Snoozing 1 1/2

Who would have the nerve to be against the snooze alarm? Why would you want to be against such a helpful “sleep aid”? Person hitting the snooze button.

Many people have trouble going to sleep – so they want a pill to help. Others can’t stay asleep so they want a midnight tonic with no morning hangover. Some haven’t had enough sleep when the alarm goes off so they keep hitting the snooze button. Still others get out of bed only to find they cannot really wake up until the first dose of caffeine hits the spot! 

Wouldn’t we be rich if we could find the perfect answer to all four problems?

But at least one person out there has a crusade against the ubiquitous snooze alarm. And it starts with ancient history. Can you feel a story coming?

In the 1960’s I was in specialty training to be an obstetrician. Routine hospital duties meant working ten hours a day, five days a week. In addition we stayed at the hospital to care for patients in the delivery room, the emergency room, and the gynecology post-op patients on the ward — every third night and every third weekend.

On one such night, the delivery room nurse called me at 2 AM. She told me to come and deliver another wonderful screaming bundle of joy. Later, as my head touched the pillow again, sleep was instant. My next recollection was the same (now distraught) nurse on the phone again, wondering if I was going to be any help in this process. In a flash, I was in the delivery room and we all got our jobs done. There were no complications from that delay but we all knew that this was not the way to for me to be a good obstetrician. 

The real test came three nights later. I startled awake from a sound sleep and rushed to the nurses station to see why the nurse had called. She said she hadn’t called and for me to lie down again. Now it was time for a resolution designed to prevent another adrenalin rush stemming from the reaction to a job poorly done. I decided to immediately, completely, respond with action whenever called. Looking back, that decision has made my life much more coherent and livable.

Later, we had a new night nurse who was exceptionally kind and gentle. A recent graduate, she felt that “mere nurses” should never EVER tell the doctor what to do. So when she called the doctor at night she would tell about the patient and just wait for a response. Many obstetric nurses are experienced authoritarians, but not her. One night we had survived another obstetric mayhem. And it was time to have a serious talk with this kind nurse, to increase her future effectiveness.

She was instructed that when she called the doctor she was to

  • tell what the current situation was, in her view, and then
  • say exactly what she wanted us to do and how promptly she expected it to be done 

You see, she had advantages over the doctor:

  • she was aware of the status that existed at the present moment. At best, the doctor knew what was happening earlier, but not in this moment
  • she usually had a definite opinion about what needed to be done and we valued her opinion.
  • she was awake!  Unlike the doctor who was trying to wake up while absorbing the patient’s details.

So you thought the subject was snooze alarms? Don’t be so impatient.

My youngest son recently needed a new clock, so he bought one with a snooze alarm. He has proceeded to use the snooze to its full advantage. Now you should feel a lecture coming on, and he is just about to receive it.

He got the benefit of my adamant opinion about snooze alarms, and here it is for you, too:

In the evening when you are fully awake, you consider tomorrow’s expected activities. You decide how long you think it will take to get ready to do those things, and then you set the alarm accordingly. Then you go to sleep.

Your next chance to make decisions about the day comes in the morning. The room is cool, the bed is warm, and you are still mostly asleep when that alarm goes off.

Can you think of a worse time to decide against the decision that you made back when you were fully awake? You are pitting a semi-asleep decision against your former fully-awake decision.  What a contrast!

Be sure to check the next blog post for more about snoozing…