New research from from the Institute of Medical
Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich has discovered
that employers should allow staff to have a lie in if it suits
their body clock. They found reorganising the day to let people
work according to their individual 'chronotype', will make them
happier and healthier.
Every person has a slightly
different body clock or chronotype, putting them each on a spectrum
between the 'morning lark' who likes to be up at dawn, and the
night owl who prefers to work into the evening. But four out of
every five people is working against their individual body clock,
scientists suggest - forced by the dictates of society and
employment to be active when they should be asleep.
This problem, which biologists call
'social jetlag', has been linked to diseases such as diabetes,
obesity and cancer. In an experiment in a German steel factory,
scientists have demonstrated that allowing people to adjust their
work pattern to suit their individual preferences results in a much
happier, healthier workforce.
The researchers, from the Institute
of Medical Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich,
first assessed the chronotypes of 114 steel workers, examining
their sleeping patterns and calculating their average sleep
deficit. Each worker was put into an early, late, or intermediate
group, and assigned a shift pattern to suit their body
The biologists then monitored their
sleep, stress levels, happiness and general wellbeing over five
months. The results, published in the journal Current Biology,
showed an improvement in all areas.
Professor Till Roenneberg, who led
the study, said: 'A simple re-organisation of shifts according to
chronotype allowed workers to sleep more on workday nights. 'As a
consequence, they were also able to sleep less on their free days
due to a decreased need for compensating an accumulating sleep
loss. This is a double-win situation."
The research comes after Professor Vincent
Walsh, an expert in brain research at University College London,
proposed last year that that workers should be allowed an afternoon
nap at work to boost productivity. 'It's only since the industrial
revolution we have been obsessed with squeezing all our sleep into
the night rather than having one or two sleeps through the day,' he
said. The professor said a nap of between 30 and 90 minutes in the
afternoon could help companies improve productivity.