Whether you’re one of those people who hits the snooze button five times or someone who jumps out of bed at the same minute every morning, you’ll probably need an alarm to wake you initially. But is there a key to getting the perfect alarm song? We spoke to Dr James Giordano, Professor in the Department of Neurology at Georgetown University Medical Centre, Washington DC, to see what he had to say.
The ideal time to wake up is as you progress from your last cycle of deep to light sleep. This coincides with the natural rhythm of sleep, Dr Giordano advises. However, acknowledging that this rarely happens, he says, ‘the ideal alarm or wake-up cues are those that elicit a gentle, relatively gradual shift from deeper to lighter sleep, to then allow a more natural, less stressful awakening’.
It’s better to wake up with a calming sound than an aggressive tune. So, make sure to choose a song with a peaceful beginning. If you want to wake up in a happy, summery mood, set your alarm song to I Got U by Duke Dumont. This tune has calming steel drums and a positive vibe to set you up for the day.
Don’t stress yourself out
You may think that shocking yourself awake is an effective way to start the day. Think again! Giordano advises, ‘It’s best to avoid the often jarring effect of a sudden loud alarm, which can cause activation of the sympathetic nervous system’. This is the body’s fight or flight mechanism that controls how we deal with stressful situations. By activating this response signal, Giordano says, it ‘would force you to begin the day under conditions of physiological stress.’
So, regardless of whether you are feeling emotionally stressed, by jolting yourself awake to a loud alarm, you can actually cause your body to feel pressured. Instead of going for a heavy metal track, choose a more mellow sound. If there’s a particular song that you’d love to wake up to but think it may evoke the wrong physiological response, try and find an acoustic version of it. These tend to be a slower pace with a cool ambience: the optimum atmosphere.
Make your wake-up gradual
The best way to wake up is to replicate waking up naturally as best as you can. With that in mind, Giordano has some advice on the perfect wake-up setting:
‘Progressively intensifying sounds that advance from very soft to louder, or even graded exposure to light tend to work best to induce the gradual changes in brain activity that mimic natural awakening.’
In order to trick your brain into waking up peacefully, set your alarm sound to gradually get louder. This will set your brain up for being active and ease you into an awakened state. Then you’ll rise feeling refreshed, not rushed.
It’s also a great idea to choose a song that gradually builds in depth and energy. Coldplay’s songs are usually perfect for this. Their 2011 number one hit single Paradise is an ideal song for this purpose as more layers of voices and instruments are built up throughout the song. By the time the song finishes, you’ll be ready to take on the day!
What’s your favourite song to wake up to? Leave your recommendations in the comments!