Stop Waking Up So Early: The Newest Threat To Your Health May Be The Hours You’re Awake

A man with his head on the desk

Sorry, Boss, But I’m Sleeping In For My Health: Study Shows We Wake Up Too Early

There are health studies that bring us good news, and those that bring us bad news. But sometimes science proposes simple changes we can make that could potentially make a huge impact on our lives and the world as a whole.

But some of these changes are easier said than done.

The latest sleep study is one of the latter, but it is also one of the most unequivocal in terms of the demonstrated health benefits the proposed changes would make.

The bottom line is that the researchers claim that forcing workers to turn up before 9:00 a.m. is tantamount to torture.

The study, out of Oxford University says that before the age of 55, people’s circadian rhythm is completely out of sync with normal work and school hours. According to Dr. Paul Kelley of Oxford, this schedule is affecting people’s mental well-being, making for workers and students who are stressed, tense and exhausted, and it is something that needs to be addressed at a cultural level.

“This is a huge society issue,” Dr. Kelley said at the British Science Festival. “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.”

Dr. Kelley’s research shows that the schedule we give kids and other young people are the most skewed. Studies on circadian rhythms show that most 10-year-olds cannot even begin to focus properly for academic work before 8.30 a.m. Once the physical and mental strains of adolescence kick in, the hours skew even later: the average 16-year-old shouldn’t start trying to do academic work before 10 a.m., and university students should start no earlier than 11 a.m.

But beyond the clear stress and exhaustion issues involved, Dr. Kelley says there are also serious physical costs we pay for sticking to these schedules.

“It is hugely damaging on the body’s systems because you are affecting physical, emotional and performance systems in the body,” 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.”

Indeed, sleep deprivation has been shown to impact health on a genetic level. Passing even a single week with less that six hours of sleep each night can lead to upwards of 711 changes in how genes function, and that’s just what we know about so far.

And when it comes to teens, Dr. Kelley says most of them are losing 10 hours of sleep per week unnecessarily.

“Just by changing the start time you can improve quality of life for whole generations of children,” he said.

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