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What time do I get up in the morning?

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In the last few years, I have become increasingly fascinated by how we use time. One of my projects - ‘NESEMP’- has given me insights as to how we use time, by measuring household electricity consumption.   

In NESEMP, we have measured electricity consumption of over 200 houses every five minutes over several years. The resulting dataset provides many interesting insights and can be used in many ways. One idea which came to me ridiculously early one morning was “I wonder if households with insomniacs have a different pattern of electricity consumption compared to households without insomniacs?”. Although this may well be the product of sleepy thinking, I thought it was worth pursuing as an idea as waking up earlier extends the total amount of time available, since I tend to go to bed at pretty much the same time every day. Therefore I would expect overall electricity consumption of household with insomniacs (like me) to be higher.

To explore this question I looked at the data relating to my own house within the NESEMP database. It is usually me who gets up first in our house and, when I get up, I always put on the kettle to make myself a cup of tea, which should be an easy pattern to detect. The monitor has now been on for around 4 years, and this has generated around 420,000 rows of data for my house.

The graph below shows an example of a day in my house. It shows how much electricity is being used in every 5-minute segment over a 24 hour period, and the orange line is the point that the computer detected that I “got up”.


What I then did was to take each of these “waking up times” (the orange lines) and plot them on a ‘circular dotplot’ (see the clockface below), so that I could see how much the waking times for my house varied. The arrow on the clockface shows the ‘circular mean’ which basically indicates the average time that I wake up.



It looks that on average I get up at about 5:30, but it varies a lot around that time. I decided to look at my waking time in a bit more detail. I discovered that there was quite a large difference between summer and winter (respectively represented by the red and blue clockfaces in the figure below).  


Because I have data for 4 years, I plotted the data over the whole time period to check this pattern (see figure): I definitely tend to wake later in winter and earlier in summer. It seems that the answer to the question “when do I get up in the morning?” is strongly associated with the position of the sun in the sky. In many ways this might be considered very ‘non-modern’! How can it be that in a 24 hour, always-on, artificially-lit society that I am so strongly affected by the seasons? I may be more in-tune with nature than I thought!


Returning to my original question – do I use more electricity when I get up earlier? - My initial intuition was that when I got up earlier I would use more electricity. However the data suggest that this is not the case.


 If I had launched into this analysis by simply looking at the relationship between waking time and electricity use, then it would have suggested that there was a positive relationship between these two variables (as can be seen visually in the above plot ). The reason is that my hypothesis did not take into account the effect of the seasons on my waking up time.

When I was taught statistics at university, I remember being told “always graph your data before analysing it”. This example shows why. Rather than arrive at the opposite conclusion, this tells me that to explore my initial hunch, I will need a more nuanced approach – the most obvious one being to analyse the different months or seasons separately.

Rather than come to any hasty conclusions from this data exploration, I think I will take this as a pause to think a bit more about the dynamics of what actually happens in my house. There might also be implications for helping us to better understand the experience of time pressure, which so many of us seem to experience these days… but that is a topic for another blog post!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author(s), and not an official position of the institute or funder.



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Printed from /blog/segs/what-time-do-I-get-up on 17/04/24 05:24:00 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.