For many, one of the worst sensations of the day takes place at the very beginning : when the ‘beep-beep’ (or the radio, or the song on duty) abruptly rips us out of Morpheus’ sweet arms, calling us to get ready to go. to work.
In fact, it is not at all unusual to try to delay this painful moment a bit by snoozing the alarm (the famous ‘snooze’ button), the famous “five more minutes”. “Almost 50% of the population does it, according to surveys,” Adela Fraile, coordinator of the Sleep Unit of the HM Puerta del Sur University Hospital , explains to 20Minutos .
However, this laziness, which might seem innocent a priori, may reveal a deeper sleep problem that we may not be as aware of as we should be.
“It is a false belief that the sleep cycle is thus lengthened”
Behind the habit of snoozing the alarm, sometimes directly systematized (Who does not know cases of people who program several successive alarms to get out of bed?) Lies a misconception. “The reason is none other than a false belief that the sleep cycle is thus lengthened”, develops Fraile.
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And, according to this expert, this cycle is not prolonged but rather ” begins a new sleep cycle that is not usually complete, since a few minutes later the new alarm will sound, and then most likely you will wake up even more. tired than the first time. “
This happens due to the phenomenon known as ‘sleep inertia’, which is nothing other than the state of decreased cognitive capacity and alertness that most people experience as soon as they get up. That is to say, the ‘daze’ that we all know.
“At that time in the morning the mechanisms that help us wake up should have started: light sleep, increased body temperature, increased secretion of cortisol and other hormones,” says Fraile. Sleep inertia happens by waking up without this process; “thus avoiding the restorative sensation of sleep desired in those minutes”.
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Sleep inertia is something natural when we wake up abruptly and whose duration and intensity depend on many factors such as the phase of sleep we are in when the alarm sounds, lack of rest and sleep fragmentation . The latter is basically what we do by using multiple alarms to wake up: we prepare our body to go back to sleep, only to interrupt that process minutes later.
“This behavior reveals a sleep disorder”
However, Fraile emphasizes that the fact of giving the snooze does not, in itself, have any proven negative effect. “It has no positive effect, but no harm has been found either , beyond procrastinating without any real benefit,” he points out.
Instead, he notes that it can be symptomatic of deeper problems. “This behavior reveals the insufficient sleep disorder suffered by more than 30% of individuals,” he says.
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“The cause is multifactorial: use of technology in the evening hours, excessive exposure to screen light, too long work or study hours , starting school or work activity too early …”, he continues.
As he explains, it is this underlying insufficient sleep disorder that can cause different negative effects in our lives : “The daytime effects of this sleep deprivation range from poor school and work performance, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, lightheadedness, encouragement, even a greater predisposition to suffer an accident “.
This impact of the lack of sleep in the daily life and in the general health of the people that Fraile points out is not something new; Many scientific studies have found links between insufficient sleep and cardiovascular disease , mood disorders, and the risk of suicide and stroke.
“The ideal would be to end the dream with the stimulus of the sun”
Therefore, improving the quality of sleep must first of all happen by trying to sleep the necessary time , which varies according to age: according to the Mayo Clinic , it would be between 12 and 16 per 24 hours for children aged 4 to 12 months, 11 to 14 for those from one to two years, between 10 and 13 for those from 3 to 5 years, between 9 and 12 for those from 6 to 12 years, 8 to 10 for those from 13 to 18, and 7 or more for adults.
Beyond that, there are also healthier ways to wake up . “Our circadian rhythm is governed by the light intensity of the day-night cycle”, concludes Fraile: “If we synchronize the internal and external clocks and sleep a sufficient number of hours, it would be ideal to end the dream with the light stimulus of the sun from the tomorrow, but this is not possible in most homes. So it would be appropriate for our alarm clock to have a progressive light intensity that mimics natural behavior. “