Flying overseas for a business trip is a minefield of buffets, complimentary champagne and headache-y cramming. Then, the big moment arrives — the meeting. But no matter how careful you’ve been to avoid temptation — or how carefully you have prepared your notes — if you are suffering from jetlag then all your hard work will have been for naught as you turn up looking more like a sedated zombie than a hard-working professional.
Likewise, if you’re an entrepreneurial night owl, used to working from home (and rising at noon) and you suddenly get the chance to pitch to an angel investor — at 7am — you will find yourself in much the same situation. Caffeine abuse aside, there are not many ways of dealing with this. The only answer would be to reset your body clock. But this takes months of pain, under-eye makeup, and attaching an electric shock device to your snooze button, right?
In a study published on Monday, researchers from the University of Birmingham claim a simple tweak to the sleeping pattern of ‘night owls’ could lead to significant improvements in sleep/wake timings, improved performance in the mornings, better eating habits and a decrease in depression and stress.
The only inconvenience is that it takes three weeks (so if you have a business trip planned, get started now).
The study, recently published in Sleep Medicine, showed participants were able to bring their sleep/wake timings forward by two hours while having no negative effect on sleep duration (and a positive effect on daytime alertness). While this may not be enough to revolutionise long haul Business Travel, it could be a game changer for shorter business trips or going-nowhere night owls.
How did they come to this conclusion? Allow Science Daily to explain:
“Twenty-two healthy individuals… for a period of three weeks were asked to… wake up 2-3 hours before regular wake up time and maximise outdoor light during the mornings, go to bed 2-3 hours before habitual bedtime and limit light exposure in the evening, keep sleep/wake times fixed on both work days and free days, have breakfast as soon as possible after waking up, eat lunch at the same time each day, and refrain from eating dinner after 7pm.”
No short order.
But the results show the effort is worth it, invoking an increase in cognitive and physical performance during the morning (when tiredness would otherwise be very high in ‘night owls’), as well as a shift in peak performance times from evening to afternoon.
What’s next? Lead researcher Dr Elise Facer-Childs from Monash University’s Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health says, “We now need to understand how habitual sleep patterns are related to the brain, how this links with mental wellbeing and whether the interventions lead to long-term changes.”
In the meantime? Keep an eye on your Long Black addiction and stop sleeping in on weekends…