Dr. Thomas Kantermann is a researcher at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. Kantermann ‘s research is about those things in everyday life that challenges sleep. He focusses on our biological clock, our sleeping times, health and the influence of light on these traits.
The magic word in his research is light. Our sleeping time and our biological clock is linked to the influence light. Because we spent too much time inside dimly-lit buildings, we don’t get sufficient light to synchronise our body clock to the 24-h day.
At the same time, many people sleep late because of their late body clock, and shortening their sleep because of too early wake up times. When we all would go to sleep at the time our body clock tells us, then our sleep would be much healthier and we would not need an alarm to wake up. Kantermann says that we naturally sleep and wake up when our biological sleep windows open and close, respectively, but these time points in turn are highly individual (similar to body height or weight).
Teenagers and students
In addition, Kantermann says, especially teenagers and students are naturally late sleepers (very late chronotypes). For instance, Kantermann is convinced of the fact that teenagers and students start their days too early when they have to be at school at 8.30. When we change this to 10 o’ clock, teenagers will be more productive and their grades will be better.
Kantermann has done some pilots to prove his theory. For example; a school in Coevorden has changed the school hours to see if the theory is really working. And the results are positive. The school starts later and ends later, and it has a positive influence on the productivity and grades of the teenagers.
Currently, Kantermann is running a project in Germany to transform the city of Bad Kissingen into the world’s first ChronoCity - a city that pays respect to individual biology and sleep needs. Projects running in ChronoCity nicely dovetail with his research in the Netherlands within the research network ‘OnTime - How to fix a (broken) circadian clock’.
Fortunately, more and more organisations become more flexible in working hours. Hopefully organisations see the benefits of being flexible. Employees should come to work when they have had enough sleep to be productive. And not because they have to check in at 8 o’clock.
Quality of life
Health, good quality sleep, mood and productivity are tightly coupled and vary across the 24h day. Therefore, only by paying more attention to our body clocks, we avoid running into difficulties and be able to increase our quality of life significantly.
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