“Ay, There’s the Rub”
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I’m of the opinion that Poor Richard, aka Benjamin Franklin, was on to something when he published this proverb way back in 1735.
I’ve always been a big fan of catching my fair share of the recommended daily allotment of 40 winks per night. Likewise, I’m a big believer in hitting the sack when I find my eyelids getting heavy, regardless of the hour. No social convention is going to inhibit me from surrendering to the sheets simply because it happens to be 8:30 p.m. or earlier. I often refer to this practice as “sleep with honor.”
I have to admit that I’m still waiting to acquire Poor Richard’s stipulated wealth and wisdom, but one out of three isn’t all bad and I still have a few years left to continue with the experiment.
Recently, I came across an interesting article in the January/February issue of Discover magazine regarding sleep. It piqued my interest not just because I’m so fond of the practice of snoozing, but because for many years, I worked in manufacturing management.
What, you might be thinking, does manufacturing have to do with sleep? Quite a lot it turns out, if the schedule that you require your employees to work has an impact on their ability to get enough of it.
The 24 hour/7 day per week manufacturing operations which I managed over the years, utilized a number of different shift schedules. One feature common to all of them was the use of rotating shifts.
The most common schedule involved 12 hour shifts with a 3 day on, 4 day off cycle followed by a 4 day on, 3 day off cycle. This schedule required those working on it to rotate between days and nights, as well.
The most bizarre schedule I ever managed involved three traditional 8 hour shifts with the addition of a fourth crew which, over a seven day period, was required to rotate through the regular 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shifts in order to allow those crews to have 2 days off. That schedule was both bizarre and brutal. It was a scheme worthy of Tomas de Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.
So back to the Discover article. It highlighted recent research which indicates that work and/or lifestyle schedules which disrupt the more typical night time sleep cycle may be hazardous to one’s health. An increased incidence of diabetes, obesity, some forms of cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease have been shown to occur when normal sleep patterns are consistently disrupted.
Thankfully, it’s been a while since I’ve been involved with rotating work schedules, but I’m confident that they are still commonplace in manufacturing operations.
I wonder if employers are still able to engage consultants who can be called upon to proselytize to their employees regarding the benefits of working on those schedules?