I am properly using it again, it's somehow.... easier to do it daily (because that's one of my daily goals). There are lots of ways to accomplish this, but it's the part I think is maybe missing from some of the suggestions above.
posted by telepanda at 10:38 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Is your partner willing to change his habits?

I struggled with insomnia and went through sleep therapy a few years ago; rule number one was that the bed is for sleep and sex ONLY. If your partner is coming to bed and interrupting the part of your sleep with the highest sleep pressure, it is no wonder to me that you are having trouble falling asleep and are therefore too tired to get out of bed immediately in the morning. Would he read in another room until he's ready to go to sleep?

Other things to look at: reducing caffeine consumption (I can't have any after lunch time), limiting cell phone use two hours before bed and never in bed, exercising, having a wonderful reason to get out of bed right away in the morning (automatic coffee maker was the win for me). Now I get up a full hour before the rest of my family, even when I've had a bad night, because the ritual of ready-made coffee and the house to myself is so wonderful.

(Also, I use my cell phone as both my alarm clock and my white noise machine, with Do Not Disturb setting on it to block everything else out. You can have your phone in your bedroom, with limits.)
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:41 AM on February 13


Both Android and iOS have built in settings for blocking certain apps during preset times. Mine turns off the browser, Twitter and Slack at 10pm every night. After 10, I switch to reading if I'm not ready to sleep yet. You can do the reverse and block the culprit apps in the morning.

I have a Fitbit that vibrates to wake me up, which is great because I do frequently sleep with headphones or earplugs. It also has a setting with a 30 minutes window in which it will wake you depending on your sleep cycle But you can totally snooze it, so it doesn't solve all problems.

I love the slow roll wakeup, truly. I love it so much that even though I sleep with my husband on weekend nights (I have my own room that I sleep in on weeknights), I usually sneak back to my own room when I get up to pee around 5:30 am so that I'm free to roll around in bed, snoozing, reading, playing on my phone until the boy child insists someone wake up for real and play with him. Not being able to do it weekdays makes the weekends so much more special and luxurious feeling. You have that to look forward to!
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:55 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I had problems with constantly hitting the snooze button on my alarm. I went back to using a clock radio to wake me up, like I did when I was younger, and it works MUCH better. It just clicks on and plays the local morning news instead of blaring a jarring alarm noise.

I'm using this Sony alarm clock radio, though maybe there are apps or other devices that can do it too. I wanted to keep it old-school.
posted by cadge at 11:14 AM on February 13


Is your husband awake at that time? Give him a spray bottle filled with water and permission to spray you with it.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:20 AM on February 13


I know you don't want to have alarms in the room, but what about an alarm in another room - would that be any more palatable to your husband? I use our Alexa to play a really annoying song (Barbie Girl) in the living room. It's close enough that I can hear it from the bedroom, but not close enough that I can yell to turn off the song from the bedroom. I set the alarm on my phone for 7:30, and the Alexa alarm for 7:31. For about a week the song would startle me and I'd run out of bed to turn it off before it woke my husband up. After that, I got so conditioned to it that I now jump out of bed at 7:30 to make sure I cancel the Alexa music alarm before it ever goes off. It did take a little while of being really annoying but it has helped me significantly (and I have struggled with getting out of bed my entire life). Good luck with this!
posted by Neely O'Hara at 11:26 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


My husband comes to bed later than I do and likes to read, and I have a really hard time falling asleep when he’s up and moving around.

I can’t use a dawn simulator alarm clock or super annoying loud alarm because it will annoy my husband.

You know what? This is a little bit of a partner problem. You are being considerate of your husband in a way he's maybe not being considerate of you. Can you all have a conversation about this? You want to sleep earlier but he wakes you up. You'd like to get up earlier and not wake him. Falling asleep a tiny bit earlier should help you wake up a tiny bit earlier. Can he stop reading in bed when you are asleep if you stop hitting snooze?
posted by bluedaisy at 11:33 AM on February 13 [9 favorites]


If you do come to a compromise with your husband that makes the use of a dawn simulator alarm clock a viable option, you may find it useful to know that the Sleep Cycle app recommended a few times in this thread can be set up to work with Philips Hue smart bulbs so that the lights come slowly on over that half-hour wake-up window. I find it nigh-on impossible to drag myself out of sleep if I wake to a dark room, so this kind of thing makes a real difference to me. It's not a magic bullet - I'm still terrible at getting up when the alarm rings; I came into this thread hoping to find tips rather than expecting to be able to offer any - but it's been a very long time now since I've straight-up overslept.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 11:59 AM on February 13


Obviously, at this point, you're drowning in responses, but [r]esearchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology studied how the type of alarm sound used to wake study participants impacted their alertness, sleep inertia, and mood. (Sleep inertia being what you're talking about.)

"The participants who woke up to calmer sounds—like a melodic ringtone, a song, or nature sounds—had significantly lower levels of sleep inertia and started their day more alert and productive."
posted by WCityMike at 12:28 PM on February 13


Put a stimulant within reach at your bedside and consume it (just a few sips, if your stimulant of choice is coffee or tea) after the first alarm goes off. Give yourself permission to snooze, if you want, but it won't be the tantalizing dream-filled snooze that keeps you in the cycle.

I've struggled with this for years, and someone in a productivity group I'm in shared that they put their ADHD meds on their bedside table. My partner is kind enough to bring me coffee every morning and it really works like a miracle. Sometimes I'm still grumpy, but I'm caffeinated and I don't have the option to fall back asleep even if I want to.
posted by witchen at 1:06 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I use an app called FreakyAlarm on my phone. It plays godawful noises like vacuums and crying babies, interspersed with a terrible robot voice that says, "WAKE UP. IT'S TIME TO GET UP." (I know that you said no loud alarms, but this will be important later.) It also makes me do some math problems before it will shut off the alarm.

1. Maybe there's an app that plays a more gentle tone but still makes you do math problems or something? That's meant to wake up your brain enough to know that your lizard brain may want to go back to sleep, but your prefrontal cortex wants to get up.

2. But here's what I do. I only use FreakyAlarm as a threat to myself. I set my regular alarm for 6:20, and FreakyAlarm for 6:22. If I hit snooze on the regular alarm FreakyAlarm will come along and kick my ass. But I hate FreakyAlarm so much (the noises are really, really horrible) that I will usually turn off the regular alarm and wake up enough to disable FreakyAlarm before it can torture me.
posted by missrachael at 1:31 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I don’t think you can achieve the magic solution of not annoying your husband while also getting up earlier, because the two things that might solve your problem would annoy him: a loud and inconvenient alarm, or him coming to bed earlier / not disturbing you at night so you can sleep earlier.

So, you can communicate better with your husband so that you both can come to a compromise, and he can stop getting annoyed with things that you need. Or you can come to terms with being a later riser, and your husband avoids changing or getting annoyed. Or you can come to be more ok with annoying your husband, realizing that you’re spending way more energy catering to his sleep needs than he is spending catering to yours.
posted by sallybrown at 1:43 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I despise getting out of bed because I hate being cold and giving up that coziness. But the desire to be super cozy means I stay in bed and doze even when I'm totally well-rested. I've combated this somewhat by making my out-of-bed situation much cozier: soft, warm robe, coffee maker on a timer, literally anything that makes me feel like maybe life outside of bed can be just as warm and snuggly and gives me something to look forward to. Like, yes, it's cozy in here but outside there is delicious warm coffee waiting for me and that's worth getting up for.
posted by thebots at 1:47 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


What did it for me was not setting an alarm for a month. You may not need to go to this extreme. I was coming off the worst stretch of insomnia of my whole life and I straight up told my boss, "I'm just going to be sleeping when I actually can, and I'll keep you informed when I'm logging on." My natural wake time kind of stabilized on its own after a couple weeks. After a few weeks without a regular alarm I noticed that if I did have to set an alarm (say, to catch a plane or join an unavoidable conference call) I got up the first time it went off, which was unusual for me.

The lower key version of this: try setting your alarm for the "have to get up right now" time. That will make sure you really get up right when it goes off. Do that for a few weeks, then move it up by five or ten minutes and see if you stick with the habit. Then move it up ten minutes more. If you get used to getting up on the first alarm, you may not slip back into the snooze habit as you set your alarm earlier.
posted by fedward at 2:23 PM on February 13


I solved this by moving to a new house and deciding that I would never use the snooze button in my new bedroom. (Because I know once I start I'll start hitting it 3 times every morning again)
posted by JDHarper at 2:57 PM on February 13


Yeah you need to go to bed earlier.
posted by Miko at 5:58 PM on February 13


The Apple watch worked for my husband. Nothing could get him out of bed, but that buzzing watch on his wrist does the trick and rarely wakes me up.
posted by gryphonlover at 6:22 PM on February 13


I have your problem. This is what I do. I set an alarm for 30+ minutes before I actually want to get up (when my alarm normally goes off) and hit snooze 3 times or read on my phone until the real time to wake up. It eases me into the morning. So if I need to be up at 9, and I want to get up at 8:30 - I set my alarm for 7:45, 8 and 8:15. Then at 8:30 I get up. Also I have a coffee machine set up to start with the first alarm.
posted by Toddles at 9:28 PM on February 13


I wear a Fitbit Flex 2 for sleep tracking (it's very small, minimal and comfortable to wear). The silent alarms where it buzzes my wrist are actually a really nice way to be woken up, I find. My phone is out in the hall, and I have to get up and silence it before the alarm goes off, 1 minute after my Fitbit.

I find the combination of the gentle buzzing to wake me up plus the minor urgency of silencing my phone before it wakes up my wife works very well to get me over the snooze/fall back into bed habit.

I've also been working on getting up at the same time every single day. I resisted this so hard for so long (uuuughhh, I love lie-ins so much), but it makes a phenomenal difference. First of all, you get way longer-feeling weekend days if you're up and about at the same time as during the week. But the consistent wake time really quickly translates into your body responding and settling into a routine. I've been doing this now for about three months and I've become one of those insufferable people who doesn't really need an alarm to get up. I drift into consciousness about 2-3 minutes before my Fitbit starts buzzing these days. It is very weird and cool.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:57 PM on February 13


99% of human behaviour is habitual.

At present, the only time you hear your alarm clock go off is first thing in the morning, and your habit is to snooze it and go back to sleep. You want to train up a new habit, where you respond to the sound of an alarm clock by getting out of bed. And you want your full faculties available for those training sessions. Trying to do them with a barely functional just-woken brain is playing the game in hard mode.

So for the next month, what you're going to do every day, without fail, is schedule ten minutes for doing the exercise of setting your alarm for one minute from now, getting into bed, waiting for the alarm to ring, and getting straight out again and leaving the bedroom. It's better if you do this at some time that isn't traditionally bed-related, so you can stay focused on the fact that this is deliberate training with the intent of creating a new habit.

Those ten reps per day should get that response to gel as a new habit within a month or two at most, and should be enough to overcome the the one rep per day maintenance dose that you're currently giving the existing habit. Don't expect to see any noticeable reduction in your present habitual reluctance to get out of bed on waking for at least a couple of weeks; habit formation is slow.

Also anticipate that your present habit-cognitive complex will fight this to the death. It will try to derail your training sessions with thoughts like "this is stupid, this is a waste of time, this is boring, this is crazy, this is crap, fuck that Internet bozo, fuck me for taking that Internet bozo even slightly seriously, god I am so BORED, this is SUCH a stupid waste of time..."

All that is, is a piece of your habitual sense of self acting in self-preservation. And it will be doing that because on some level you get pleasure from hitting snooze and going back to sleep, and you know perfectly well that the training will work, probably even to the extent of making you actually incapable of doing that any more. And that's a loss.

So you need to start by accepting that yes, there will be that loss and it will be a genuine loss, but that when your circumstances change you can use the exact same training method to regain the pleasurable habit that's currently getting in your way professionally.
posted by flabdablet at 9:08 AM on February 14


Hi all, I am back to report that I am well into week two of a much happier morning routine. Here is my setup:

• 2 silent/vibrate alarms on my fitbit, at 7:50 and 7:55.

• Standard alarm clock across the room set for 8:00. My goal every morning is to get up and turn it off before it starts beeping. I think I've only missed once or twice.

• It helps to have an actual plan of what I want to do in the morning so that I don't have to think about it. For me what is working is going down to the gym in my apartment for a 15 minute walk on the treadmill (I barely have to get dressed, don't even have to wash my face or put in my contacts).

On weekends I stay in bed like half an hour later.

I have even woken up naturally a couple of times before the alarm.

Thanks all!
posted by jschu at 1:20 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


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