Probably one of the most wonderful things in the world is sleep — that magical time when you get to escape from your busy life and recharge — and one of the worst feelings in the world is being sleep deprived, especially at work. Trying to keep your eyes open on the job can be a real challenge, especially if you are more of a night owl than a morning person, but fear not! A new study actually shows that changing your work schedule to match your sleeping patterns could make you healthier and more productive.
It makes a lot of sense — forcing an early bird to work a late shift will be hard on their bodies and likely not yield their best work, just like making someone who is most functional at night work at dawn leads to a less productive (and probably really agitated) employee. In an ideal world, everyone would be able to work when it’s best for them, whether it's at 11 a.m. or 2 a.m., but the reality is that offices are only open for around 10 hours a day, and most people need to be on roughly the same schedule for effective business coordination and collaboration. This study, conducted by researchers at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Germany, looks at the experience of shift workers, who could be working at any point in the day. Published in the journal Current Biology, the study aimed to find if adjusting a subject’s work schedule to his or her natural sleep patterns would improve health and lower stress.
Researchers assessed the sleep patterns of factory workers to assign them an early, late, or intermediate chronotype. Using this assignment, the workers were given a shift schedule that was adjusted for their sleeping needs. Early risers took morning shifts, night owls took on later hours, and those with an intermediate chronotype were used as controls for the experiment. Researchers then observed what happened to the workers' sleep duration, and asked questions about each subject's well-being, stress, and satisfaction with leisure time.
Workers with adjusted schedules had better and more satisfying sleep, and reported improvement in their general well-being and quality of life. Those who naturally preferred to stay up late, however, didn’t find much improvement when their schedule was adjusted for them to work late. Researchers concluded that night work is hard on everyone.
It’s not surprising that working when you feel the most productive and least tired will make you more efficient and well-rested. There are also other benefits that come with rested workers, like healthier employees who need to take fewer sick days.
But I wouldn’t count on your office suddenly deciding to start the workday at noon. As I previously mentioned, having a universal business schedule is important to keep operations going, so unless you do work in shifts, your hours will probably stay the same. That being said, I will keep my fingers crossed for a workday with a noon start time... what a beautiful, beautiful idea.
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