WHEN it comes to getting up in the morning, the human race seems to divide into two groups: Bright Eyes and Sluggards. The Bright Eyes hit their slippers on the run, singing three choruses of ''Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'!'' Their problem isn't getting up but staying in bed until, as Homer used to say, rosy-fingered dawn starts another day. Only a concerted effort of the will keeps their eager heads on the pillow from 4:30 a.m. on. They dream of getting up, and it's the happiest dream they know.
The second crowd, on the other hand, rates getting out of bed just this side of capital punishment. The Sluggards have done reprehensible things in their lives - they admit it. But what have they done to deserve this? As their theme song they moan, rather than sing, the words of Irving Berlin: ''O how I hate to get up in the morning! O how I hate to get out of bed!''
Berlin's Sluggard, it may be recalled, was an Army man who vowed someday to get the bugler - and he was going to get that other guy, ''the guy who wakes the bugler up.''
On the theory that waking up, even for the most reluctant Sluggards, can be made a little less traumatic, inventors have worked over the years to find gentler ushers into a new day than buglers and roosters - or, worst of all, a Bright Eyes roommate caroling, ''Rise and shine.''
In the beginning there was the old-fashioned alarm clock - the civilian equivalent of living in a firehouse. The shock treatment seemed to whack you across your feet while doing a paradiddle on your eardrums. Waking up then was a thoroughly rude business.
History's next refinement, the buzzing alarm - imperatively nasal to the point of a snarl - hardly improved the morning ritual of arousal-by-terror.
But then came the whispering alarm. For a brief moment the ear was nibbled rather than chewed. This alarm was your friend - maybe not your best friend, but not your worst enemy, either. The friendship was short-lived. Or, as the manufacturer put it, ''First it whispers, then it shouts.'' Still, here was a breakthrough of sorts. The alarm clock no longer stood on the bedside table as a torture instrument - a Puritan enforcer. A precedent for mercy was set - along with the alarm.
Since then, alarm devices have turned to wheedling and coaxing. To accommodate the backsliders, the reveille industry has produced ''snooze'' and ''siesta'' alarms. Music has replaced the old ding-dong or abrasive buzz-z-z as the appropriate sound to detach a sleeper from sleep.
But waking up has continued to be a matter of noisemaking, if subtle noisemaking. Even a cat jumping on the sleeper's stomach tends to meow. Even a child staring down, two inches above the sleeper's face, is inclined to breathe heavily.
Only now do we have an absolutely silent alarm, whose time has come. Patent 4,407,585, registered by James P. Kavoussi, a Brooklyn surgeon, and Louise D. Hartford, a New York transit system investigator, employs smell, not sound, to send a signal into the sleeper's distant kingdom.
At the appointed hour, the Kavoussi-Hartford alarm triggers the release of perfume from an atomizer. Rather than sliding down a fireman's pole, the Sluggard awakens in a bower of flowers. Nothing that happens to the Sluggard for the rest of the day may be half as civilized.
Do we have here a revolution in consciousness-raising? Maybe. But in the end , most of us dream of waking up under neither threats nor blandishments. We want to wake up because we want to wake up. Avoiding both the undiscriminating cheerfulness of the Bright Eyes and the evasive lethargy of the Sluggard, we hope to make waking up a choice - a yes that sets the tone for the day.
In her book ''The Gift of Dreams,'' Kathryn Lindskoog notes: ''The word waking comes to us from the Indo-European word for vigor and is very closely related to vigil, watch, and wait. . . . For what are we really watching and waiting and keeping guard? Life, I think, and more life.''
Even a Sluggard could rise and shine, believing that.