• sheryl g

For some night owls, "lockdown" mode has a surprising benefit...

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

Over the course of this pandemic, I have observed that some night owls (like me!) are doing better in terms of their sleep. Here's why: they are less worried about conforming their sleep schedules to their regular work schedules. I have written, in the past, about how shift work (i.e., night shifts) can result in a misalignment between the times when one needs to remain awake for work and the times when one's circadian rhythm dictates that one should sleep. This mismatch leads to chronic health issues, quite a few of which are serious. I also alluded to the fact that for people who are evening types, it's actually the social dictates of working during a 9-to-5 day that is, in effect, their version of "shift work".


However, for those night owls who can now work from home, they don't have to wake up as early to get to work. So, even if their workdays start at the same time, the mere fact that they do not have to wake up earlier to get ready and beat the traffic to get to work on time has been a surprising blessing for them - a bright spot during what has been and continues to be a very challenging time for many.


Here's the issue, though, what happens when these measures are lifted? What happens when they have to go back to work? What happens to the gains they have made in terms of sleep health? Does this mean that the return to normal life will mean a return to chronic sleep deprivation?


I am not only talking here about people who necessarily have DSPD and whose circadian rhythms are off by more than 2+ hours from the social norm. No, I am also talking about less extreme night owls. As school start times have shifted to ridiculously early times (and I thought that it was early back when I was a child!) and traffic has become worse, well, even less extreme night owls have to wake up earlier and earlier. All of this cuts into valuable sleep time.


I remember what that was like. See, what could make things more challenging is that you will know -- or, at least, remember -- what it is that you have been missing! Going back to "regular" life may seem all the more challenging after you've experienced something good -- good sleep. Right?


However, these experiences point to something positive. It means that a feasible argument can be made for greater flexibility in terms of work schedules... and the potential for night owls to request that they work from home.


For those in a position to influence work schedules, some of you may be night owls, yourselves, and have experienced the benefits of working from home or later start times. Wouldn't it be great if you could find ways to accommodate differences in circadian rhythms in your work schedules? How about providing work-from-home options for people? I mean, more people are getting used to it now. There are definite advantages to ensuring that your employees are in a healthier state and that they can perform more effectively and efficiently.


Just a thought...


Photo by Anna Shvets

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