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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/A.M. Buzz

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth's Jennifer Chu reports on a new alarm clock that might eliminate morning grogginess.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood and coming up: What if intelligent life from across the Universe blasted the Earth to bits to make way for an intergalactic freeway? Could we find another Earth? Douglas Adams, creator of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, had some answers. But first, this Note on Emerging Science from Jennifer Chu.

CHU: "The best part of waking up" may no longer be the "Folgers in your cup." In fact, it may be the sound of an alarm clock. A group of sleep-deprived students at Brown University have invented a new alarm clock to help combat typical a.m. inertia. Recent studies suggest that sleepers suffer from the worst case of "morning blues," or grogginess when woken during deep sleep versus light. "SleepSmart" measures your sleep cycle and wakes you during the lightest phase of sleep—so you feel refreshed in the morning. Here's how it works. After programming a special clock to your latest possible wake-up time, you go to sleep wearing a headband outfitted with electrodes and a microprocessor. The headband records the pattern of brain waves produced during each phase of sleep—light sleep, deep sleep and Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep. This sleep information is passed wirelessly to the clock unit, which then triggers the alarm to sound during the light sleep phase closest to your wake-up time. So, rather than waking you at exactly 7:00 each morning, "SleepSmart" will ring during your light sleep, say, 30 minutes before that time. The alarm clock is the brainchild of a Brown University graduate student, who was inspired when a fellow student blamed grogginess for his poor grades. A warning to Starbucks: The finished product will hit stores sometime next year. That's this week's Note on Emerging Science, I'm Jennifer Chu.



Brown University graduate lab


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