If the thought of waking up before 4 a.m. like Apple CEO Tim Cook or former First Lady Michelle Obama seems impossible, you might want to consider switching your alarm clock sound. A recent Australian study found that certain alarm noises can decrease morning grogginess, so you wake up faster and feeling more alert.
Study participants who woke up to a melodic song had lower levels of morning grogginess than those who chose a beeping sound, according to the study findings.
Songs with melodies seem to have an energizing effect, "increasing arousal, cognition and attention," which helps you feel less groggy as you wake up, researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology wrote.
The reason? Researchers hypothesize that the combination of tones that rise and fall in a song's melody "promote arousal within our system, which in turn may lead to increased alertness," Stuart McFarlane, lead study author, tells CNBC Make It in an email. "Imagine a scenario where an athlete will perform better when they warm up," he says. "Melody may 'warm our brains up' more effectively for the day's activity rather than being shocked into action."
On the other hand, a startling alarm that beeps seems to "confuse our brain activity when waking," Adrian Dyer, co-author, said in a release.
More research needs to be done to determine what types of songs would be best for "sleep inertia," the transition from sleep to awake, but McFarlane suggests incorporating tuneful sounds othat you can hum or sing along to.
In the study, the authors flagged two songs that they believe would be good wake-up tunes: "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys and "Close to Me" by The Cure. "A tune that I am trying currently is 'Borderline' by Madonna," McFarlane says. Other factors, including people's personal music tastes, could also influence how effective an alarm song is.
"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 said in the release.
Indeed, the study authors noted that these findings could have important implications for people in many professions — from NASA astronauts to on-call doctors — who need to wake up and be alert fast. But regardless of your occupation, daytime grogginess can influence your performance.
Sleep inertia typically lasts for up to 30 minutes after waking and has been shown to extend for two to four hours, McFarlane says. "If we can reduce these symptoms by altering the alarm sounds we use to more melodic and tuneful varieties, we may at least head towards safer conditions for everyone," he says.
Beyond curating your alarm clock noise, there are a few habits that have been shown to help reduce sleep inertia. For example, drinking caffeine, being exposed to light before waking up and having a morning routine can all help.
For the study, researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology surveyed 50 people, ages 18 to 60 about their sleep habits and the sounds that they like to wake up to.
Most participants reported using their phone for an alarm clock, and they chose a variety of sounds to wake up, including alarm tones, musical songs and nature sounds. Specifically, researchers compared "unmelodic" alarms, or ones that beep, to "melodic" ones, such as pop songs. The participants filled out a questionnaire that gauged how tired they are after waking up.
Those who woke up to a melodic song had lower levels of daytime grogginess than those who chose a beeping sound, according to the study findings.
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