The scientific reason why working 9-to-5 is unfair to "night owls"

There's a need to "create more flexibility in our society." 

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Good news, “night owls” and “morning larks.” These sleep-cycle identities are no random accident — instead, they are wired into your biology. People are either primed to wake up early or stay up late because of a mixture of genetics and hormones. But the structure of society only works for one of those two groups.

In February 2019, University of Birmingham researcher Elise Facer-Childs told Inverse her research suggests night owls are less compatible with the traditional 9-to-5 work schedule.

This is #20 on Inverse’s list of 25 lessons on human potential from 2019.

And it’s not the night owls that need to change.

“I believe that the abundance of research coming out now that links misalignment and sleep disruption to negative health and performance supports the need to create more flexibility in our society,” Facer-Childs said.

In a February 2019 study published in the journal Sleep, Facer-Childs and her colleagues discovered that morning larks have higher resting brain connectivity than do night owls. They scanned the brains of 38 people while they slept, measuring their levels of melatonin and cortisol, and asked the participants to report on when in the day they felt most sleepy and most alert.

It's hard to be part of the 9-to-5 when you're a night owl. 

Flickr/Harald Groven

Higher connectivity levels were associated with better attentional performance and lower daytime sleepiness over the course of the workday.

Morning larks’ brains may be more primed for success in completing complex tasks and being less tired over all, Facer-Childs said. Lower levels of brain connectivity may cause night owls to have slower reactions, increased sleepiness during a typical work day, and a harder time paying attention.

As a group, night owls are likely not getting the amount of sleep that they need, the study suggests, defined as a misalignment between an individual’s biological timing (their sleep needs) and their behavior (their work shift). Unfortunately, night owls may have an intrinsic neuronal mechanism that makes it difficult to succeed during a normal working day — and it’s going to stay that way unless hours of work are changed.

As 2019 draws to a close, Inverse is revisiting 25 striking lessons on human potential. This is #20. Some are awe-inspiring, some offer practical tips, and some give a glimpse of the future. Read the original article here.

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