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Scientists are calling for employers to allow sleep-ins for health reasons

Words by Veronica Stanford

Nine to five might be bad for your health.

If you’re the type of person who struggles to get to sleep at a reasonable hour then feels tired when waking up for work, science is on your side.

A new study by Northwestern Medicine and the University of Surrey is calling for employers to discuss allowing night owls to start and finish work later.

After looking at the health of almost half a million participants, they found night owls have a 10 per cent higher risk of death than ‘larks’ (those with a preference for going to bed early and waking with the sun).

“Night owls trying to live in a morning lark world may have health consequences for their bodies,” said associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Kristen Knutson.

“It could be that people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn’t match their external environment. It could be psychological stress, eating at the wrong time for their body, not exercising enough, not sleeping enough, being awake at night by yourself, maybe drug or alcohol use. There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviours related to being up late in the dark by yourself.”

The team behind the study says the research cannot be ignored by employers, and there needs to be discussion around allowing non-morning people to adjust their working hours accordingly.

“We should discuss allowing evening types to start and finish work later, where practical,” said professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey, Malcolm von Schantz. “And we need more research about how we can help evening types cope with the higher effort of keeping their body clock in synchrony with sun time.”

If you think your boss won’t budge when it comes to your 9am start time, all hope is not lost. Knutson recommends keeping a regular bedtime, and exposing yourself to light early in the morning (and not at night) to change your body clock.

You can read more about the study here.

northwestern.edu

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