Your choice of alarm sound could have an impact on your level of alertness after waking. (Shutterstock/Seasontime)
Your choice of alarm sound could have an impact on your level of alertness after waking, reports an Australian study published at the end of January.
If you are not an early bird, hopping out of bed at dawn can be something of an ordeal. And the choice of the alarm that you use may be more important than you think. Researchers at the Royal Melbourne institute of Technology (RMIT, Australia), who recently published a study in the journal Plos One, have studied the impact of different types of alarm sounds and how they help dispel feelings of grogginess on waking.
The phenomenon of “sleep inertia”, as it is called, is a state of incomplete transition to wakefulness that can result in a groggy feeling that can last for up to four hours after getting out of bed. The goal of the new study was to understand how the decision to use a sound or music as an alarm can reduce the persistence of this state.
“If you don’t wake properly, your work performance can be degraded for periods up to four hours, and that has been linked to major accidents,” points out Stuart McFarlane, who led the study.
The study involved 50 adults who participated in an experiment that was specially designed for them to conduct at home. The principle consisted of recording the type of sound they used to wake up, and then assessing their level of alertness by answering specific questions related to sleep inertia.
Opt for a melody rather than a startling ‘beeping’ noise
The results showed that people who used music as an alarm had higher levels of alertness than those who opted for a strident “beep” sound. “You would assume that a startling ‘beep beep beep’ alarm would improve alertness, but our data revealed that melodic alarms may be the key element. This was unexpected,” remarks Stuart McFarlane.
“We think that a harsh ‘beep beep beep’ might work to disrupt or confuse our brain activity when waking, while a more melodic sound like the Beach Boys ‘Good Vibrations’ or The Cure’s ‘Close to Me’ may help us transition to a waking state in a more effective way,” adds Adrian Dyer, a co-author of the study.
While further research on a larger sample may be needed to support this theory, the findings of this study highlight the potential benefits of waking up to music in the fight against sleep inertia.
“This is particularly important for people who might work in dangerous situations shortly after waking, like firefighters or pilots, but also for anyone who has to be rapidly alert, such as someone driving to hospital in an emergency,” points out Stuart McFarlane.