Wake up and smell the coffee - or smell the coffee and wake up?

Wake up and smell the coffee - or smell the coffee and wake up?

There's a fair amount of scientific evidence to suggest that fragrances can be conducive to sleep. But what about waking up? Can we replace the dreaded sound of our early morning alarm with indulgent smells of brewing coffee and freshly baked croissants yet?

Sorry to break it to you, but the answer is no. Like the popular saying goes, wake up and smell the coffee - not the other way around.

The Putrid Fish Experiment

According to a scientific study by Carskadon & Herz in 2004, smells have minimal - if any - impact upon humans when they're asleep. Even the stench of rotting fish pumped directly into your nostrils isn’t enough to stir you from a peaceful slumber!

How do we know? Well, that’s exactly what Carskadon & Herz did to their unsuspecting volunteers. Whilst they set up camp in the land of nod, the scientists channeled pleasant peppermint and then putrid pyridine (a chemical with an disctinct fish-like smell) scents up their noses. Amazingly, even the most unpleasant stench didn't rouse the sleepyheads - the researchers had to use sounds instead.

Fragrant Alarm Clocks: Clever or Con?

So what about fragrance-releasing alarm clocks? Does industry-leader SensorWake know something we don't about using smells to wake people up?

Again, the answer is no. Upon closer inspection, you'll find that these 'new-age' alarms have sound alerts accompanying the fragrances. So really what you're purchasing is a traditional alarm clock with the bonus of a nice smell to greet you when you come round.  

Whilst we aren't arguing that a whiff of croissant or an air of espresso might have a beneficial impact on your morning mood, the multi-sensory design of these gadgets just goes to show that smells can't be relied on to get you to that early morning meeting on time.

It seems the traditional alarm clock is here to stay after all.


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