Wakey Wakey Why?

If you know me personally, I have probably asked you this biology question: What is the only species that tries to fall asleep not yet tired? Hint: the same species forces itself to wake up while still very tired. You guessed it: homo sapiens.

There was a story a while back on Finnish television about schools that not only make wakeup calls to drowsy students, but actually go to their homes to pick them up. Crazy if you ask me. (For my Finnish readers, find the story here.)

Why do we start our days so early? After all, majority of us are no longer farmers, dependent on daylight. Ideally we would sleep as long as we wanted, and then organize our waking hours as we please before going back to bed. And by “as we please” I of course take into account that there are jobs to do, things to learn.

Turns out “business before pleasure” is a notion deeply rooted in us, also in our children. My pal Tim Walker asked his class of 5th graders at what time they would like to start their school days. Surprisingly many replied 8 or 9 o’clock. The reasoning was that if they start early, they still have enough time left after school to do other things. Smart kids.

So it seems that we would like to sleep longer, but if given the choice, we prefer waking up early and getting the job done. I believe this is the majority opinion, going beyond Tim’s class. I just feel sorry for those of us who would like to sleep in and start to work/learn later.

Our society does not support this at all. For knowledge workers with no children this might be doable. For the rest of us, not so much. What could be done? Could we set up our society differently? After all, people should be free to organize their own calendars.

Since this is a blog post and not a thesis, consider this a discussion opener rather than an answer. However, some preliminary random thoughts for you to take away:

  • Notice population density. In big cities it would be easier to find enough people with similar daily schedules to cater their needs. In small towns and rural areas, more difficult.
  • Digitalize everything you can. Or rather provide 24/7 digital options to as many societal functions as possible. Important especially for those rural areas.
  • Consider operating on different time zones, even when serving a single one. Recently STT, a News Agency serving Finnish media companies, announced that they are considering to start operating their nightly news desk from Australia (almost exactly on the opposite side of the globe).
  • Shorten the core of work- and schooldays to 3-4 hour chunks in the middle of the day, and provide flexibility for the rest. This would serve both morning and evening persons. Some would start their work from these chunks, others would finish with them.
  • Accept diversity. Attitudes and tolerance are the key to everything. Morning people should respect evening folks and vice versa.


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