The snooze button: Finding a balance between speeding up and slowing down

By The Rev. Jeremy Myers

The snooze button was first introduced on an alarm clock in the mid-1950s when General Electric released the Snooz-Alarm.

The clock allowed the user to press a button, which would then temporarily silence the alarm, allowing the weary user to drift back to sleep for approximately 9 minutes.

A variety of theories exist as to why the designers decided to set the snooze for 9 minutes instead of a more even number. The predominant theory is the engineers had to work with existing gearing in the clock, which wouldn’t allow for an even 10-minute interval, so they had to decide between 9 minutes and a few seconds or just over 10.

They opted for nine because the prevailing wisdom of the day held that it took a full 10 minutes to enter back into a new sleep cycle and crossing that threshold would be counterproductive. Thus, in 1956, one of the great loves of many an American was born.

We have been known to take advantage of the snooze button in the Myers household. It’s not uncommon for us to delay confronting the duties of the day by 9 to 18 minutes on most weekday mornings.

On the occasions when I actually fall back asleep for those brief moments, it doesn’t generally result in me feeling more rested, rejuvenated and ready to roll. Instead, I find myself in a funk where I’m awake but really wishing I wasn’t.

All the snooze has done is delayed the inevitable and reduced both my ability to function and the time in which I have to do it. In many cases, I would be better served were I to simply get up and get going as soon as the alarm sounds the first time.

At other times, however, that 9 to 18 minutes does play a role in preparing me for the day and makes me more effective. It provides me with a few minutes of quiet to consider the various responsibilities and opportunities that lie before me. That time forces me to slow down and think before I act.

More importantly, I find those moments between rest and reality allow me to pray and connect with my creator and to seek the counsel of the Lord of my life. It is all too easy for me to jump into the day and go hard at it without considering what God would have me to do or how God might be leading. Taking a few moments to sit in the stillness and silence to center myself and fix my focus before the insanity sets in is of great benefit.

As I considered these pro and con dynamics of the snooze button, it struck me that the principles found in my morning routine translate to the rest of life, as well. It’s tempting for us to try to delay difficulty. We would much rather hit the proverbial snooze button, remaining in our state of indifference and inactivity.

But attempting to dream away responsibilities and struggles rarely works out. In fact, delaying the difficulties of life often does little more than amplify them as it reduces the amount of time we have to deal with them, thus ultimately resulting in an increase in anxiety. It’s often much better to just jump up and deal with what lies before us immediately. As the old saying goes, “A stitch in time saves nine.”

On the other hand, sometimes, it is helpful to make space to think, pray and weigh our options. In our rapid fire, “Go, go, go” culture, it is easy to get so caught up in the going and doing that we lose sight of why we’re doing what we do. Not only that, but we also run the risk of falling into the trap of doing too much.

Not every opportunity is the best opportunity. And more importantly, if we claim Jesus as Lord of our lives, as Romans 10 says we should, it’s of utmost importance that we consider whether or not what we are doing is what he would have us to do. Sometimes, we need to slow our roll, to take a minute to process, pray and attempt to discern the best direction for our day and for our lives.

As with so many things in life, the snooze button is neither bad nor good in and of itself. It’s how we use it, both literally and figuratively. We need to learn to strike a healthy balance between waking up and getting going and slowing down to get our head straight.

Perhaps 1 Thessalonians 5:6 sums it up best: “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” It’s good to get up and get going and to deal with the issues and opportunities before us, but it’s wise to take time to consider how it is best to proceed in light of how the Lord would choose to lead.