A study by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University suggests melodic alarms could improve alertness levels, with harsh alarm tones linked to increased levels of morning grogginess.
The surprising finding, published in PLoS One, could have important implications for anyone who needs to perform at their peak soon after waking, such as shift workers and emergency first responders.
Lead author, RMIT doctoral researcher Stuart McFarlane, said morning grogginess – or sleep inertia – was a serious problem in our 24-hour world.
“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.”
|How adults are waking up|
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.
The results of a poll at YouGov shows that while many people still use a traditional alarm clock to wake them up, the majority of people are using their phones now as their alarm. These phone alarms usually offer more options for sounds to wake-up to.