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Work-Life Balance

UK sleep scientist says work before 10 AM is 'torture'

By Daniel Olivan on September 9, 2015

If you think having to wake up early to get to the office at 9 AM is torture, an Oxford University researcher agrees with you.

Last September 8, sleep scientist Paul Kelley said that the usual 9-to-5 work schedule today is an unhealthy setup that could lead to degradation in physical, mental, emotional health. Work should, in fact, should start at 10 A.M instead to fit our natural body clock.

"This is a huge society issue," Kelley told the British Science a Festival."Staff should start at 10 am. You don't get back to starting point [at 9 am] till 55. Staff are usually sleep-deprived. We've got a sleep-deprived society.”

‘Sleep deprivation is a torture’

Kelley explained that the regular work hours are not in sync with our circadian rhythms, and the same problem is in fact haunting children in school who have to start classes as early as 7:30 AM or 8:00 AM.

"This applies in the bigger picture to prisons and hospitals,” he added “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."

Regular lack of sleep can lead a number of consequences, from something as obvious as lowered productivity, to severe complications like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Specifically, the problem is that the schedules workplaces, and schools, set up are unable to accommodate the rest needed by people of different age groups.

“At the age of 10 you get up and go to school and it fits in with our nine-to-five lifestyle,” Kelley said. “When you are about 55 you also settle into the same pattern. But in between it changes a huge amount and, depending on your age, you really need to be starting around three hours later, which is entirely natural.”

Working around the work hours

While a complete overhaul of work culture at the behest of Kelley is far from happening, there are ways to work around this in the office, especially in the manager’s perspective.

“Although managers expect their employees to be at their best at all hours of the workday, it’s an unrealistic expectation,” according to Christopher M. Barnes in the Harvard Business Review.

“Employees may want to be their best at all hours, but their natural circadian rhythms will not always align with this desire.”

Barnes suggests that managers take note of their employees’ energy levels when giving them assignments. In the morning, it will take employees a few hours to reach their “peak,” and then their energy will dip at around 3 PM.

“We often blame this on lunch, but in reality this is just a natural part of the circadian process,” said Barnes.

Barnes also stressed that employees should also take note of their own circadian rhythms to be more efficient at work.

Ilya Pozin, who wrote this quick-and-dirty guide on how to work with your circadian rhythm, left her readers with a simple and straightforward advice.

“The best productivity hack is just listening to our own bodies. By following our circadian rhythm, we can ensure we’re working at our peak performance rate, and get the most out of our day."