Flying in the face of common practice in modern society, British sleep expert Dr. Paul Kelley of Oxford University said that all staff should start work at 10 am. He said that forcing people to start work any earlier was essentially torture by sleep deprivation.

Circadian Rhythms

Dr Kelley’s basic argument boils down to the fact that the human body has its own internal clock that is based on a 24-hour schedule that syncs up with periods of light and dark. This cycle is surprisingly resilient, and can’t be reset, even after years and years of forced awakening at earlier times.

However, the circadian cycle does show variation as a person ages. Children begin focusing much earlier than adults (as any parent will tell you), and are often ready to start focusing on school work by 8:30 am. However, by the time we’re teens, our clock has shifted later, with teens focusing by about 10 am. University students aren’t able to really focus until 11am, and it isn’t until we reach age 55 that we’re ready to begin work by 9am again.

The Consequences of Chronic Sleep Deprivation

But how much does this earlier sleep time matter? A lot, says Dr. Kelley and others who advocate moving our start time to later in the day. Dr. Kelley points to stresses that are put on the body’s system because different organs function in different cycles, and being asked to adapt by two or three hours can dramatically impact how they function together.

People point to decreased performance at work and at school as one of the most common problems of sleep deprivation. Exam scores may suffer for children, while adults may not be able to accomplish as much work if they aren’t getting enough sleep.

Another problem is increased car accident risk. Teens who aren’t getting enough sleep are much more likely to get in an accident than their well-rested classmates, and the same is true for adults–with snoring as another major factor.

To prove the potential for changing start times, Oxford researchers have initiated a study in which students at 100 schools are starting at 10 am to see if exam scores improve.

What If You Always Feel Unrested?

It’s unlikely that most of us will be unable to shift our work hours to accommodate a 10am start time, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept always feeling unrested.

If you’re always feeling unrested no matter what time you’re getting up and how much time you spent in bed, maybe it’s not circadian rhythms that are to blame. It could be that sleep apnea is robbing your body of the rest it needs.

If you think that sleep apnea is your problem, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with Omaha sleep dentist Dr. Roger Roubal at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.