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Musical Alarm May Reduce Morning Grogginess

A new Australian study shows that the type of alarm you use — for example, either a harsh beeping sound or a musical tone — may make a big difference in how you feel when you wake up.

The study, published in the journal PLoS One, shows that melodic alarms could improve alertness levels, while harsh alarm sounds are linked to more morning grogginess.

“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,” said co-author Associate Professor Adrian Dyer from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) School of Media and Communication and Digital Ethnography Research Centre.

Lead author Stuart McFarlane said morning grogginess or sleep inertia is a serious problem in our 24-hour world. The finding could have important implications for anyone who needs to perform at their peak soon after waking, such as shift workers and emergency first responders.

“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,” McFarlane said.

“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.

“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.”

For the study, 50 participants completed a specially designed online survey. Each person logged what type of sound they used to wake up, and then rated their grogginess and alertness levels against standardized sleep inertia criteria.

“This study is important, as even NASA astronauts report that sleep inertia affects their performance on the International Space Station,” said Dyer.

“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.”

Source: RMIT University

Musical Alarm May Reduce Morning Grogginess

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). Musical Alarm May Reduce Morning Grogginess. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 Feb 2020 (Originally: 10 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 9 Feb 2020
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