Almost half of all adult Canadians have trouble getting to sleep and staying that way all night, and 1 in 3 adults have trouble staying awake during the day. Many adults find it hard to achieve healthy sleep hours while also working full time.
As a result of a poor sleep schedule, many adults end up going to work with no sleep. Sleep loss can result in falling asleep at work and drastically decreased concentration and productivity levels. Therefore, people need to understand their circadian rhythm to help them during their awake hours and workdays.
What is a Circadian Rhythm?
The circadian rhythm is the biological system’s internal programming that dictates when we sleep and when we are awake. More popularly known as your internal clock, this innate programming governs the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Almost every living organism on the planet runs on a 24-hour cycle. Exposure to the sun and the darkness of nighttime helps keep our circadian rhythm in check. Internal factors and external environmental factors also affect this cycle.
Everyone’s internal clock does not run at the exact same time; rather, each clock is slightly different. Most adults can easily identify whether they feel more active and awake in the morning or at night. However, a healthy sleep quantity of almost all adults should consist of 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, as governed by the National Sleep Foundation.
What is a Sleep Chronotype?
A sleep chronotype categorizes an individual’s sleep-wake cycle, or when they are most awake and most tired. In the simplest terms, sleep chronotype illustrates your circadian preference, which is based on numerous factors, including age, genetics, gender, and social and environmental components.
Sleep chronotype greatly affects various aspects of a person’s life. As this sleep cycle influences an individual’s concentration and energy peaks throughout the day, it is advantageous to understand your chronotype to best plan for each day’s activities.
How to determine chronotype
There are many tests online that can be taken for free to help you determine your sleep chronotype. Self-assessment questionnaires will ask questions based on your energy levels throughout the day and your regular sleep schedule to categorize your sleep patterns accordingly.
The Munich Chronotype Questionnaire and the Automated Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire are two of the most popular survey methods to help people identify their sleep chronotype based on personal characteristics and lifestyles. Previously, there were three main chronotypes dictated by these quizzes: morning larks that are most awake and active in the early hours of the day, night owls, who are most active in the evening and later hours of the day, and hummingbirds, those who fit somewhere in the middle.
With the latest research on sleep science, a new set of chronotypes was established using the chronoquiz, fitting people into lions, bears, wolves, and dolphins.
Sleep and Productivity
Sleep and productivity are intimately intertwined. Getting only a few hours of sleep at night can drastically lower your energy levels and concentration the following day and even into the week causing poor task performance and output.
There is such a thing as sleep debt, where your body needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night and however much time is lost a night must be slept off in the future. That’s why someone who pulls an all nighter may sleep for a lot longer than usual the next night and the night after.
If this happens on an ongoing basis, it’s known as chronic sleep loss or sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is scientifically proven to increase a person’s risk of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, seasonal affective disorder, anxiety, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Many professionals with hectic work schedules experience chronic sleep loss, going to work with no sleep on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the standardized workday does not take into account individual chronotypes and circadian rhythms. For that reason, many night owls and those most active in the late evening and early hours of the morning tend to suffer the most.
How to reset your internal clock for work
Sometimes productivity levels can drop because the internal clock dictating your sleep schedule is out of whack, causing daytime sleepiness. There are many reasons why circadian rhythm disruptions happen- like irregular workdays, sleep disorders, stress levels, jet lag, and the list goes on.
However, the most important thing should be focusing on resetting your clock and getting back to a healthy and productive sleep-wake cycle.
Consider trying these tips to get your sleep schedule back on track for work:
- Expose yourself to sunlight every day: The sleep hormone known as melatonin helps to govern our circadian rhythm, which is suppressed when exposed to sunlight, creating a wakeful feeling. Therefore light exposure should always be a part of your day.
- Try meditation and yoga: Stress can play a huge role in restless nights. By practicing relaxation techniques, you can help ease your body into a sleep state each night.
- Don’t eat before bedtime: Certain food types keep you awake, so it’s best to avoid these snacks a few hours before you sleep. If hungry before bed, try these foods for sleep.
- Exercise daily: A good workout routine can snap your internal body clock back into a healthy cycle.
- Take a cold shower: Body temperature helps to regulate when our body feels tired. A cold shower before bed will drop your internal temperature to help induce a sleepy feeling.
- Stop napping: Taking a mid-afternoon power nap can cause your internal clock to go haywire. Instead, try to stay awake until bedtime and get an early night to offset that sleep debt.
Sleep Cycles and Employee Scheduling
That being said, tracking your entire staff’s sleep cycles would take too much time, not to mention it is a sensitive and private subject. To use sleep chronotypes to your business’s advantage, you can have your employees fill out a simple survey instead.
The survey can be made up of one question, asking shift workers if they prefer working the morning, afternoon, evening, or night shifts. Everyone will have some idea of their sleep schedule and can identify when they are the most awake and active.
With so many people working from home now as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses can be more flexible when scheduling employee work hours. You can give your staff the option to clock in from home in the morning if they are morning larks and allow others to primarily do work in the evening if they are night owls. A big part of good time management is scheduling essential work tasks at the time of day you have the highest level of concentration.
To stop your employees from sleeping on the job, try implementing scheduling software alongside this survey. Using employee scheduling and time tracking with sleep cycles in mind can help boost staff energy levels and shift work productivity to improve business output overall.
Talk to your employees about their sleep chronotype and schedules to help you get the most out of their most productive hours in the day. Apply this information alongside the use of employee scheduling software to create effective work hour schedules and routines for your staff.