Sleep Expert Says Working at 9 A.M. Is “Torture” for the Mind and Body

You spent all of high school complaining about waking up at ungodly hours just to make it to homeroom at 7:45 a.m. (Or was that just me?) Soon you realized that was just a warm-up for the sleep deprived life you would lead in college and beyond at your job or 9 to 5. What you wouldn’t realize is the toll it was taking on your body and mental health. Finally a sleep expert is backing up your wishes for a later school day and workday.

Dr. Paul Kelley, an honorary clinical research fellow at Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, says making people under the age of 55 work at 9 a.m. is “torture.” Instead, he says people under 55 should ideally start their days, at school or work, at 10 a.m., while people age 55 and older can start at 9 a.m. since at the point the body begins to need less sleep. Otherwise Dr. Kelley says lack of sleep affects people’s performances since bodies are left exhausted and stressed, which can lead to bigger problems such as having an effect on long-term memory, attention, even encouraging drug and alcohol abuse.

“Staff are usually sleep deprived. We’ve got a sleep-deprived society. It is hugely damaging on the body’s systems because you are affecting physical emotional and performance systems in the body,” says Dr. Kelley. “Your liver and your heart have different patterns and you’re asking them to shift two or three hours…Everybody is suffering and they don’t have to.”

Dr. Kelley cites prisons and hospitals as examples of sleep deprived environments: “They wake up people and give people food they don’t want. You’re more biddable because you’re totally out of it. Sleep deprivation is a torture.”

He also mentioned there was data that proved changing the school day could help test scores. A study in Monkseaton High School in North Tyneside, England found students scored higher on exams when the school pushed back its start time from 8:50 a.m. to 10 a.m. The number of students scoring well increased from 34 percent to 50 percent.

According to Kelley kids age 10 can start school as early as 8:30 a.m. because younger kids wake up early regardless. However, he recommends 16-year-olds start school at 10 a.m. with 18-year-olds starting at 11 a.m.

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