For the many who have to wake up early for work, going to bed early isn’t always an available option. It can be a struggle to get out of bed to get to work with five to six hours (or less) of sleep, and too little sleep isn’t healthy. One neuroscientist has a solution, and it isn’t developing a habit of sleeping early — instead, he says we should work later on in the morning.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 receive seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Receiving any less can be “hugely damaging to the body’s system,” according to Dr. Paul Kelley, a neuroscientist and research associate at Oxford University.
Speaking at the British Science Festival, Dr. Kelley explained why starting the work day later at 10 a.m. would be better for employees:
“This is a huge society issue. Staff should start at 10 a.m. You don’t get back to (the 9 a.m.) 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.”
Before the age of 55, our circadian rhythms don’t naturally match with the standard 9-to-5 work schedule — younger children are even more sensitive to a earlier-than-natural schedule. Dr. Kelley had previously worked as a head teacher at Monkseaton Middle School in the UK where he changed the start of the school day from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. He found that after the change, when the children were able to get more sleep, grade averages rose by 19%.
According to Dr. Kelley, it should be our work schedules that form around our natural sleep cycles and not the other way around — doing so could have disastrous consequences for our health. He said:
“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.”
Not getting enough sleep and finding yourself exhausted at the beginning of your work day? You may want to tell your boss that sleeping in a little more may just be the thing your company needs.