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“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Marcus Aurelius

So it’s Monday, and Monday is my busiest day of the week because I write this article and send it to each of my counseling clients and I also do all my grading for the week before for about thirty graduate students I have typically in three different Masters of Social Work classes. In addition to the other things I do I’ve taught graduate school for close to twenty years for a few different universities and I love the work. Timely grading is important to effective learning and I think it also is a sign of respect to my students for all the work they did the previous week. In the courses I teach presently there are deadlines each week on Sunday evening so that makes my Monday mornings busy.

I also have heard from many of my counseling clients that they find my Monday morning articles helpful, or thought provoking, or inspiring so I consider that an important extra service I provide to the people I am honored to be working with and helping as they are working to improve their lives. All that to say, I have a lot to do before my normal workday gets started around six or seven in the morning on Mondays.

Ordinarily I get up at 4:45 in the morning to start my first counseling appointments by 5:15 but on Mondays I generally get up by four in the morning and Monday is the one day I don’t start with a 5:15 am appointment so I have time to get my article posted and grading done for all my students. Four in the morning every Monday every week, without fail – I GET TO! I really do, I don’t HAVE TO, I choose to do what I think is important and I enjoy doing. If I didn’t like doing this, I would say “No” (I hope you didn’t miss my article last week on the power of saying “No”) and I would do something else on Monday mornings.

Of all the other things I would be doing on Monday mornings, the one thing I’m very sure I would not be doing is sleeping in. My father was an Army Veteran and he had learned the importance of getting up early and my mother was raised in a family of six kids where everyone had jobs to do every morning whether it was going to school or helping out around the house or in their community on the weekends. So as a child growing up in my house, we were up by 6:30 am on school days and on Saturdays and Sundays it was a privilege to get to sleep in until 7:30 am. Only once or twice in my life do I ever remember being in bed after those hours and those were the few times I was actually sick enough that I couldn’t get out of bed – and on those rare occasions I remember getting a pass from my parents :)

But waking up in the morning can be a difficult task for many people, especially those who describe themselves as “not morning people.” I work with a lot of people who have that belief and I’m sometimes reminded of that when I contact someone the night before to confirm we have an appointment at 5:15 am and they confirm “oh yes!” and then I’m left alone the next morning during that appointment time only to receive an apology later saying: “I’m sorry I overslept!”

I never get mad about that because believe me I ALWAYS have other work to keep busy with, but I feel bad for people who struggle so much to simply get up early in the morning. I feel bad because I know they really don’t understand how much failing the simple act of arising early impacts the rest of that day and generally it’s impacting the rest of their lives.

I’m not referring to people who enjoy sleeping in sometimes, that’s a luxury and there could be a time or two a year that I get to enjoy that myself. For me, that’s sleeping in until maybe 7:30 or 8 in the morning while for others I know that could be sleeping in until later in the morning. But for people who habitually struggle to get up early every single morning and who lay in bed until very late morning or even early afternoon, that’s an issue that’s negatively impacting their lives in many ways they may not realize.

For the people in that category, a common issue is snoozing the alarm clock which becomes a regular part of their morning routine. Snoozing the alarm clock might feel like a great idea in the moment, but it always has negative consequences in the long run. There is a wealth of information available from the National Sleep Foundation on repeated research which proves that snoozing the alarm clock interrupts and compromises the sleep cycle.

When the alarm goes off, it signals the body that it is time to wake up. If the alarm is snoozed, the body is signaled to go back to sleep. However, when the alarm goes off again a few minutes later, the body is abruptly woken up which disrupts a sleep cycle. This can result in grogginess and disorientation, which can last throughout the day. Interrupting the sleep cycle can also lead to a decrease in the quality of sleep, which can cause fatigue and drowsiness during the day.

Snoozing the alarm clock also can often lead to rushing in the morning. When a person snoozes their alarm clock, they are essentially delaying the start of their day. This can lead to a rushed morning routine as they try to make up for lost time. Rushing in the morning can cause stress and anxiety, which can negatively impact the rest of the day. There is also research correlating snoozing the alarm to decreased cognitive functioning such as increased forgetfulness and an overall decrease in productivity.

The most counterproductive thing though about snoozing the alarm is that it actually does the opposite of what the person hitting the snooze button is attempting to accomplish. People typically hit the snooze button on an alarm to get more rest in thinking they will wake up less tired but the disruption to sleep cycles with the short bursts of wakingand sleeping actually leave the person feeling even more tired than if they simply got up immediately with the first alarm sounding.

I’ve written before about the correlations to all the good things that go along with making your bed shortly after arising in the morning. In a similar but opposite direction there are many things which correlate to hitting the snooze button and none of them are positive. Research has established that snoozing the alarm clock can lead to rushing in the morning, which can cause stress and anxiety throughout the day. This can also lead to forgetfulness and a decrease in productivity. A study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that rushing in the morning can lead to a decrease in overall job satisfaction and it can even result in a decrease in overall life satisfaction.

The University of California studied this issue a few years ago and found that snoozing the alarm clock can lead to a cycle of interrupted sleep and grogginess, which can actually make it harder for a person to wake up and feel alert in the morning. This can lead to a decreased level of productivity and can have negative consequences on overall health and well-being. Further research also found a correlation with snoozing the alarm clock and procrastination in other important areas of lifestyle and responsibilities.

If I’ve not convinced you yet that snoozing is not in your best interests then I will also suggest that snoozing the alarm is far more common with people who routinely stay up past midnight, and there is a growing body of research examining the nocturnal behavior of the mind. More research is underway but early results are indicating that the human brain is not designed to be active past midnight even though there are certainly plenty of college students and younger adults who would swear they do their best work after midnight in the early hours of the morning.

But the initial research examining how the body and mind’s circadian rhythms are disrupted by being awake and active after midnight are finding that routinely staying up after midnight can increase feelings of depression, raise the risk of impulsive behaviors, lowered inhibitions, and can even lead to weight gain based on overeating, drinking alcohol, and how sleep and other hormone balances are disrupted from their normal wake-sleep cycling. All that reminds me of what my dad always used to say when I was growing up that: “Nothing good ever happens after midnight.”

Now if I’ve convinced you to stop snoozing the alarm and you would like to make some positive changes in your life, you may be wondering then how you get started in what would be a major lifestyle change. Well, I’m glad if you’re thinking this now because there are definitely some proven ways to stop being a snoozer.

The first change is to commit to a daily morning time to get up in the morning and make up your mind that when that alarm goes off at that established time, you’re going to get up out of bed and stay up then for the day with no chance of snoozing. The hardest part is initially getting started but it’s critical to get up at that earlier time even if you feel exhausted because it will guarantee that by later that evening you’re going to be tired enough to go to bed before midnight and that will kick start a whole new daily routine.

My second suggestion to stop snoozing is to put your alarm across the room or somewhere far enough away that you have to physically get up to turn off the alarm. An old fashioned loud alarm clock can be great for this purpose instead of a smart phone which man people use these days as an alarm but often the phone is kept close to the bed and that’s too easy to turn off or snooze without getting up. I sleep with sleep pod ear buds and white noise generated from my phone and a soft alarm that sounds but I keep my phone in our bathroom so when the ear buds alarm I have to get up and walk a fair distance to retrieve my phone and turn off the alarm. I’m always up for the day by that point!

Finally, establish a routine for your morning that you do daily right after rising for the day and shutting off the alarm. It might be exercise, a nice shower, a cup of coffee, prayer, meditation, or something you can start to look forward to that feels right for you or that you enjoy. If you can stick with it for three days straight, you’re far more likely to be able to do it for a week and then a month. It really could become your new habit and routine and I challenge you to try it and start to notice what other things in your life start to change.

Thomas Jefferson once said that “For fifty years the sun has never caught me in bed.” Ben Franklin said: “Early to bed and early to rise make a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” I would summarize those old pearls of wisdom to say simply: “You snooze, you lose” and by that I mean you lose motivation, routine, and some of the most valuable hours of the day to be productive. So set your alarm for early tomorrow and when it goes off tell yourself that while others are still dreaming, you can make your dreams come true!

Make it a great week!

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