New Hours Aim for Well Rested, More Productive Workers
Wednesday, January 2, 2019
Posted by: Alyce Ryan
A growing number of businesses are encouraging their employees to work when their bodies are most awake
A few years ago, scientists conducted a real-world experiment at a ThyssenKrupp steel factory in Germany. They assigned the day shift to early risers and the late shift to night owls.
Soon the steel workers, many of whom had been skeptical at the outset, were getting an extra hour of sleep on work nights. By simply aligning work schedules with people’s internal clocks, the researchers had helped people get more and better rest.
“They got 16 percent more sleep, almost a full night’s length over the course of the week,” said Till Roenneberg, a chronobiologist at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, who headed the study. “That is enormous.”
In recent years, American educators have been paying increased attention to their students’ sleep needs, with growing debate about delaying school start times. Now a number of businesses are following suit, encouraging their employees to work when their bodies are most awake.
“It’s a huge financial burden not to sleep properly,” Dr. Roenneberg said. “The estimates go toward 1 percent of gross national product,” both in the United States and Germany.
Emerging science reveals that each of us has an optimal time to fall asleep and wake up, a personalized biological rhythm known as a “chronotype.” When you don’t sleep at the time your body wants to sleep — your so-called biological night — you don’t sleep as well or as long, setting the stage not only for fatigue, poor work performance and errors but also health problems ranging from heart disease and obesity to anxiety and depression.
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