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Translator: Rhonda Jacobs Reviewer: Peter van de Ven
So what would you say when I told you
that your career, that your work status
is partly, not completely, but partly influenced
by the time your school started when you were a teenager?
So here's a little story.
We all were teenagers at some point, or we still are.
Teenagers sleep very late,
much later than their parents or teachers do.
We all experienced that.
And there's consistent evidence showing
that the earlier the school starts and the later a student typically sleeps,
the worse is the performance.
So the grades - it's significant.
And grades, we're often told,
grades still mean something about future career prospects.
So school work, I mean, what are they doing?
They create sleepy and groggy students.
Literally, it's a fabric.
And what do sleepy, groggy students do?
They disturb class more often.
That impairs the learning environment for everyone,
and it increases the stress for the teacher.
So teachers, anyways, are already high in burnout and retirement rates.
And it's really a hard job being a teacher these days.
And I'm deeply convinced, I truly believe
if we could improve sleep in teenagers and adolescents,
it could improve their performance and career prospects,
and it would even be a burnout prevention strategy for the teachers.
No one has tested this, but I truly believe it could work that way.
So bottom line, what schools are doing -
and I think schools are the first place in our lives where these things happen -
schools prepare us for a world where sleep has no priority;
it's actually very low.
What they make of us is what I would call sleep-incompetent people.
And I must say that most of us here in this room
show the clearest sign of sleep incompetence,
and this is our frequent use of alarm clocks every morning.
So when I would ask you: How many of you need an alarm clock every morning?
It's most of us here in this room.
And have you ever thought about why we are doing this?
Because we, as a society, we accept that.
This is why it works.
We cannot blame society without blaming ourselves.
That's the point, I think.
So, the difficulty I see here is it really comes at a significant cost.
It's a very dangerous development, actually.
Because there's so much evidence -
I mean, sleep, we all know that sleep is so important.
When people don't sleep sufficiently, they are more depressed,
they are more prone to accidents,
they develop serious health problems, etc., etc.
And we are a part of this.
Because we as a society, we accept that the world ticks as it ticks.
One of the clearest examples is - if we would not accept that,
why do we see things like daylight savings time?
And just two weeks ago, every one of us, we changed our clocks,
didn't we?
One hour ahead.
And it only works because we collectively agree
to go to work one hour earlier.
And no one notices, we just change the clocks.
So that's the deal, we do.
But it saves nothing.
I have no idea where this term comes from, actually,
but it saves nothing; it costs just our health.
So you might not know, but the only reason why we have daylight savings time
is that no country in the EU took the initiative to abolish it.
Just no one did it; just no one tried.
That's it.
But it would be possible, absolutely, if we just would do it.
Another thing is, a mysterious thing still:
Why do we see such a frequent increase in shift work?
So the problem that shift workers have is they age earlier; they age quicker.
Because they develop serious health problems
at an earlier age than the general population.
So would you apply for a job where it says,
"So here's your chance, earn good money, and age quicker.
Live faster."
Not so [much] would we apply for it.
But many people do it, and shift workers are everywhere.
Maybe some of you came here on a plane.
Pilots - pilots are shift workers.
Recently, there was a published survey from an international big airline
showing that 50 percent, five zero percent, of their pilots
reported that they fell asleep at least one time in their career
while they were flying that plane.
This is terrifying.
It's getting serious; it's getting really serious here,
and it's getting worse.
Have you ever thought about the sleep state of a doctor or nurse in a hospital?
These are shift workers.
They are; they work day and night.
And they have sleep problems ... a lot.
And hospitals are a typical example
of where sleepy people treat sleepy people.
Because once you are at a hospital,
I mean, you are kept awake in a hectic, noisy, light-polluted environment.
And once you fall asleep, they wake you up early because of breakfast.
Seriously?!
I mean, think about it.
This is the situation we think that people recover [in].
It's happening in 2016.
I just repeat myself because it's really dangerous what we're doing here,
and we just don't notice; we accept that.
We cannot blame society without blaming ourselves.
So all change absolutely lies in our hands.
If we don't accept that, it wouldn't work.
But we do, because we grow into it, all of our lives.
And I really think that this situation, it screams, certainly, for a revolution.
I mean, we are so proud of our democratic systems,
where everyone has a voice and we can express ourselves.
And I think it very much stops at the bedroom door.
And what we actually need is a sleep democracy.
That's what we need, a sleep democracy.
So how do we do this?
Can we change society?
So your question could be: Are we lost?
I mean, it always was that way; why bother?
And I think we should; we should very much worry about this,
and we should find ways to change this for the future.
So there's, unfortunately, not many, or there's no white book on the shelf
that we could take and say, so how do we do it?
Um, more sleep, um, okay, no alarm clock, okay, um ...
It doesn't exist; there's no research on this,
how we could use our knowledge about the importance of sleep
to change our world.
It just hasn't been tested, actually.
And I'm dreaming here, and I want to propose to you,
why not design and start a new town?
I mean, who would volunteer to live in that?
In a town where we pave the way for time and sleep democracy?
Where sleep has an absolute priority?
Schools would have flexible opening hours.
We would not have daylight savings time.
We wouldn't use alarm clocks;
instead, everyone would live by their body clock.
And this is the core principle here, actually,
because your body clock, it helps you to stay alive and to survive
because it regulates everything in your body.
It's like an internal calendar, and it regulates your sleep.
And usually it is synchronized to the natural light-dark cycle,
to the transition of day and night.
And it does it via light.
So simply, whenever we see light, it means to our body clocks, there's day.
Whenever there's day, it means there's no night.
Whenever there's no night, there's no sleep.
So the more light you have in a day,
and especially the more artificial light you have before dawn and after dusk,
the less sleep you have.
And this is a serious problem.
So in this town, we wouldn't have this.
So we have flexible school hours; oh, we have green classrooms,
we have lectures outdoors to get more daylight.
How does that sound?
We would have no exams before the lunch break, for instance,
no exams in the early part of the day.
Clinics would do chronotherapy.
This is beyond personalized medicine,
this is medical treatments designed for your body clock,
where we take this serious.
Because body clocks are so diverse, like our body height or weight
or eye color or hair color,
so we need to take this way more serious.
Or flexible working hours.
The last time you applied for a job,
have you been asked at what time of day you would like to work?
Everyone here in this room knows when their best time for work is,
when your productivity is highest, when you enjoy your work most.
But no employer on earth is using this.
It's the most precious human resource you can give to your employer.
But it's just not being used.
In this town we could use it.
And I must say that this town actually exists.
I think this time is completely wrong, I must say,
so I have no idea where we are now.
But I think we'll continue because we changed the order a bit.
So we built this town, actually.
My friend and colleague Michael Wieden and I,
we were setting up a town in a German place called Bad Kissingen -
it's a spa town, it's a health resort -
and what we're setting up there is a chrono city:
a city that pays respect to time and sleep.
And we are working to bring these ideas to life.
And we already made good success
because we have brilliant people there that help us.
I have so many enthusiastic students helping us to make this thing fly,
that it is the absolute future of a new society
that takes sleep and time very, very seriously.
I'd like to give you some examples because it's a fantastic journey,
and you really learn a lot about how our society works.
But you get very frustrated at some points
when you realize how inflexible and stupid we sometimes are.
A typical example is school hours.
Changing school hours in that place - so it's a small town -
heavily relies on the local traffic.
Changing school hours in that place means to change the local traffic.
Changing local traffic in that place
affects changes to local traffic at a distance of 400 kilometers.
I was speechless when I heard that. I couldn't believe it.
I mean, that's the distance from Eemshaven to Maastricht
here in the Netherlands.
It's the whole of the Netherlands.
I mean, I still cannot believe this, how stupid we are
to build a society that's so unflexible and inflexible
to not allow for these changes.
It's a life story for myself, actually, because when I was a teenager,
I was quite often sitting in the office of our school principal.
It wasn't always my fault while I was sitting there, but ...
Anyways, I was sitting there.
And at that time already, I was fighting for a revolution.
Because I deliberately was looking for borders that I could cross.
And where's the next border that I can cross, and then I'd cross it.
I was trying to see how far I can get.
And this is what I do now.
I did it all my life, and now, with this town, it works.
It's the little steps that count.
So we cannot blame society without blaming ourselves.
And I'm telling you all the change totally lies in our hands.
I couldn't do it without all these wonderful people.
And if we don't do it now, we will not succeed in doing it.
So I'd like to take you on this journey.
You can come; it's a real town.
And you don't have to live there
because you can do it in your own personal life already.
Just think about how can you get more sleep priority back into your life
and to bring sleep democracy back into your life?
We don't have to accept all these things.
It is about us.
It is about our sleep.
It is about our health.
It is about our future.
And most of all, it's about time for a sleep democracy.
Thank you.
(Applause)
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It's time to take chronobiology seriously | Thomas Kantermann | TEDxGroningen

74 Folder Collection
Jeff Chiu published on October 1, 2018
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