Nine-to-five days a form of ‘torture’, claims research

by Chloe Taylor14 Sep 2015
Forcing people under the age of 55 to begin work before 9am is on par with “torture”, according to a leading UK-based sleep expert.

Working nine-to-five takes its toll on employees’ bodies, leaving them exhausted and stressed as a result of sleep deprivation, says Dr Paul Kelley.

Kelley – an honorary clinical research fellow at Oxford University's Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute – said that the typical working pattern posed a threat to performance for those aged under 55, at which time human beings start needing less sleep.

“We cannot change our 24-hour rhythms,” he said. “You cannot learn to get up at a certain time. Your body will be attuned to sunlight and you're not conscious of it because it reports to hypothalamus, not sight.”

“This applies in the bigger picture to prisons and hospitals. 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.”

According to Kelley, there is a need for society to alter its work and school hours to better suit humans’ natural body clocks.

He claimed that firms forcing employees to start work early risk damaging productivity and building up employees’ health problems.

“This is a huge society issue; staff should start at 10am,” Kelley told the British Science Festival. “You don't get back to [the 9am] starting point until 55.

“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.

“Your liver and your heart have different patterns and you're asking them to shift two or three hours. This is an international issue. Everybody is suffering and they don't have to.”

Kelley proposed introducing staggered start times at schools and workplaces as a result of research into the human body’s 24-hour rhythms.

He said that the body has a “master pacemaker” in the brain that is set by receptors in the eye.

Previous research has found links between sleep deprivation and long-term memory, attention spans and drug and alcohol abuse.

According to researchers, it can also lead to anger, anxiety, frustration, impulsive behaviour, weight gain, high blood pressure, stress and mental health problems.

Young people in particular are vulnerable to the damaging effects of sleep deprivation, which Kelley claimed should prompt schools and workplaces to allow those aged between 16 and 18 to begin their days at 11am.


  • by Sheryl Grant 14/09/2015 11:16:20 AM

    There is no doubt that academia helps businesses with insights and research into people performance, however, there is not always a practical application readily available. Consider the cost and impact of a time shift like this on awards/agreements/individual contracts in terms of impacts to work hours and rates of pay, not to mention the calculation rules in payroll and time capture systems that crunch those attendance times. Starting later and finishing later would have a myriad of other social impacts; what may suit our biorhythms may not be practical in the daily living of our lives and all those we interact with. Flex time is always an option, but in my experience I see this occurring to accommodate family commitments and not the need for different sleep times. It would be interesting to read this research paper to see if anything has been lost in translation in this article. To liken this to torture when we see daily atrocities in the media is beyond the pale.

  • by 14/09/2015 11:24:26 AM

    I fully agree, if this is first world 'torture' then so be it ! Let's get a grip folks, surely we are the blessed not the tortured to have a job in the first instance.

  • by Clayton COok 14/09/2015 11:25:52 AM

    got to love these academics :) the same ones that have been 'researching' chocolate, wine, coffee, etc for years. It's good for you..... no it's bad for you..... wait ..... new research says.......

    I've love to start at 10am - because I stay up late. I've always been a late night person past midnight and find it hard to adapt. HOWEVER there are lots of people I know that are morning people and can't sleep past 5, 6, 7am if they try. And they like it - they go to sleep earlier of course. what about babies and young kids - most seem to sleep approx 7.30-9pm to 6/7am. Is there a study saying that having kids is tantamount to torture? wait a sec!

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