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Thanks to 9 a.m. starts (Every. Single. Day.), our bodies and brains are being tortured. So says Dr. Paul Kelley, who works out of Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Institute. Kelley, our new best friend, believes that our body clocks don’t fit into the typical 9-5 workday until we reach the age of 55, so, basically, we all are getting up way too early.

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Kelley says that starting work before 10 a.m. makes employees sick, exhausted and stressed, and he believes a “huge societal change” for working hours is needed to match our natural body clocks.

“Staff are usually sleep deprived,” Kelley told the British Science Festival in Bradford. “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,” he added. “Everybody is suffering and they don’t have to.”

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Kelley says the natural biological rhythms of people in their teens and 20s require a later start than young children and the older folk. By getting up earlier than our bodies like, it’s ruining the mental health of our nation: “Sleep deprivation is a torture. Thirty days without sleep and you die. It has about the same effect as not eating. Staff should start at 10 a.m. You don’t get back to the starting point until 55.”

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Kelley says school should start later as well. He is currently conducting a trial inside 100 schools where the day of 15-year-olds is shifted to a 10 a.m. start, to see if they end up more engaged and attentive.

Dr. Kelley points to prisons and hospitals, where “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.”

Torture. Perhaps a little extreme, but a later start to the day might be beneficial for everyone. Now if only he can find proof that we should end our work days at 3 p.m.

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