We’ve all set 13 alarms in a row to make sure we wake up for an early morning flight, hoping the constant ringing – despite our snoozing efforts – will get us out of bed. Eventually. Such brute force methods require setting alarms well in advance of when you actually need to wake up. Snoozing feels really good but it’s barely sleep, in fact you’d be better off not disrupting your slumber early and just waking up when you need to.
There’s a good way to trick your brain into being conscious for slightly longer when your alarm sounds so you can shorten the time between your (first) alarm sounding and actually getting out of bed. The key is using odd numbers, literally and figuratively.
Many taps of the snooze button on your phone are done when you’re semi-conscious, which is why it might feel like you’ve snoozed 97 or 3 times, it’s hard to tell. During the middle and later parts of the night, melatonin levels in your body are high. (Depending on your regular sleep cycles.) Melatonin is a hormone that tells your body time to sleep or wake up.
Snoozing feels really good because elevated melatonin levels are telling our brains it’s sleepy time. A blaring alarm sound can wake you up enough to the lighter stages of sleep to snooze but the rebound might be so intense you could not “hear” the next alarm.
At worst it’s a missed flight, at best, missing 15-20 minutes of additional quality sleep.
The human mind is preferential to even numbers. 10 fingers, two eyes, 7:00am doesn’t give us the same sense of urgency – or novelty – 7:03am does, for example. Ok, so what about 7:05am or 7:15am? They’re odd but more familiar, the key is processing time. According to Terence Hines of Pace University:
Odd numbers stick in our brain more, are harder to digest — and as a result gain extra meanings. In western culture the numbers that attract the most superstition, three, seven and 13, are all odd.
Room 101 is a much scarier place than Room 100 because 101 is arithmetically more challenging than 100. We understand how 100 fits in to the structure of numbers — it is ten times ten, or two times fifty, or four times twenty-five. But 101 is harder to toy around with. The asymmetry is cruel to our pattern-making minds.
In terms of waking up on time and getting a few more minutes of sleep, calculating how many minutes you have to really get out of bed is harder when using an odd number – that’s also not a multiple of 5 or commonly calculated. We convert 45 minutes ahead of 7:30 or 9:00 more easily because we do it all the time. (What’s 75 minutes before 12:25? Quick!)
Sliver Of Consciousness
A tiny bit of number crunching may seem insignificant but it requires a longer window of consciousness. Even seconds of being awake can help you get out of bed – which additionally will be easier if you have a few more minutes of sleep. Using odd numbers, 3:12am works but 3:17am is better, plays on your subconscious at two levels.
For an added layer of oversleep protection, try using your bladder as an alarm clock as well. It’s a lot harder (and messier) than your phone to snooze. Keep in mind though for odd numbers, to keep them odd. Don’t use the same patterns over and over to prevent your brain from adapting.