Having a More Melodic Alarm Tone Can Make You Less Groggy in the Morning

an analog alarm clock
Image by alexkerhead / CC BY

Some people are pretty quick to wake up in the morning. They open their eyes, and they’re basically instantly awake. True, maybe they don’t want to leave the bed right away for other reasons — say, because the blankets are warm and it’s cold outside, or because they have a nasty day at work ahead of them. But they are mentally clear pretty much first thing.

Others take a bit of time to wake up in the morning. You don’t want to talk to them right away. And they might find themselves hitting the snooze alarm over and over again, getting another few minutes here and there, until it becomes too late to hit that snooze alarm again.

I personally generally fall into the first category. Unless I’m on a medicine like Benadryl for allergies that can make a person groggy, I pretty much wake up instantly, ready to go. I find snooze alarms more trouble than they’re worth. And don’t find it easy to return to sleep once I’m up, no matter how tired I am when I wake.

I think this is a function of having crashed at a variety of friends’ and relatives’ houses in junior high and high school. I slept on a lot of couches and other places where I didn’t have a devoted bedroom. When you’re sleeping in someone’s den, there are a lot of times when someone walks in and wants to use the space before you’re awake. And when that happens, when you’re suddenly in the way, you wake up in a hurry and figure your life out.

Sleeping in just isn’t feasible in those circumstances.

I think this was also reinforced by what happened a lot at home in the house I grew up in. We weren’t allowed to sleep in, not even on weekends. Typically, we had early morning Saturday and Sunday morning activities at the church, youth programming.

And if I tried to sleep in, I would be forcibly dragged from my bed, with a parent grabbing onto my leg and pulling me to the floor.

That doesn’t have to happen too many times for your body to learn that getting up right away is the better route.

Anyway, I’ve been in a few serious relationships over years where I shared a bed with someone. And I occasionally also shared a bed with a friend (when I was crashing at their house and their bed was large enough and they wanted me to sleep there instead of the couch).

And I can tell you that nearly all of them were in the second category. They pretty much all took a while to wake up in the morning.

So I got a lot of practice early on in waiting while someone else woke up. Finding ways to prepare quietly and/or entertain myself while others gained mental coherence first thing in the morning (not wanting to be that extrovert stereotype of “morning person” who won’t stop yakking).

Having a More Melodic Alarm Tone Can Make You Less Groggy in the Morning

Anyway, it was on this background that I recently saw a study that looked into some ways to counteract this groggy effect first thing in the morning. In this study, it was called sleep inertia. Essentially what they found is that if you want to be alert more quickly in the morning, your best bet was to have an alarm that was musical or melodic. Not an alarm clock that made non-musical noise — like beeping or screeching.

Neat.

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This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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