Give Now

A Moment of Science

Mom’s Wake Up Call

Researchers want to know exactly what it is about mom's voice that brings children out of deep sleep faster and more effectively than even a smoke alarm.

Mother holding daughter in arms

Photo: Big Grey Mare (flickr)

Several theories have been presented as to why children wake up faster when they hear their mother's voice including voice frequency, using the child's name, and use of language

You’re a thoughtful parent. Your house has several smoke alarms, and you check them regularly to make sure the batteries are still good. When it comes to house fires, an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure.

However, a study coming out of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children’s Hospital in Ohio suggests that even these precautions can be improved upon.

The researchers took 24 children, between the ages of six and twelve, and tried waking them up from deep sleep with two different methods. One was a recording of the child’s mother. The other one was a loud fire alarm tone. Guess which one worked better?

You probably guessed it, the mother’s voice. Even when the fire alarm tone succeeded in waking kids, it did so

There isn’t, in fact, any data suggesting that kids are dying in house fires because they don’t wake up to the sound of the fire alarm. However, researchers want to know exactly what it is about mom’s voice calling them that brings children out of deep sleep faster and more effectively than even a loud, irritating buzz.

Is it the frequency of the voice? Is it the use of the child’s name? Is it something to do with the use of language? We don’t yet know, but the study suggests several factors to explore next, including whether similar effects are present in adults.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science