Their study found the insistent beeps of alarm clocks do not dispel the groggy, disorientated feeling known as “sleep inertia”. That can lead to confusion, clumsiness and sluggish brain performance, which has been linked to car accidents in drivers who have just woken up as their reaction times are slower. It has also been implicated in plane crashes where pilots have taken the controls just after a nap. But researchers in Australia believe they have found a solution – with other effective tunes being Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and The Cure’s Close To Me. The scientists examined how 50 people woke at home and the impact this had on their mental performance in the hours after getting out of bed.
They found that those who had listened to melodic music suffered lower levels of sleep inertia.
Stuart McFarlane, the lead author of the study at RMIT University in Melbourne, said: “When they wake up, people experiencing sleep inertia may show signs of reduced alertness and reduced cognition, manifesting in inadvertent mistakes.
“It can last for seconds, minutes or hours. Research suggests that ‘difficulty in waking up’ is a common experience and one that many of us share.”
Professor Adrian Dyer, who led the study, said melodic music appeared to almost neutralise sleep inertia, adding: “A sound that is perceived as melodic produces less sleep inertia in comparison to a sound considered to be neutral.”
The researchers believe their findings could be used to design new alarm clocks for waking people without causing sleep inertia.
Recent surveys have shown a growing number of people use the alarms on their mobiles to wake, so an app playing music could be a better option.
Prof Dyer added sounds of nature, which have become a popular wake-up call on apps, could also be effective if they contain bird song. Sleep inertia is a particular problem for shift workers or people on call overnight.
It was also a likely factor in the crash of an Air India Express flight that resulted in 158 deaths in 2010, when the captain took the controls after waking from an in-flight nap.
Dr Dyer added: “Reducing sleep inertia can provide a safer environment where performance is critical.”
Top four tunes to wake up to:
Good Vibrations (1966)
CloseTo Me (1985)
Fur Elise (1810)
The Four Seasons (1723)