Wednesday, 25 March 2009

I'm a Type B kinda guy

Last night I was making a bracket - as well as a racket - in my garage-cum-studio when I heard a very thought provoking programme on Radio 4. It was about sleep patterns and how the early risers have been favoured by society ever since we were an agricultural economy. In our pre-industrial society, our lives were ruled by daylight and the early bird really did get the worm. However, since the dawn of industrialisation, we have adopted much more varied work and sleep patterns.

Our sleep patterns change throughout our lives. As young children, we tend to go to bed earlier than when we are adults and when we are teenagers we prefer to stay up late and have long lie-ins instead of getting up at the crack of dawn.

And sleep patterns vary tremendously between individuals. The point this programme made was that some of us are Type A and naturally disposed towards getting up early and going to bed early. The disposition towards early-ness for larks is much greater than it would be for most of the population.

Type B people are the other way round - they prefer to get up late but quite happy to work well into the small hours in some cases.

This programme went out before the 10 O'clock News and I eventually finished in the garage at about 2230. I think that proves that I'm on a lark but I'm very much an owl.

According to some of the speakers on this programme, people like me have been discriminated against the generations. We are dragged out of our warm cocoon is far too early during our childhoods and have had the "early to bed, early to rise, makes a child healthy, wealthy and wise" mantra drummed into us from an early age. As adolescents, our sleep patterns shift back by as much as three hours and for some of us that’s where they stay. Most adults begin to go to bed a bit earlier in their 20s and, by the time they’re in their 40s, getting up at 0630 seems quite natural.

But if it is natural for you and you have to conform to the more traditional work patterns of a 9 till 5 job, then it is very easy for you to end up in a state of sleep deprivation.

Although I have no difficulty getting up in the morning, the natural time for me is 0900, not 0600. Going to bed early simply doesn't work because in evening I'm not tired. Very often I don't get to bed until about midnight. If you are running a publishing empire in your spare time after the working day this can be quite convenient but the lack of sleep gradually creeps up on you.

Flexible working hours and changes in more traditional working patterns are beginning to allow Type B people to adopt working lives more in tune with their own body clocks. We have effectively been jetlagged for most of our lives without benefit of going anywhere exotic.

I'm quite comfortable with my status as a Type B, but I have been aware for some time that the two had a half hours of sleep but I'm not giving every morning can't be compensated for by going to bed two had a half hours earlier. At certain times of the day I'm ready for a little nap but in that pleasant state between waking and unconsciousness I can be incredibly creative. The linkages between the various compartments of my brain seem to occur with greater regularity and I have my best ideas when she asked on the point of drifting off to sleep.

The trick is to stay just awake long enough to remember what brilliant ideas I've had. I once tried keeping a tape recorder close to my bedside and on several occasions had the presence of mind to record my ideas. The only trouble was, when I played the back, the grunts and mumbles were unintelligible. Keep your notebook didn't work either. By the time I switch the light on and found a pen I've forgotten what it was that I was trying to get down on paper.

I'd like to be able to work later during the day but not in my present day job. I won't be able to give this up for some time but my ultimate dream would be to make my living from my writing and when I'm able to do that (or more likely when I have retired) I will be able to get up when I want and do what I want in tune with my own sleep patterns.

In recognition of this tendency to work and live later, a movement known as the B-society is growing on the Internet. Some industries, such as IT and more creative disciplines, have already adopted work patterns that suit B-people. This is because many of the people who work in these industries are fresh from college or university where a student life centres upon staying up late. The purpose of the B-society is to promote awareness of B-people and maximise their talents, whereas in the past these have been blighted by sleep deprivation as they try to fit in with traditional working patterns that have been more geared towards A-people.

For the moment, though, I think I will still have to participate in a day job that is a little bit too early for me. This allows me to indulge in my more creative passions for hours but the feeling that this work pattern is slowly killing me won’t go away!

It's 2130 and I'm off out to the garage to finish off that cunningly fashioned bracket that will transform the way my van drives.

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