There are two schools of thought when it comes to morning alarms.
- Choose a sound (or a song) that is soothing, positive, and that you can listen to in its entirety – so you wake up gently and don’t snooze it in a sleepy stupor.
- Choose a sound so jarring that it startles you awake. The more obnoxious, the better. A fire alarm is your true north. You might even resort to placing your alarm on a Roomba so it’s hard to catch. Or better yet, a drone.
Though opposite, both schools of thought have some scientific merit.
The case for soothing sounds
Researchers at England’s Brighton and Sussex Medical School conducted a study to explore the effect of sound on our bodies. The researchers played nature sounds and man-made sounds for participants while monitoring their heart rates and brain scans with a functional MRI.
Results showed that the nature sounds were associated with a lower heart rate in participants, and a decrease in the body’s sympathetic response – the fight or flight instinct that happens when we’re stressed. Nature sounds also resulted in an increase in the body’s parasympathetic response, which helps you relax. It’s sometimes called the “rest-digest” response.
This is science telling us what we already know: soothing nature sounds help reduce stress. And getting out of bed can be stressful. Amirite?
Nature sounds also resulted in an increase in the body’s parasympathetic response, which helps you relax.
The case for jarring sounds
What happens when you’re sound asleep and suddenly hear a blaring alarm? Your cortisol levels spike, big-time. The thing is, your body already has a cortisol awakening response. Thirty minutes after you wake up, your cortisol levels rise slowly to prepare you for the anticipated stress of the day. Adding an additional jolt awake can get your heart pumping, but it’s not always good for you. One study showed that firefighters are 6.4 times more likely to have a “cardiovascular event” (read: heart attack) when the station alarm sounds in the night than they are during their daytime, non-emergency duties.
You want to be awake, but not that awake. So maybe try to find a sound that’s more “annoying” and less “terrifying.”
Firefighters are 6.4 times more likely to have a “cardiovascular event” (read: heart attack) when the station alarm sounds in the night than they are during their daytime.
Apple alarm sounds ranked
Whichever camp you fall in, there’s an Apple alarm sound for you. We tried them all – and then ranked our top 5 soothing sounds and top 5 jarring sounds to help you say “see ya” to the infamous snooze button.
Top 5 Soothing Apple Alarm Sounds
The soothing options in the default alarm sounds are not stellar, but there is a handful worth trying:
- Silk. Slow and ascending, with classical Chinese sounds. Inspired by a Pipa or a Guzheng.
- Ripples. Aptly named, this one sounds watery and dreamy. You will float into consciousness.
- Timba. A surprisingly upbeat option, but the nothing-but-drums sound is organic and satisfying and definitely registers as peaceful compared to the synthetic sounds of other alarms.
- Slow rise. Slow with overlapping chimes, this is peaceful but sounds more like a lullaby than a morning tune.
- Harp. Scales, simple and classic. Exactly what you expect it to be.
Honorable mention: Apple alarms does come with some default “natural sounds,” like a dog barking and a duck quacking. But in our opinion, a duck quacking relentlessly in your ear at 6:00 a.m. is more alarming than peaceful. Why is a duck in here? Is it angry at me? These are not questions a person should have to consider before coffee.
Top 5 Jarring Apple Alarm Sounds
- Alarm. Low, blaring, and repetitive – straight out of a Michael Bay movie.
- Car horn. Arguably the most obnoxious cartoon sound effect of all time.
- Old phone. Brings back all of the anxiety you felt before cell phones and caller ID.
- Radar. This is, shockingly, the iPhone default. It is high-pitched, repetitive, and you will hear it ringing in your ears for the rest of the day. A good choice if you’d like to feel jumpy and on-edge.
- Presto. Exactly like ‘Radar,’ except with a bell. Imagine a white-gloved hand-bell performer ringing the highest, smallest bell directly in your ear at a furious pace. You’ve just listened to the Presto alarm.
These are all terrible and offensive and they will wake you ready to fight. Whether it’s for-your-goals-and-dreams or with-your-phone, well, only you can tell.
So in summary, waking up is hard to do. If it were easy, these alarms wouldn’t exist. And while we can’t convert you into a morning person, we can help you get better sleep with the right mattress. Check out our mattress reviews to learn more!