Starting Work Before 9am Is Torture, Says Expert
The Debrief: Dr Paul Kelley from Oxford University says forcing people to work nine-to-five leaves their bodies exhausted and stressed
Unless you’re one of those morning people who just love early starts I’ve got some good news for you. It’s official: early mornings are actually bad for you.
There is a general consensus that people who don’t like getting up early are lazy sloths. That getting up at the crack of dawn means you’re achieving more and generally winning at life and sleeping in equals failure. But now one of the UK’s leading sleep experts has said that making people under the age of 55 start work before 9am is basically like ‘torture’ (we knew it!).
Dr Paul Kelley from Oxford University says that forcing people to work 9-to-5 leaves their bodies exhausted and stressed as a result of sleep deprivation.
Apparently after the age of 55, humans start needing less sleep but a lack of sleep before you hit 55 poses a serious threat to your performance throughout the day. According to Dr Kelley, early starts clash with the body’s natural clock, leaving us tired and stressed. If, like me, you’ve always had a hunch about this, now you can rejoice because there’s an actual, scientific, reason!
Dr Kelley says we cannot change our natural 24-hour rhythms (aka circadian cycles). ‘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.’
Your hypothalamus, by the way, is a small but very important part of your brain which is not only responsible for sleep but controls functions such as temperature, thirst, hunger, mood and sex drive. It’s basically the pacemaker for your entire body. So next time somebody asks you how you feel about a 6am start you can legitimately say: ‘It’s not me, it’s my hypothalamus.’
Dr Kelley is calling for society to change both work and school starting times to fit with our natural body clocks. He told the British Science Festival in Bradford ‘staff should start at 10am’ because they ‘are usually sleep deprived. We've got a sleep-deprived society. It is hugely damaging on the body's…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.'
Apparently all of this is also the reason why prisons and hospitals wake people up early to ‘give them food they don’t want’. Dr Kelley says ‘you’re more biddable’ early in the morning because ‘you’re totally out of it.’ He also reckons that allowing school pupils to stay in bed for longer could even boost exam results by 'around 10 per cent'.
Lack of sleep has serious consequences. It has been found to affect attention and long-term memory and even encourage drug and alcohol abuse. It can also cause anger, anxiety, impulsive behaviour, low sex drive, weight gain, high blood pressure, stress and mental health problems. What better reason to make sure you're getting enough of it?
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