If you are a jet-setter, you’ll be familiar with the effects of jet lag, but do you suffer from sleep deprivation or social jet lag when you are at home? Social jet lag is a term used to describe the “Extreme fatigue brought on by the clash between the body’s built-in sleep cycle and the demands of the daily routine.”
What Is Social Jet Lag?
Though you may have managed to pull all-nighters in college, have you noticed that as the years have passed, staying up late even for one night and going back to an early morning meeting the next day has become more difficult?
That is a classic symptom of social jet lag. Coined by Professor Till Roenneberg from the University of Munich, the term social jet lag describes the condition that arises from keeping different sleep schedules for the days we work and the days we don’t have to work.
The professor compares this to the jet lag we typically associate with traveling between time zones, the only difference being that with regular jet lag the body has the opportunity to reset its rhythm to match the new sunrise and sunset times but with social jet lag, the body remains in the same environment, with nothing new to adapt to.
This forces the body to survive in a time zone that is different from its biological clock, which can often lead to health problems like weight gain and slower cognitive functioning. According to Professor Roenneberg, every hour of social jet lag increases your chance of becoming overweight or obese by nearly 33 percent.
Apart from regular work schedules, digital gadgets like smartphones, laptops and tablets might also play a role in increasing the chances of becoming socially jet-lagged. Though there is no study directly linking smartphone usage to social jet lag, there is enough evidence to show that people often spend long hours on their gadgets, thus stimulating their brain instead of signaling that it is time to sleep.
What are the side effects of social jet lag?
A study conducted in Australia found that of the 800 participants, 31 percent suffered at least an hour of social jet lag, which meant that on every working day they slept one hour later than their body’s natural sleep time or circadian rhythm.
Another study found that people working full-time jobs were at an increased risk of social jet lag and may experience up to two hours of jet lag on the days they work, thus increasing the health risks that come with sleep deprivation.
Various research shows that one hour of social jet lag can increase your risk of heart disease by 11 percent, increase fatigue, affect mood and impact overall well-being.
So, can’t you sleep in on the weekends to make up for the lost sleep during the week? Unfortunately, it is not that easy. A study found that people who slept only six hours every night for two weeks ended up feeling more tired and unfocused when they tried to sleep for an extra 10 hours.
Tips to deal with social jet lag
Whether you have to work a five-day week or if you are a busy parent dealing with a family day in and day out, make sure your body gets its required sleep at the appropriate time.
Though some of the lost sleep may be compensated for with short power naps during the day, if possible, it is better to try and go to bed at the same time every day and have your alarm set for the same time every morning, be it a Sunday or a Wednesday.
Sunlight may also be a good remedy to induce sleep at the right time. Experts believe that exposure to sunlight in the morning can help you fall asleep earlier in the evening and getting a little vitamin D in the afternoon or evening may help you stay up longer, to suit your work schedules.
Regardless of which option works for you, remember to prioritize sleep, as it plays an important role in your overall well-being.
Goodman, B. (2012, May 10). Do You Have ‘Social Jet Lag’? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20120510/do-you-have-social-jet-lag#1
Downing, S. (2018, July 09). Social jet lag: Why sleeping late on weekends can be bad for your heart. Retrieved from https://coach.nine.com.au/2017/06/06/11/59/social-jet-lag-sleep-routine
Downing, S. (2018, July 10). The signs you have ‘social jet lag’ – and how to conquer it. Retrieved from https://coach.nine.com.au/2018/07/10/09/48/social-jet-lag