These Are the Best Songs to Wake Up to, According to Science


Playlists are a hell of a drug — a sleeping drug, that is. Research continues to find that the right dose of the right music can have a wide range of effects on one's mind. It can act as a mild opiate, relieving pain from hangovers and headaches. It can act as a focus aid, helping one work more effectively

Perhaps most importantly for one's morning, music can serve as a strong cup of coffee, helping one stir up the motivation and optimism to face the day.

Monday, music psychologist David M. Greenberg of the University of Cambridge and City University of New York in collaboration with Spotify released a 20-track playlist of some of the most effective music to help sleep button addicts actually wake up. All the tracks follow a specific sonic profile that allows one to ease of out of bed slowly and motivate them for the day far more effectively than any alarm clock.

The methodology: According to Greenberg, the playlist wasn't altogether easy to put together. "It's kind of a tricky situation because waking up is a pretty unique event," Greenberg told Mic. "You're starting out in a tired, grumpy, cranky state. For most of us it's a struggle, and you're trying to go from that state to a state where you're feeling alert, energetic and optimistic about the day at best."

One might assume the best way to deal with this challenge would be to pop on some uplifting, elated music and attempt to hit the ground running. However, the mind simply can't process music that way so early in the morning. "It's more about bringing you through multiple stages from that tiredness to being more alert and then getting the energy from there," Greenberg said. 

The songs chosen all include elements to help facilitate this process. Each track eases the listener into the song, before building up to the driving beats and positive lyrics. Greenberg points to Coldplay's "Viva La Vida," with its extended string intro and highly rhythmic verse, as the wake-up ideal. Its beat places its emphasis on the second and fourth beats, which Greenburg explained has the psychological effect of "creating movement in a song." 

All the songs clock in at around 100 to 130 beats per minute, which previous research has proven to be the ideal for tempo to produce a motivational effect.

Hearing Greenberg talk about music as sonic elements with distinct psychological effects, it feels more like a prescriptive medicine than an expressive art form. However, this is part of music's power, Greenberg explained. It transcends a purely aesthetic experience.

"It's not just a form of entertainment," Greenberg said. "It's something that's ingrained into our psyche and our brains. The more we look into music, the more we find out how much of a role it's played in the evolutionary process in terms of communication and social bonding." 

Helping individuals summon the motivation to face the work day is just the very tip of all the profound psychological effects music can have. Particularly during the roughest mornings — the Mondays, the hangover-riddled Saturdays — this may be music's most vital role.

Listen to the full playlist below.