Who You Calling A Loser? You Zeitgeber!


This New Yorker article, Snoozers Are In Fact Losers starts out with a twinge of guilt pointed at those of us who hit the snooze button with dread each morning-

It may seem like you’re giving yourself a few extra minutes to collect your thoughts. But what you’re actually doing is making the wake-up process more difficult and drawn out. If you manage to drift off again, you are likely plunging your brain back into the beginning of the sleep cycle, which is the worst point to be woken up—and the harder we feel it is for us to wake up, the worse we think we’ve slept.

What I’m doing when I hit snooze is praying for a snow day (in CA) or some change in the fabric of reality that means I can just go back to sleep. I know snoozing is not good for me but leaping out of bed with joy just seems disingenuous.

One of the consequences of waking up suddenly, and too early, is a phenomenon called sleep inertia. First given a name in 1976, sleep inertia refers to that period between waking and being fully awake when you feel groggy.

(note the bold on “too early” is mine)

The article goes on to describe the fallout of sleep inertia, slow reaction time, low alertness, peeing in the tub, etc.

When we do wake up naturally, as on a relaxed weekend morning, we do so based mainly on two factors: the amount of external light and the setting of our internal alarm clock—our circadian rhythm. The internal clock isn’t perfectly correlated with the external one, and so every day, we use outside time cues, called zeitgebers, to make fine adjustments that mimic the changes in light and dark that take place throughout the year.

Can I start calling my alarm my Zeitgeber?

statue waking up

Pay attention because the crux of the author’s message is coming together here-

The difference between one’s actual, socially mandated wake-up time and one’s natural, biologically optimal wake-up time is something that Till Roenneberg, a professor of chronobiology at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, calls “social jetlag.” It’s a measurement not of sleep duration but of sleep timing: Are we sleeping in the windows of time that are best for our bodies?

Pleased to meet you I’m a chronobiologist, this is my pet Zeitgeber, Chripy.

“Are we sleeping in the windows of time that are best for our bodies?”

Hell no we are sleeping on a schedule best for “THE MAN”. We get up and get to work or school as we are told.

At what cost?

Roenneberg and the psychologist Marc Wittmann have found that the chronic mismatch between biological and social sleep time comes at a high cost: alcohol, cigarette, and caffeine use increase—and each hour of social jetlag correlates with a roughly thirty-three per cent greater chance of obesity. “The practice of going to sleep and waking up at ‘unnatural’ times,” Roenneberg says, “could be the most prevalent high-risk behaviour in modern society.”

Our lives it seems. We eat, drink and smoke to cope with the wake up time imposed on us by our social duties.


Fortunately, the effects of sleep inertia and social jetlag seem to be reversible. When Wright asked a group of young adults to embark on a weeklong camping trip, he discovered a striking pattern: before the week was out, the negative sleep patterns that he’d previously observed disappeared.

Move off the grid. Any other solutions?

Wright concluded that much of our early morning grogginess is a result of displaced melatonin—of the fact that, under current social-jetlag conditions, the hormone typically dissipates two hours after waking, as opposed to while we’re still asleep. If we could just synchronize our sleep more closely with natural light patterns, it would become far easier to wake up. It wouldn’t be unprecedented. In the early nineteenth century, the United States had a hundred and forty-four separate time zones. Cities set their own local time, typically so that noon would correspond to the moment the sun reached its apex in the sky; when it was noon in Manhattan, it was five till in Philadelphia. But on November 18, 1883, the country settled on four standard time zones; railroads and interstate commerce had made the prior arrangement impractical. By 1884, the entire globe would be divided into twenty-four time zones. Reverting to hyperlocal time zones might seem like it could lead to a terrible loss of productivity. But who knows what could happen if people started work without a two-hour lag, during which their cognitive abilities are only shadows of their full selves?

Create a steampunk-esq utopia with “hyperlocal time zones”. Makes a lots of common sense, but I don’t think “The Man” has time for common sense.

So is it the snoozer or the snoozie that is the loser here? The coping mechanism or the coper?

Not sure I have a good answer other than trying to stick to a set sleep schedule and keep you wake up time as close to post dawn as possible. After you wake up go for a walk and get some more sunshine.

My biggest question is who wrote the headline for this article? “Snoozers are in fact, losers”

The MAN or the author, Maria Konnikova?

You can see in the url the possible original title for the article “Science of Sleep Trouble With Snooze Buttons”. This is a more accurate portrayal of the content of the article.

“Snoozers are in fact, losers” is not totally deceptive and is much more flashy. This is coming from a guy who used Zeitbear in his title and still has no real grasp of the meaning of that word.

Did “The Man” at the New Yorker trash the original title of this article or not?

“Snoozers are in fact, losers, as victims of the military industrial complex, who exploit broken sleep patterns and exhaustion as both a means to repress rebellion and political action as well as a way to increase consumption of the most profitable products.”

Nah too wordy for a URL.

photo credit: Alan Cleaver via photopin cc
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