Do you suffer from social jet lag?
If you set your alarm for 6 a.m. on work days, but find yourself trying to catch up on sleep all weekend, you may be experiencing “social jet lag.”
Till Ronneberg, a professor at the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology, coined the term and says the effects of inconsistent sleep patterns are similar to what one would experience when traveling across time zones.
Ronneberg says “social jet lag” is the “discrepancy between what our body clock wants us to do and what our social clock wants us to do.”
And while sleeping in late on a Saturday morning might feel good, there can be long-term health consequences.
A study published in the journal Current Biology found that people were three times more likely to be overweight when their sleep patterns differed on weekdays versus weekends. This helps to support the theory that sleep duration as well as timing of sleep are both important to overall health.
“There are only 24 hours in a day,” says Christine Cowen, a clinical sleep educator with the Sleep Disorder Center at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “With work, family, social life, work commute and sleep, what do we all cut back on to make room for everything else? Our sleep, which all creates sleep deprivation.”
Cowen says that within 24 hours of being sleep deprived most of the bodies changes are not seen, but could include an increase in blood pressure and our metabolism starts to fluctuate sometimes making us crave carbohydrates. This is why some third-shift workers gain weight.
Ronneberg also mentions that one way to align social timing and biological timing is to follow the body’s circadian rhythm and exposing oneself to light in the morning and darkness at night.
“If you go to bed and get up in the morning about the same time every day, your natural body clock can find its natural rhythm making sleep quality and quantity much better,” says Cowen.
Cowen offers these suggestions for developing healthy sleep patterns:
- Amount of sleep: Figure out how much sleep you need to feel awake, alert and well-rested.
- Consistency: Choose the same time to go to bed and wake up every day.
- Limit exercise before going to bed.
- Stuffed vs. empty stomach: Don’t eat a big meal before going to sleep and don’t go to bed hungry.
- Reduce caffeine: Start cutting back on the stimulant at noon and avoid any caffeine after 3 p.m.
- Sound: Eliminate things in your bedroom, or within earshot, that diminish your sleep quality. This includes a noisy dog or cat, drippy faucet, trees rubbing on the side of the house or a snoring spouse.
- Choose a mattress for better sleep: Pick something comfortable and supportive.
- Regulate bedroom’s temperature: Sleep is brought on by your body temperature falling. If your room is too warm this can hinder sleep.
- Limit screen time: Electronic devices emit blue light that can push your natural melatonin back into your penal glad and you will find it much more difficult to fall asleep.
- No alcohol before bed: Don’t drink alcohol three hours before bed. Alcohol will actually help you fall asleep, but can cause poor REM sleep.
- Only sleep when tired: If you lie in bed for more than 30 minutes and are not sleepy. Get up out of bed, go to a different room and find something quiet to do. Do not turn on all the lights as that will interfere with your natural melatonin that is trying to help you sleep. When you feel sleepy go back to bed.
- Avoid over the counter sleep aids: These have a long half-life and can stay in your system the next day making you drowsy. You will also find that you need more and more of it to get the same effect.
- Talk to your physician: If you have a chronic sleep problem talk to an expert who can help you with your insomnia.
About the Author
Jen Frey, health enews contributor, manages the Transportation Department at Advocate Condell Medical Center. Jen has a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her master’s degree in Recreation Administration from Aurora University. Jen’s favorite things include traveling with her children, exercising and finding a great bargain.