According to a prominent sleep expert in the UK, it’s not you who’s out of whack – it’s our entire current system of work and schooling hours.
Paul Kelley of Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute says society is in the midst of a sleep-deprivation crisis, as the working hours we force ourselves to adapt to are often unnatural and unsuitable for our internal body clocks.
“This is a huge issue for society,” Kelley told David Barnett at The Guardian. “We are generally a sleep-deprived society but the 14–24 age group is more sleep-deprived than any other sector of society. This causes serious threats to health, mood performance and mental health.”
The sleep scientist is involved with Teensleep, which aims to recruit 100 schools across the UK to take part in an experimental trial of later starting times for the school day. Kelley says young people in Britain on average are losing some 10 hours’ sleep per week by being forced to accommodate unnaturally early morning lessons.
He advocates 8:30am starts for children aged eight to 10, 10am starts for 16-year-olds and 11am lessons for 18-year-olds.
“At the age of 10 you get up and go to school and it fits in with our 9-to–5 lifestyle,” Kelley said. “When you are about 55 you also settle into the same pattern. But in between it changes a huge amount and, depending on your age, you really need to be starting around 3 hours later, which is entirely natural.”
If Kelley’s right, what this effectively means is that our whole lives from the onset of our teen years through to the end of middle age are like being woken up too early. Every. Single. Day.
““Staff should start at 10am… Staff are usually sleep-deprived,” Kelly told the British Science Festival. “Everybody is suffering and they don’t have to. We cannot change out 24-hour rhythms.”
Not only is sleep crucial for our memory, but not getting enough sleep can trigger a huge range of health problems, including serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s.