People who know me well have probably heard me discuss one of my “favorite” studies of all time, and in the case of my college roommates, probably multiple times. I just can’t get over how crazy it is though. This study dealt with what the researchers called “untimed atmospheres”. Here is how it went:
They put people in a venue that didn’t have windows, so participants couldn’t see the sun. They were given tasks to do—meant to be just basic work, that sort of thing. However, most importantly, participants were unable to have watches, or any other sort of time-telling device. They spent an extended period of time in this area, several days, and since there were no clocks, or external indicators of what the time was, it was up to the participants to decide when they would go to bed, when they would wake up. They wanted to see, absent any cues telling us what time it was and what we should be doing, what would the rhythm of our days be.
What did the researchers find you ask? They found that, while there was variation, the average length of a participant’s day was about 25 hours. So if we didn’t have our clocks telling us when to go to bed or alarm clocks to wake us up, and we didn’t have the sun as our guide, on average we would live 25-hour “days”. Their theory is that this phenomenon is why many of us want to stay up late, and sleep in. While there are some people, like my father, who seem to have no problem going to bed and getting up at a consistent hour, most of us seem to be 25-hour beings living in a 24 hour world.
In my case, I think I’m something like a 28-hour being. Without any clocks, I would probably stay up until four reading, then wake up at two, and then go to bed at 8 AM the next day, and so on (my all-time record for sleeping in is until 5:40). If it were socially acceptable, I think I would just live six “days” over the span of a week.
While I’ve come to the conclusion that there aren’t enough days in a week for circadian rhythm reasons, I’ve also found that there just aren’t enough hours to do what I want to do. My roommates and I leave for work in the morning at 8:15 or so, and get back home around 6:30. I want to play (and practice Swahili) with the girls who live on my compound, need to make dinner, want to study some Swahili in a little more formal way, email friends (for those of you with whom I am corresponding, know that my strategy is to load all your emails/Facebook messages while at work, write a response at home, and then hit send when I get to work the next day, cause my internet at home is super spotty), write up blogs, and now that I’m out of school, READ.
Right now, I am reading Heart of Darkness (free for the Kindle!), next on my cue are Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, a book about market opportunities by selling to the poor, a re-read of A Game of Thrones and the rest of the series (I’m sure there’s so much more to learn the second time around!) and once I start feeling super ambitious, The Brothers Karamazov (also free on the Kindle, gotta love the public domain!). As an aside, a fellow Fellow (love saying that) in Uganda recently blogged about how according to a book of hers, if you’re reading a lot, it means you’re not adjusting culturally. OOPS. Guess that means I haven’t really adjusted to life.
In any case, all of this to say, I am really struggling to fit everything I want to do into a day. There are a million things I want to do on a daily basis, people I want to meet up with, and I just can’t make it all fit. Certainly better than having nothing to do all day, but man, I NEED MORE HOURS, both for biological and things-to-do reasons.