Tips to avoid oversleeping

BY TERRY CRALLE

Terry Cralle headshot

Terry Cralle

Waking up is hard to do

If you struggle to get out of bed in the morning, you’re not alone—and probably not getting enough sleep, either. Most of us require seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and failing to get that only results in problems—including oversleeping—that can be fairly hair-raising:

  • In 2013, affable Al Roker of the “Today Show” reportedly overslept for the first time in 39 years. On that fateful day, he completely missed the premiere of his own early-morning program “Wake Up With Al,” but did manage to arrive in time to appear on “Today”.
  • In 2014, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, one of the most powerful women in the tech world, reportedly overslept, showing up 90 minutes late for an important dinner meeting at France’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Allegedly, after being kept waiting, another CEO in attendance at the dinner stood up and left as Mayer walked in.
  • In 2014, Jody George, a triathlete from the United Kingdom, spent one year training for the Challenge Weymouth Triathlon. The night before the race George is said to have set his alarm for 3:00 a.m., but after hitting the snooze button, he overslept and missed the race.

Wake up and smell the coffee

You won’t miss important moments in your life, either, if you follow these tips for avoiding oversleeping:

  • The night before: Limit caffeine and alcohol intake, and power off electronics one hour prior to bedtime. Engage in a predictable, relaxing, and reproducible bedtime routine to help transition your body and mind from wake to sleep. If you are a coffee drinker, set an auto timer on your coffee maker—the aroma of coffee in the morning will help wake you.
  • Go to bed on time: Make getting sufficient sleep a priority, and make sure your regular bedtime allows for adequate sleep. If you’re sleep-deprived, you will have longer, deeper sleep periods, making it especially difficult to wake up on time. Keep bed and wake times as consistent as possible.

The truth about alarm clocks

If you’re getting sufficient sleep, you shouldn’t need an alarm clock to wake you. You’d be better off using an alarm clock in the evening to remind you of your bedtime. But when absolutely necessary, there are a variety of alarm clocks that are sure to leave you wishing you had just hit the hay a bit earlier—including clocks that:

  • Launch a small rocket into the air, which you must catch and return to the clock to stop the alarm.
  • Donate money to an organization you hate every time the snooze button is pushed, bringing new meaning to the phrase, “you snooze, you lose”!
  • Require you to do 10 jumping jacks, 30 bicep curls, vigorous shaking, 30 steps or math problem-solving to turn off.
  • Mildly shock you if you try to hit the snooze button.
  • Shred money if you don’t turn it off in time.

Lose the snooze

Hitting the snooze button will cost you vital REM sleep in the morning and lead to disrupted, fragmented, fitful sleep. It will leave you feeling worse when you finally crawl out of bed.

Instead, aim for the maximum amount of quality sleep, and set your alarm for the latest possible moment. By taking care of some of the more mundane things the night before (prior to bedtime) like setting out your clothes, packing lunches, etc., you will be able to enjoy more morning sleep time.

Don’t use your smart phone’s alarm, either. 

For some, using the phone as an alarm may increase the chances of excessive screen time at night and in the middle of the night if you should wake up—potentially delaying or disrupting your sleep.

Get up on the right side of the bed

Establish a pleasant waking routine. By avoiding the snooze button, you should feel more alert and enjoy a more productive morning. Keep your morning routine positive so you look forward to waking.

  • Sunny side up – Morning light exposure (and reduced light exposure at night) will help get you up and moving. Use a timer to turn on the bedroom lights in the morning and open the curtains when you wake up. There are also alarm clocks that simulate a natural sunrise, gradually increasing in brightness over a preset time prior to going off.
  • Check it out – Untreated sleep disorders can leave you exhausted, making it difficult to wake up in the morning and increasing your chances of oversleeping. See a sleep specialist for ongoing sleep problems.

Up and At ’Em

Don’t you just hate it when you accidentally sleep through those meetings on the French Riviera? That marvelous feeling of waking up refreshed, restored and ready to take on a new day can be yours again, if you make getting sufficient sleep a priority. By doing so, you may just get to that next triathlon on time.


Better Sleep Council spokesperson Terry Cralle is a registered nurse and certified clinical sleep educator based in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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