Are You Offset Early Yet?


I watched a program on TV the other night about how your body clock works. It seems that when you are young, your body clock is "offset late" so you are useless in the mornings and tend to be a bit of a night owl. I guess this is useful so you can go to those all-night parties and clubs. When you get old your body clock is "offset early", so you have to go to bed at 6:30 PM and get up in time to watch breakfast TV and those weird quiz shows that nobody has heard of. I suppose this means that there are only a couple of weeks around the age of 35 when your life is actually aligned with the world around you. That's going to be my excuse in future, anyway.

And it seems that all this is the result of strict scientific investigation, and not just some university student making stuff up for his final exam dissertation. It's supposed to explain why extricating a teenager from their bed before lunchtime is about as easy as folding custard (or herding cats). In fact, there is a school in the North East of England where they are experimenting with delaying the start of lessons that require anything more than desultory half-awakeness until after 11:00 AM. Maybe this is a way to reduce traffic congestion - send kids to school for 10:30 in the morning so we can all get to work without being buried by a flock of 4x4s on the school run, and keep them there until we've had a chance to sit down after work and read the paper in peace.

They also say that "body clock research" (which surely has to be a made-up science) can predict the best time of day to have a heart attack or stroke, provide the reason why you feel tired after a beer at lunchtime, and tell you when to have sex. Now, I'm no expert, but I reckon I could figure that the best time to have a heart attack or stroke is never, the reason you feel tired is because that's what beer does, and - well - I'll refrain from comment on the remaining point.

Strange thing is that, in my advancing years, I should now be well into the "offset early" camp. According to a rough calculation on the back of a Notepad document, I should be drifting off to sleep at seventeen minutes past nine all this week. And be wide awake and furiously typing guidance and documentation by around ten to seven in the morning. I'd have to say that his doesn't bear comparison with reality. If I go to bed much before midnight I can't drop off to sleep, and I don't remember when I last saw any time prior to 8:00 AM on the bedside alarm clock. I've even tried following my wife's sage advice that "...it's about time you had an early night", but it seems to make little difference. Me and a zombie exhibit remarkably similar traits (and appearance, according to my wife) any time before about 9:00 AM and the second cup of coffee.

I put it down to the fact that I live on GMT and work on PCT (Pacific Coast Time). So being a night owl is useful because I'm generally still around in the evenings trying to catch up on work while my colleagues are yawning and scratching their way into the office. As long as it's before lunch time their time, I'm generally around to answer panic emails, ignore desperate pleas for completion of the latest important document, and attend conference meeting calls where all I can hear is distant mumblings and trans-Atlantic crosstalk on the line. On one occasion last week, I think I was in three meetings at the same time. I remember agreeing to a new wholesale price for bulk crayfish shipments, and an updated schedule for delivery of some pork bellies to Nebraska. I think we agreed on the appropriate terminology for describing presentation layer components as well, but I can’t be sure about that part.

Maybe your body clock influences your choice of employment. Or maybe it’s the other way round - your choice of career actually changes your body clock schedule. I mean, you'd have to assume that postmen (sorry, postal delivery workers) are offset early, and that night-club bouncers are offset late. So what about us in the IT world? I've noticed that the p&p office is not exactly bursting with activity at 8:00 AM, or even 9:00 AM, most days. Yet there are still plenty of people hunched over keyboards late into the evenings. Do you actually know any "offset-early" IT people?

Comments (1)
  1. in51der says:

    Well I have to agrre with the "offset" idea. I am always up early these days and finished by 10pm. Of course it was much the other way around when I was younger. One thing I have noticed, however is that I sleep so much better when I am in an asian time zone (HK, Japan etc) than I do in GMT. Can’t think why that would be but it’s certainly true.

    Cheers nice post.

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