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We can ignore our yawns. We can ignore the devastation that strikes us, when our morning alarm wakes us after yet another late night at the office. The one person we can’t ignore, is mother nature. If she tells us we need more sleep, we should listen. The Earth has a rhythm. Every 24 hours it rotates on its axis, basking its surface, alternately, in darkness and sunlight. In turn, quite magnificently, evolution has provided all of Earth’s organism’s – from bacteria to humans – with the ability to coordinate their internal, metabolic processes, with that of the environment around them. This evolutionary masterpiece is called our “Circadian rhythm” which is also known as our “internal body clock”.

Listen to mother nature

Circadian rhythms, regulate the periods of alertness and sleepiness experienced throughout a day, in response to the light and darkness of surrounding environments. It controls our physical, mental and behavior changes – making us feel sleepier, if we are sleep deprived. The advantage of having Circadian rhythms, is that they influence us to perform activities at biologically advantageous times during the day. This means, reflects Issac Edery in his influential paper on Circadian rhythms, for the American Physiological Society, although we have tried to create “cities that never sleep” we cannot escape the resistance of endogenous clocks that regulate much of our physiology and behaviour. Whilst everyone has a unique Circadian rhythm, 7.5 – 9 hours a night of sleep is, generally, considered sufficient sleep for adults.

The diligent worker

Edery and several other prominent scientists including Paul Kelley, of Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, note, that modern working culture of “being the first to arrive and the last to leave” means that our work schedules are now, entirely, at odds with our Circadian rhythm, we are sleeping far less, which is not without consequence to our health. Malfunctions in our Circadian system can lead to chronic sleep disorders, depression, obesity and at the very least unproductivity which, appears to defy the very objective of lengthy work schedules. Kelley concludes that most of the working world are still waking up far too early. “It’s not rational to start the day at 8am” he continues, its simply just to feed into the bias that you’re only a committed worker if you’re chained to your desk. Kelley suggests that 10am is the ideal work day start time. Experts are now urging employers to reconsider long work schedules in favour of ones that sync with our body clocks.

More sleep = More productivity

Christopher Barnes in his white paper on “why it pays to ensure adequate sleep for your employees”, argues, many organisational leaders do not understand health and organisational benefits of monitoring healthy sleep schedules, for their company’s performance. Bad habits include sending emails during the night which shows a “no sleep” culture in the company. Barnes makes 7 helpful suggestions for companies to promote better sleep habits for employees here.

In a series of studies carried out, respectively, by scientists Roenneberg and Ryan Olsen, workers who adjusted their work schedule to their individual biological clocks were far more productive, healthier and focused, both in work and out of work. Olsen suggests “with technology today there is no reason to have a rigid schedule” he continues, productivity is when “you stop focusing on time and decide what results you are paying people for”.

Written by, Leila Mezoughi for PCALaw

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