It's a truth universally acknowledged that many of us sleep, well, terribly. Waking up regularly in the night or sleeping fitfully and lightly,
restless sleep is all too common. If you happen to land a nine-to-five job with strict daytime hours, there are good and bad sides for your restless nights. While regular hours can be good for regulating your sleep schedule and reducing the disruption that might be contributing to restless nights, other elements — like unstructured weekends, high-pressure professional environments, and the particular hours of your job — might make your restlessness worse.
Restless sleep can be attributed to
'restless leg syndrome', a neurological condition that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine explained causes muscular twitching and movement in the night. However, if you're just experiencing a lack of sleep because of tossing and turning, it could be due to anxiety, stress, depression, internal pain, digestive issues, fluctuating sugar levels or an irregular sleep cycle. The true causes of restless sleep are highly individual, and the effects of a nine-to-five position on your sleep will depend on what's been keeping you awake and why. If you've accepted a new job with regular office hours, and tend to have interrupted or restless sleep, prepare to experience some changes.
It Could Help You Regulate Your Sleeping Schedule
The upside of a nine-to-five position, compared with work you can do without a schedule, is that it will keep you to a regular routine of bedtime and waking, and that can be beneficial to sleep quality. "We give young children bedtime routines, but adults tend to follow more lax procedures. That’s a mistake, since
the consistency of a routine helps signal to your body and brain that it’s time to sleep," said the National Sleep Foundation.
Introducing a set time for sleeping and waking every night will regulate your circadian rhythms, the internal clock in your body that controls your feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness — and a
healthy circadian rhythm is key to refreshing, deep sleep. If there are no serious issues keeping you awake at night, regulating your sleep schedule could make you less restless during the nighttime hours.
You'll Have To Resist 'Sleeping' In On Weekends And Days Off
The usual routine for many people with nine-to-five jobs is to have one schedule for the week and another for the weekend. However, catching up on ZZZs on Saturday and Sunday (or whichever days you're off) may not be all that beneficial for restless sleepers. While a study in 2018 found that increasing sleep on the weekends is
apparently linked with lowered mortality rates for people under 65, we don't know why, and the study didn't look at many other factors like lifestyle and health.
Varying your sleeping time over the weekend, the National Sleep Foundation says, "won’t
help you make up for chronic sleep debt," the build-up of sleep deprivation that accumulates for people with disturbed sleep. It can also have poor effects on other aspects: "It can throw your body’s internal clock (a.k.a., your circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycle) off track, setting you up for having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep the next night. This can give you the equivalent of social jet lag, a mismatch between your body’s circadian rhythm and your socially driven sleep schedule." Don't vary your sleep schedule by more than an hour on weekends, even if you're restless as heck during the week.
You'll Get Less Sleep Depending On The Start of Your Workday
A fascinating study from 2014 found that people whose work started later
got more sleep than early risers, even if their total work hours were the same. The study has been used to argue for later start work times, but if your job tends to cleave to the strict 9 a.m. arrival time, you may find it eats into your sleep time for the night, and therefore sleep less overall. If you've never had a 9 a.m. (or earlier!) start before, stress about waking up on time and the alarm itself might contribute to restlessness in the night.
You May Experience Greater Sleep Loss Overall
The modern working day wasn't created with sleep in mind — at all. And if you already have sleep issues, a nine-to-five might not help very much. "The notion of the nine-to-five working day was established in Victorian times, not an age much aware of worker welfare, and it is easy to see the
conflict between this fixed structure and our natural circadian rhythms," workplace consultant Richard Morris wrote for The Guardian in 2016. Most people are either 'larks', 'night owls' or something in between: a 2017 study found that there can be as much as 10 hours' variability between peoples' natural sleeping patterns.
Flexibility in work hours makes sense for fitting individual sleep schedules and strengths — but unless you have a very understanding employer, they probably aren't going to accommodate you. It's entirely possible that fragmentation in your natural sleep cycle will be exacerbated by the nine-to-five grind if your internal clock really doesn't fit with your job hours — if, for example, you're naturally most alert at night.
High-Performance Jobs Could LessenYour Sleep Quality & Quantity
If you clock off at 5 p.m. sharp but tend to take your work home with you (mentally, if not also physically) you're likely not going to help with restless sleep.
Anxiety is known to be a trigger for fragmented sleep, and if you're working in a very high-stress job or filling a high-pressure role, you're likely to experience more anxiety and higher arousal levels at night. "Some economists posit that the motivation (and perhaps the pressure) of a high salary make people more willing to work longer hours, to the point of regularly reducing sleep," sleep doctor Dr. Michael Breus wrote in 2018.
Going without sleep isn't an option for many of us, added Breus: "Accept that the sleep rules apply to you. With the exception of a very tiny number of genetically-determined short sleepers, the rest of us need somewhere in the range of seven to nine hours of sleep a night to stay healthy." Work out a way to turn off when you get home, or your restlessness at night likely won't improve.
Can't get through the night without waking up or staring up at the ceiling at least once? A nine-to-five gig may help in some ways and cause problems in others. Focus on regular sleep schedules, good sleep hygiene and targeting what might lie underneath your restlessness in bed. Hopefully you'll be getting a killer eight hours in bed in no time.