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Does the sound of your alarm influence how you wake up?

Does the sound of your alarm influence how you wake up?

A new study has uncovered a fascinating link between the type of alarm you wake up to and how alert you feel.

Does the sound of your alarm influence how you wake up?

Researchers from The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology worked with 50 participants to understand the factors of ‘sleep inertia’. Sleep inertia is defined as “the transitional state between sleep and wake”, which impairs performance, reduces vigilance and makes us want to go back to sleep.

The researchers were surprised to discover that melodic alarms helped improved alertness. “You would assume that a startling ‘beep beep beep’ alarm would improve alertness, but our data revealed that melodic alarms might be the key element. This was unexpected,” says doctoral researcher, Stuart McFarlane.

Participants who woke up to more melodic alarms reported feeling more alert, while those with more startling alarms said they felt groggy and less awake.

As to the reason why different sounds have different effects, Adrian Dyer, co-author of the study, suggests a melodic sound helps ease a smoother transition. “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’ [song] ‘Good Vibrations’ or The Cure’s ‘Close to Me’ may help us transition to a waking state in a more effective way,” says Dyer.

These findings could prove useful for people in emergency services, such as nurses or firefighters, says McFarlane. “[The results are] 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 [the] hospital in an emergency.”

The researchers hope continued study on the effects of sounds on our waking brain will be beneficial in understanding people’s wellbeing and productiveness.

“If we can continue to improve our understanding of the connection between sounds and waking state, there could be potential for applications in many fields, particularly with recent advancements in sleep technology and artificial intelligence,” Dyer suggests.

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