Waking to your favorite song can make you more productive at work

Chronically groggy in the morning? Set your alarm to wake you with a favorite song instead of a buzzer or tone. That’s the advice of researchers from RMIT University in Australia in a new study, published in the Journal of Sleep Disorders & Therapy.

They looked into sleep inertia — the physiological feeling of grogginess and lack of alertness — and found that it can last for up to four hours upon waking up. It also has a big impact on workers at the office by causing significantly poorer accuracy, memory, complex decision making, and slower reaction time.

Previously, the researchers found that waking up to melodic music from bands like The Beach Boys or The Cure can fight morning drowsiness and prevent sleep inertia because upbeat music can help get the brain juices flowing in the morning. Using that information, they looked into how wake-up music can impact mental alertness.

How they tested

Researchers designed an app that allowed participants to wake up from different alarm sounds on their smartphones, and then asked participants to immediately perform a “game-like task” to assess their alertness — similar to tests performed by astronauts at the International Space Station. The task is designed to calculate sustained attention, researchers said. In this instance, participants were asked to tap their smartphone screen as quickly as possible when the color of a shape changed.

That’s when they found that the sounds you wake up to can impact your morning attentiveness.

“Melodic alarm sounds resulted in participants having faster and more accurate responses, compared with a control group who woke up using classic alarm sounds without melody,” researchers said.

Researchers were quick to note that we can’t always control what sounds we wake up to. They explained some professions — like military and medical — often don’t have set alarms in moments of an emergency, where they have to wake up immediately and respond to urgent situations. However, they reviewed available research to look at how different sirens impact people upon waking up.

Songs are good for kids too

For children in emergency situations, the study said that a low-pitched alarm or a human voice can be much more effective than conventional higher-frequency alarms when it comes to easing the effects of sleep inertia.

Researchers said that lower-pitched sounds might be more effective because of “crucial frequency bandwidths” that can impact how sound is processed by the inner ear and brain.

An estimated $60 billion is lost by US companies annually due to lower productivity caused by poor sleep.