Mother’s Voice More Effective At Waking Up A Child Than A Smoke Alarm, Scientist Discover

The sound of a mother’s voice is more likely to wake up a child during a fire alert than the loud wailing of a smoke alarm, a recent study has found.

Children can be notoriously difficult to get out of bed on any given day, let alone during an emergency situation.

Researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio decided to investigate whether a recording of a mother’s voice would be more effective at waking up a sleeping child than the usual noise emitted by a fire alarm.

The team assessed 176 children at a sleep research centre in the state capital, all of whom were aged between five and 12 years old.

They carried out the study by using recordings of three maternal “voice alarms” on each of the sleeping participants, in addition to a standard smoke alarm.

Published in the Journal of Pediatrics, the study’s findings indicated that sleeping children are about three times more likely to wake up to the sound of a mother’s voice than a high-pitched alarm.

Furthermore, the researchers also found that children who woke to the sound of their mother’s voice were able to “escape” the bedroom where they were sleeping in around 18 to 28 seconds, while it took them approximately five minutes to escape when roused by a smoke alarm.

“Children are remarkably resistant to awakening by sound when asleep,” said Dr Mark Splaingard, director of the hospitals’ sleep disorders centre and co-author of the study.

“We were able to find a smoke alarm sound that reduces the amount of time it takes for many children to wake up and leave the bedroom.”

“This study confirmed that a maternal voice alarm is better than a traditional high-pitch tone alarm for waking children and prompting their escape,” said lead author Dr Gary Smith.

While carrying out the study, the researchers also explored whether including the child’s first name in the voice alarms made a difference to their ability to wake up.

They came to the conclusion that using first names in the voice alarms made no significant difference.

“This means one alarm could work for multiple children sleeping near each other in a home,” Dr Smith said.