Out Of Time:
We’ve written here before about the possible differences between early-birds and night-owls, and more recently on the perils of trying to wake up.
Well, among those surfaced a trend. Something between the outside world and people’s sleep-patterns seemed misaligned.
And it turns out that scientist and researcher, Dr. Paul Kelley went into the details to find out exactly why.
One of his conclusions is that most of us are being tortured every day of our lives…
Wait, Which 8 Hours Are They?:
Part of the problem lies in a good thing.
Our more historically-recent daily schedule actually comes from a set of workplace-safety demonstrations at the end of the 19th and beginning 20th centuries.
And one of the more-significant result of things like The Haymarket Riots is that we have an 8-hour workday.
But they didn’t really know about the body’s Circadian Rhythm.
Get Into The Rhythm:
Now everyone knows more or less that we also have some sort of body-clock that tells us when we should get to sleep and when to get up.
Except when it’s really hard, and we get Sleep Inertia as a result of Social-Jetlag, that difference between what the day has scheduled, and what our bodies really want us to do.
But Dr. Paul’s studies suggest something very interesting & a little-bit controversial about that clock-rhythm.
As part of Paul’s own work as a headmaster, he found a very interesting result when he changed the students’ schedule.
He tried the idea and shifted the start-time at Monkseaton Middle School from 8:30 AM to 10 AM.
As a result of this, grades went up an average of 19% across the board.
Attendance and overall productivity increased significantly also.
Similar results were also found by another school that was not part of Kelley’s new Teen Sleep project, but implemented the recommendations anyway.
It’s Not Just Students, You’re Part Of The Problem, Too:
Now here’s where it comes down to You.
Researchers like Dr. Paul have discovered that our body-clocks might be a lot more stubborn & a lot less adaptable than previously-thought.
Dr. Paul even states definitively that your body-clock cannot be changed, fooled or even trained; even with artificial light.
And so according to his studies, 70-100% of people between the ages of 10 and 55 are missing between 25-38% of their sleep (2-3 hours) each day.
Your Whole Day Is Structured Incorrectly:
That’s because, just like the students, your start time is artificially-early, too.
The average wakeup-time for adults in the developed-world is somewhere around 6:30AM, and it really needs to be closer to 8 AM.
You can drink all the coffee you want, but it still won’t change the sleep-debt you pick up. (unless you take Naps)
It Works For Working Adults, Too:
Still other researchers have done experiments in a less-academic environment.
And so far, it looks like they’re working.
Experiments were done at 3 different companies where scheduling-biases were trained out of the employees & managers.
Then employees were all shifted toward a more appropriate start-time for their age-bracket.
And just like the students at Britains Hampton Court House, their productivity, quantity, and quality all went up.
The Early-Bird Bias:
What’s really unfortunate is that many workplaces don’t have anything like flex-time and work exactly the opposite of these experiments.
Additionally there is a demonstrated bias against sleep, and it’s seen as something for weak people. -Even in fields as innovative as technology & internet.
It’s doubly-unforunate, because many of the top-managers are 55 and older and fall into the early-bird window anyway.
Maybe they don’t know the research, don’t care, or just schedule the whole office according to the boss’s hours.
But otherwise more inventive, productive, and also more Healthy people are being told they have to maintain appearances to their own detriment.
And the company loses-out too, whether they realize it or not.
Technology Paves The Way:
The hope for the future is that with many new innovations, the need for strictly-rigid schedules might be greatly reduced.
Researchers have shown in manufacturing jobs in Germany & IT in Oregon that if companies are willing to make the changes, the benefits are there for the taking.
Now let’s just hope that with the help of scientists like Kelley and business thought-leaders like Tony Schwartz, new schedules can become a reality for the betterment of us all.
Of course with business and society as inflexible as they are, the real change will probably only happen once companies are getting out-competed by more flexible ones and there is a real economic cost to the Early-Bird Bias.
But with the number of new trials increasing, even at Oxford, here’s to hoping; for all our sakes.
Check out the Links for the details:
Photo Credits: Bill Murray smashes the alarm clock every morning in “Groundhog Day”, by Harold Ramis, Trevor Albert, Danny Rubin, and Columbia Pictures
• Source: BSA
• More Coverage: BBC Capital
• Source Study: NSF/SH-A workplace intervention improves sleep: results from the randomized controlled Work, Family, and Health Study