Few gadgets are more hated than the alarm clock, a device whose main purpose is to roughly tear you away from the pleasant world of sleep into the cold, harsh, and ruthless reality we live in every day – and whose level of functionality is straight up. proportional to how annoying the beep sound it can make.
But in virtually every awakening there is also a crucial reprieve: the snooze button, a temporary balm for the cruel bugle call of the alarm, a stay of execution for the day that you will inevitably have to face. It is the expression “a few more minutes” rendered in plastic.
The alarm clock here is a Sharp SPC028B, bought from a Walmart somewhere in Pennsylvania before my time as a sleep camp counselor over ten years ago. It was used for years in high school, college and beyond, the vibrant red glow of its numbers barely dimmed by time or age. It’s brutal and ugly, made of plastic that was white before the passage of time and the repeated blunt force has tarnished it into a particularly hideous shade of gray.
Over the years, the snooze button has been pressed and hit countless mornings, with each hard-hitting click granting a few more minutes of silence – just enough time to fall back to sleep before the cycle begins again.
It’s no accident that snooze buttons are almost always the biggest button on an alarm clock. It’s not a button for subtlety: it’s a button to grope blindly in the half-lit twilight of a morning that has come too early, to be crushed with the groggy consciousness of someone who has stayed awake too late in gorging on Netflix the night before. And while I tried to destroy my cheap alarm clock dozens of mornings for the cardinal sin of waking me up, the snooze button’s durable plastic bounced back for another fight every day.
The prominence of the snooze button also makes turning off an alarm quite more deliberate. Snoozing the crash is the easiest physical user interaction you can have with an alarm clock, while disabling the alarm typically requires turning it off via a much smaller button in a less convenient location. Because sleeping another 10 minutes is fine, but the snooze button wants to shield us from our worst impulses to completely kill the alarm and sleep all day.
It is a paradigm that still exists even as our alarms have gone digital and have become more fragile. When the iPhone’s alarm goes off, the lock screen’s largest digital button is a giant orange snooze button, while the smaller “stop” button is hidden below. The physical power button also defaults to snoozing when an alarm goes off, as snooze buttons need to be the most functional, even when we’re at a minimum.
The snooze button is ultimately a lie – a promise that things can get better, even with the looming truth that even with a few more minutes of sleep, morning still comes. The alarm clock is still a clock, after all, and the clocks (and the time) keep moving forward.
But sometimes, as rare as they are, the extra few minutes the snooze button buys can be enough to start your day off on the right foot – or at least, a better foot.
Photograph by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge