The daily grind for most of us looks like this: We wake up at 7am, take a shower, then grab some coffee on the way to work. By the time we leave our house, it’s already 8 in the morning, but we feel like we still aren’t fully awake. Sometimes, drinking coffee doesn’t really do the trick – our minds remain “asleep” even after finishing one cup.
If you are a night owl and you can relate to this, then you might agree with this scientist’s discovery regarding work and sleep.
Dr. Paul Kelley, an honorary research associate at Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute and one of the UK’s leading sleep experts, says that forcing adults to work before 10am is tantamount to torture. It leaves a person’s body exhausted and stressed, causing them to be ill.
He says that our bodies have a circadian rhythm and it is something that can’t be changed. Before the age of 55, the circadian rhythms of adults are not in sync with the usual 9 to 5 working hours, and this disparity could lead to a “serious threat” to a person’s performance, mood, and mental health.
With his discovery, Dr. Kelley is pushing for a huge societal change to move work – and school times – according to the natural body clock of humans.
Studies on circadian rhythms show that an average 10-year old will not be able to focus properly on academic work before 8:30am. For 16-year olds, they should start at 10am for best results. University students, on the other hand, should start at 11am.
Dr. Kelley was a former head teacher at Monkseaton Middle School in North Tyneside. There, he conducted an experiment where he changed the start of school from 8:30am to 10am. The experiment yielded promising results – after a certain amount of time, the attendance level and general productivity of students were improved significantly. Also, the number of top grades rose by 19 percent.
Similarly, employees who are required to work before 10am are more likely to be hurting both their output and health. The sleep expert says that “this is a huge society issue”.
Here is Dr. Kelley’s extensive explanation about his discovery.
“Staff should start at 10am. You don’t get back to (the 9am) starting point till 55. Staff are usually sleep-deprived. We’ve got a sleep-deprived society.
“It is hugely damaging on the body’s systems because you are affecting physical, emotional and performance systems in the body.
“Your liver and your heart have different patterns and you’re asking them to shift two or three hours. This is an international issue. Everybody is suffering and they don’t have to.
“We cannot change our 24-hour rhythms. You cannot learn to get up at a certain time. Your body will be attuned to sunlight and you’re not conscious of it because it reports to hypothalamus, not sight.
“This applies in the bigger picture to prisons and hospitals. They wake up people and give people food they don’t want. You’re more biddable because you’re totally out of it. Sleep deprivation is a torture.”
Sleep deprivation has been known to have major impacts on our health. According to the NICHD, not getting enough sleep “increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes”. In fact, just one week running on less than six hours of sleep each night leads to 711 changes in how genes function.
With all this discovery, why do we still torture ourselves working before 10am for 8 hours a day?
The answer? Tradition.
The 8-hour working days were started in the 20th century to maximize factory productivity. This practice clearly did not take into account the human body clock which naturally wants to be coordinated with sunlight. Now, we are still following that system.
Bottom line is, getting enough sleep is highly important for our well-being, and despite the current 8-hour a day work system, we should strive to get 6 hours or more of sleep for better performance and health.
What do you think of this study? Do you agree with Dr. Kelley’s call for change?