Wake up with birdsong or melodic sounds if you want to start your day right

- February 6, 2020 2 MIN READ

A recent study by RMIT researchers has found the alarm sound you choose to wake up with could be having a massive impact on your day. Whether you wake to a beep or a melody could be the difference between a morning buzz or buzzkill.

The researchers found melodic alarms could improve alertness levels, while harsh alarm tones could be linked to increased levels of morning grogginess or sleep inertia (SI).

Waking up groggy may not be problematic for the average worker but lead researcher Stuart MacFarlane suggests it can lead to issues for anyone expected to perform at their peak soon after waking up.  Think shift workers, emergency responders and pilots…

McFarlane told Medical Express, “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.”

In fact, sleep inertia was cited as a contributing factor in the 2010 Air India Express air crash disaster that resulted in 158 fatalities. It has been shown that the captain of the aircraft had recently woken from an in-flight nap just prior to the crash. The poor decisions made after napping were attributed to the disaster, and have been linked to the effects of SI.

Sleep inertia can last for seconds minutes or hours.

So how does your alarm sound come into play? According to the researchers, respondents who woke to melodic of rhythmic sounds reported the most alertness.

“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.

“Although more research is needed to better understand the precise combination of melody and rhythm that might work best, considering that most people use alarms to wake up, the sound you choose may have important ramifications,” said McFarlane.

Co-author of the study Professor Adrian Dyer suggests the findings are important as it could lead to better understanding of the links between wake-up and performance.

“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.”

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