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Alarming research


The type of alarm we wake to can determine our state of alertness for the rest of day, say Australian researchers. The research carried out by RMIT University in Melbourne goes further: if we’re woken by something akin to a car alarm, it may have a negative effect and make us feel groggy for hours after. However, a more musical awakening can leave us feeling perky and alert.

The study comprised 50 people. Each was asked to complete a questionnaire about the type of alarm they woke to, how they responded to the sound, and how alert or groggy they felt after arousal. Stuart McFarlane, a doctoral researcher at RMIT, said alarms deemed to be ‘melodic’ were linked with people coping easier with the waking process. According to McFarlane, the gentle rise and fall of notes in a melodic alarm helps to focus our brain’s attention. In contrast, the constant beep-beep-beep-beep of a traditional alarm is more likely to increase anxiety and cause confusion.

The RMIT team’s sleep inertia research is significant for airline pilots, first responders, or NASA astronauts who must be able to function well immediately upon waking. McFarlane hopes that, with further research, alarm sounds will be designed that could be beneficial to a variety of industries.

“If we can counteract the symptoms of sleep inertia by any measure through the alarm sounds we use, it would be a great benefit for many,” said McFarlane.

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