Results of a study out this week show links between irregular working patterns and brain function.
Researchers from the Universities of Swansea and Toulouse studied the effects of different working patterns on 3,000 professionals from south-west France in the years 1996, 2001 and 2006. They found that, in the short-term, people who worked irregular hours had, on average, a poorer memory and slower overall brain power than those who were working a regular routine.
The scientists who took part in the study believe that a continual disturbance of the body’s natural day-time/night-time rhythms can lead to the release of a stress hormone, which is proven to wear down certain connections in the brain.
In addition to the immediate effects of imbalanced working hours, researchers found an alarming trend illustrating that long term shift work (a decade or longer) can damage the brain causing it to age up to six and a half years earlier than usual, in addition to increasing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Now, while the latter doesn’t apply to students who blitz over night in preparation for an exam or deadline, the study nonetheless shows that brain function can be damaged by not working within a regular schedule. And, if you’re a student, that’s pretty undesirable, as you need to be on top of your game.
If you work part-time in hospitality, or are studying in your evenings because you have a full-time job, completely avoiding all-nighters might be difficult. If however, you have the option of fitting in all your revision and assignments during daytime hours, then make the most of the situation and keep it regular…
Outline the hours you will work at the start of each week, and do your best to stick to them. You might need a good dose of self-discipline to stick to the 9-5 day, especially if you’re sitting at home alone, so try spending your day studying in the library. Changing your study environment is an effective way to keep serious procrastination at bay; and the library is a quiet environment filled with other people who are also trying to study.
Sticking to regular working hours will also mean you maintain a good balance between your studies and personal life, which is great for overall well-being. If you make sure you always finish work in the early to mid evening, then you leave yourself enough time to unwind before bed and take part in activities you enjoy.
Of course, some people tend to work better in the evenings, or early in the mornings. If you find you’re at your most effective during either of these times of day, then build your routine around them, but keep it regular nonetheless. If you’re a night-owl, then try starting work at 1pm, and working through to 9pm; while if you’re a morning person, get ahead of the game at 5 or 6am, and be done by early afternoon. Whatever your preferred time of day, create a work schedule that is rhythmic and routine to make sure you get the most out of your study sessions and keep your brain sharp.