It's science: Mama's voice wakes up kids way faster than an alarm

There is something unique in a child's brain that actually enables them to hear their mother's voice.

It's science: Mama's voice wakes up kids way faster than an alarm

We all know that a mother's presence is life-changing, but a new study shows that a mother's voice could also be potentially life-saving.

A new study in the The Journal of Pediatrics tested how responsive sleeping children were to different types of smoke alarms: a smoke alarm that made a traditional loud screeching sound, and a smoke alarm that played a recording of that child's mother's voice telling the child to "Wake up! Get out of bed! Leave the room!"

The results were overwhelming: On average, children woke up and responded to the sound of their mother's voice warning them about a fire within 2 seconds; the median time for a child to awake from a tone alarm was 156 seconds—nearly 3 whole minutes.

The authors note: "Maternal voice alarms woke 86 to 91% of children, prompting 84 to 86% to successfully perform the escape procedure within five minutes of the alarm's onset. That's compared to 52% of kids waking to the standard alarm and 51% escaping."

The recording of mother's voice was dramatically more likely to result in the child waking up from sleep and taking action during the event of a fire, compared with the 'traditional' screech of a non-voice alarm.

These findings point to a deep biological connection between mother + child that can literally be the difference between life and death in the event of a fire.

The study notes that on the whole, "children are remarkably resistant to awakening to conventional high-frequency residential smoke alarms," perhaps as a result unique pediatric sleep patterns that put them into a deeper sleep than adults. (It's science: A mother's unique ability to hear household events including the sound of her child's voice during her sleep is real.)

The study has huge implications for fire safety and families. Nearly half of all fire-related deaths occur at night, so finding ways to alert all family members to a potential danger while everyone is sleeping is key to getting out of the house safely and quickly.

The study also indicates that there is something unique in a child's brain that actually enables them to hear their mother's voice. So while it may sometimes feel like your child is drowning you out (at least during waking hours), it indicates a powerful connection between a child and mother even while children sleep.

Further studies will explore whether a father's voice or a generic female voice has the same impact on children's responsiveness to alarms. The authors note that making voice fire alarms cheaper and easier to enable are key in helping get these types of alarms in the hands of all families, particularly lower-income families who are more likely to experience a fire.

The voice-activated alarms are not yet for sale, but in the meantime, this is a good time to make sure your house is sufficiently protected from fire. You can use Amazon Prime fire alarms that include voice messages (believed to be the next-best alternative to mom's voice) so you'll be better protected within days. Find those next-best fire alarms here.

Fire safety tips

The Red Cross recommends the following fire safety tips for all families:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke alarms every month. If they're not working, change the batteries.
  • Talk with all family members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year.
  • If a fire occurs in your home, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL FOR HELP. Never go back inside for anything or anyone.
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