Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
My wife likes to get up very early.
No, that's not quite accurate. She needs to get up very early to go to work.
For this purpose, she sets an alarm on her phone. When we were first together, this practice drove me into a state of spiritual dyspepsia.
I'd wake with a start, not be able to get back to sleep and then feel irritable -- more irritable even than usual -- for the whole morning. Which would make me reluctant to perform competent, and even necessary, work.
I should add that her alarm tone at the time was a piercing series of bells, which sounded like they were on the end of rope being pulled by the whole angry Quasimodo family.
One day, she switched to a more tuneful, ethereal, soothing wake-up ditty, which sounded as if it had been composed by elves and squirrels with synthesizers. Somehow, I became a (slightly) nicer, (slightly) more awake person.
I'm delighted, now, that there may a scientific basis for my mercurial behavior. You see, I've just been alerted to a new study from Australia's Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
It has a mesmerizing title: Alarm tones, music and their elements: Analysis of reported waking sounds to counteract sleep inertia.
You might call it waking up on the wrong side of bed. You might call it "I'm not a morning person."
These researchers, however, explained that the technical term for it is sleep inertia. This is "a potentially dangerous reduction in human alertness and occurs 0-4 hours after waking."
Or five hours, I fear.
These researchers managed to persuade 50 innocent people to take part. They self-reported their preferences in waking sounds and levels of sleep inertia. The results verged on the pulsating:
Our results did not return any significant association between sleep inertia and the reported waking sound type, nor the subject's feeling towards their sound. However, the analysis did reveal that a sound which is ranked as melodic by participants shows a significant relationship to reports of reductions in perceived sleep inertia, and in contrast, sound rated as neutral (neither unmelodic nor melodic) returns a significant relationship to the reports of increases in perceived sleep inertia.
The researchers admitted they were surprised by these results. Lead researcher Stuart McFarlane mused:
You would assume that a startling 'beep beep beep' alarm would improve alertness, but our data revealed that melodic alarms may be the key element. This was unexpected.
McFarlane explained that, though more research is needed -- I've never heard a researcher say it isn't -- these results could point to a significant need for gentle morning melody being a contributor to productivity. He said:
This is particularly important for people who might work in dangerous situations shortly after waking, like firefighters or pilots, but also for anyone who has to be rapidly alert, such as someone driving to hospital in an emergency.
I confess I used to use a harsh alarm. I told myself that waking with a harsh start would immediately awaken my every sense. Yet study co-author Associate Professor Adrian Dyer offered alternative hope:
We think that a harsh 'beep beep beep' might work to disrupt or confuse our brain activity when waking, while a more melodic sound like the Beach Boys 'Good Vibrations' or The Cure's 'Close to Me' may help us transition to a waking state in a more effective way.
I'm not sure whether I could ever wake up to something as perky as Robert Smith's jolly whining.
It is worth considering, though, whether the very first sounds we hear in the morning might have a profound effect on our immediate mood.
It might, some may observe, explain a lot about those who live in Manhattan.