WELLNESS
09/05/2014 08:17 am ET Updated May 06, 2016

Does The Sound Of Your Alarm Have An Effect On Your Morning?

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The question: Does the sound of my alarm have any effect on my morning?

The answer: We think it's safe to say no one loves the sound of their alarm, simply because it's their alarm. It signals the end of basically all things good -- snuggles, pleasant dreams and the start of one of the worst moments of the day: getting out of that nice, warm bed.

There's no denying some sounds seem more torturous than others. And with increasing options for customizing how your alarm dings or beeps, we have more say than ever on what particular notes jostle us from slumber.

So when it comes to the perfect morning, does any of it matter?

It's not exactly a well-researched question, according to sleep expert Michael J. Decker, Ph.D., associate professor in the school of nursing at Case Western Reserve University. But it is an interesting one, as many of us (at least anecdotally) suspect that a more pleasant alarm sound leads to a more pleasant awakening.

What have been studied, he says, are dawn-simulating alarm clocks that gently brighten the bedroom as wake time approaches. In a small 2003 study, a team of UK researchers noted that the use of these lamps increased cortisol levels in the morning. This reaction in the body is what's called the awakening cortisol response, and it "prepares our brain and body for the stressors of the day," says Decker. Although the lamps deal in light rather than sound, this suggests that "sensory input does create a physiologic response," he says.

From there, he says, it's a bit of a leap, but it could be possible that some of the more obnoxious alarm options on your phone -- and nearly 60 percent of 16-to-34-year-olds use their phones as their primary way to tell time, according to a YouGov poll -- only make you feel worse on an already-grumpy morning. "Many people download a song to wake them up and cheer them up," says Decker, who personally rises to Elvis Presley's "Follow That Dream." "It's the first thing I hear, and it reminds me to get up and look forward to the day. I find myself much more positive when I hear that, versus other songs or tones I've experimented with."

That's not to say the same tune or tone would work for everyone, he says: "When I play Elvis in my lab, my graduate student says she finds herself in her own personal hell."

Even if there isn't research to back it up, it's never a bad idea to start the morning with a few moments for yourself; it can set the tone for the entire day. If that includes waking up to a sound or a song you find pleasing, Decker says, why not "respect or appreciate" that?

What do you think?

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"Ask Healthy Living" is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical advice.

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