Waking up to The Beach Boys might help you feel less groggy

3 Feb 2020

Image: © JcJg Photography/Stock.adobe.com

A harsh sounding alarm clock noise could be making you groggier and clumsier in the morning.

The sound your alarm clock makes could have important ramifications for how you feel every day, according to new research. A study by researchers at RMIT University in Australia has found a link between harsh alarm tones and increased levels of morning grogginess.

In a paper published to Plos One, the researchers revealed that a more melodic alarm in the morning could improve alertness levels. Morning grogginess – otherwise called sleep inertia – is a serious problem in the modern world, the researchers added.

“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,” said Stuart McFarlane, who led the research.

“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.”

However, the study involved just 50 participants using a specially designed online survey where they logged what type of sound their alarm made to wake them up, how groggy they were and their alertness levels. This was compared with standardised sleep inertia criteria.

Boost to sleep tech

“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,” McFarlane said.

“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.”

Co-author of the research, Prof Adrian Dyer, said that their findings could lead to the development of more efficient ways of waking people up.

“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.

“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 AI.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic