The Psychology Behind Different Alarm Sounds


Courtesy of PCMag

Various alarm sounds have different psychological effects, such as their influence on mood.

Tiana Salisbury, Editor

A study by reveals that 83% of Americans use the alarm clock feature on their cell phones. Through this, people can choose and customize the sounds they wake up to each morning. This can range from loud buzzes to birds chirping to even a favorite song. Each alarm choice has unique effects on the brain, so let’s dive into some of the most popular alarm sounds and their psychological effects.


As the default alarm on iPhones, Radar is probably one of the most commonly used alarms. This alarm is a repetitive series of several loud beeps followed by several softer beeps. Many people who use this sound find it obnoxious since the beeps elicit a response similar to that of emergency alarms; the blaring noise of the alarm causes people to feel threatened, which activates their fight-or-flight response. This means that after waking up from the alarm, people are more alert and stressed for the rest of the morning (Mashable).

Birds Chirping

To provide a touch of nature, some people may prefer to wake up to the soft sound of birds chirping. Like other sounds like waves crashing, natural sounds are seen as calming and soothing. Analise Hopper (12) questions “whether these alarm sounds actually wake people up because they are so comforting.” These sounds lack the repetition that sounds like Radar have, causing them to be seen as less annoying alarm choices. Moreover, natural sounds stimulate other senses, like smell and taste, which allows a sound to turn into a whimsical experience (sisterMAG).

I wonder whether these alarm sounds actually wake people up because they are so comforting.”

— Analise Hopper (12)

By the Seaside

Although this sound has a nature-inspired name, it is actually an upbeat and melodic alarm. The soft jingle is a contrast from Radar’s sharp beeps. Melodic alarms like By the Seaside are almost like a combination of the benefits of jarring sounds and natural sounds; they not only improve alertness but also decrease grogginess after waking up (Neuroscience News).

A Favorite Song

Some people choose to use their favorite song as their alarm; however, this choice can have both positive and negative implications. For one, waking up to your favorite song can make getting out of bed more enjoyable and uplift your mood for the rest of the day. While this may be true, eventually, people will get sick of their alarm sound since waking up for school or work is almost never something to look forward to. After some time, people start to dislike their favorite song because it gets associated with the dread of getting up. This is called classical conditioning, a phenomenon explained by Ivan Pavlov’s experiment with training dogs to associate the sound of a bell with salivation (Medical Xpress).