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Your alarm clock sound can seriously affect how you feel in the morning

The sound of my alarm clock is a sweet tinkling chime, because I want to be cooed into consciousness, not jerked into it by a throbbing, blaring siren. See, mornings are important to me — I feel most creative then and like taking advantage of that. And when people ask me how I stay motivated in the morning, I always just attribute it to the natural byproduct of being an early bird. It turns out that my tender alarm may reduce my morning grogginess.

A small but revealing new study suggests that waking up to melodic alarms may help people feel more alert. “The sound you choose may have important ramifications,” said Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology researcher, Stuart McFarlane, who is lead author of the study, in a report." 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 seems counterintuitive, and it wasn’t what the researchers expected either.

For the study, 50 participants reported on what kind of sound they used to wake up and also their alertness level upon waking and for four hours afterwards. The findings were to be used to understand the ways that a chosen waking sound can affect grogginess, in turn, helping people in general choose wake up sounds that could help them feel more alert. According to the research, people who were awakened by a melodic tune experienced significantly less sleep inertia (doctor talk for grogginess).

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Remember all the first scenes of movies where the hero wakes up to a blaring alarm and then springs into action to save the world? That is, apparently, not evidence-based script writing. "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,” said McFarlane. It may seem counterintuitive, but this suggests that becoming “rapidly alert,” then, does not equate to jarring blasts of sound.

You don’t need to be a superhero for these findings to make a difference in your life, though, since the way in which you wake up can affect the vibe of your entire day. "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,” said Adrian Dyer, co-author of the study and associate professor at RMIT's School of Media and Communication, reported EurkekAlert.

"We think that a harsh 'beep beep beep' might work to disrupt or confuse our brain activity when waking, while a more melodic sound may help us transition to a waking state in a more effective way,” Dyer said in EurekAlert, suggesting “Close to Me,” by The Cure as a melody option. Even if you aren’t obsessed with being productive every moment of the day, waking up to a melodic alarm might help you feel clear headed. That’s appealing even if you don’t have anything important to do, right?