The snooze button is the best part of the world’s most hated gadget

Few gadgets are more hated than the alarm clock, a device whose primary purpose is to grossly yank you from the pleasant world of sleep into the cold, harsh, unforgiving reality we live in every day — and whose the level of functionality is directly proportional to how damn annoying the beeping noise it can make is.

But in virtually all alarm clocks there is also a crucial reprieve: the snooze button, a temporary salve for the alarm clock’s vicious clarion call, a reprieve for the day that you will inevitably face. It’s the phrase “just a few more minutes” rendered in plastic.

The alarm clock here is a Sharp SPC028B, bought at a Walmart somewhere in Pennsylvania over a decade ago before my time as a sleep camp counselor. It’s been used for years in high school, college and beyond, the burning red glow of its songs barely dimmed by time or age. It’s brutal and ugly, made of plastic that was white before time passed and repeated blunt force has dulled it to a uniquely hideous shade of gray.

Countless mornings have been hit and snoozed in those years, with each percussive click granting a few minutes of silence — just enough time to fall back asleep before the cycle starts again.

It’s no coincidence that snooze buttons are almost always the largest button on an alarm clock. It’s not a button for subtlety: it’s a button to search blindly in the half-lit twilight of a morning that comes too early, to be crushed with the dizzy consciousness of someone who stayed up too late to binge on Netflix the night before. And while I spent dozens of mornings trying to destroy my cheap alarm clock for committing the mortal sin of waking me up, the durable plastic of the snooze button has bounced back every day for another attack.

The prominence of the snooze button also makes it more conscious of turning off an alarm. Mashing snooze is the easiest physical user interaction you can have with an alarm clock, while actually turning the alarm off usually requires turning it off via a much smaller button in a less convenient place. Because another 10 minutes of sleeping in is fine, but the snooze button wants to protect us from our own worst impulses to turn the alarm off completely and sleep in all day.

It’s a paradigm that still exists, even as our alarms have gone digital and become more vulnerable. When the iPhone’s alarm goes off, the lockscreen’s largest digital button is a giant orange snooze button, while the smaller “stop” button is tucked away at the bottom. The physical power button also snoozes by default when an alarm goes off, because snooze buttons should be at their most functional, even when we’re at our very least.

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, the morning always comes. After all, the alarm clock is still a clock, and clocks (and time) just keep moving forward.

But sometimes, as scant as they may be, the few extra minutes the snooze button buys can be enough to start your day off right — or at least a better foot.

Photography by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge