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Social Jet Lag Got You Down?

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social jet lag

Social Jet Lag Affects 78% of People

What is Social Jet Lag?

Similar to jet lag that you get when you travel, social jet lag can affect your daily life and overall health. Around 87% of people in industrialized countries suffer from it.

Basically, social jet lag happens when we don’t get enough sunlight and our bodies can’t figure out when we’re supposed to be sleeping. Because here’s the thing, what you should be sleeping and what’s seen as the societal norm are two different things.

There’s a key difference between travel jet lag and social jet lag- light. When you travel to a different place, the sun comes up and sets at a different time, and your body can adjust its own clock to match. You can’t do that when you’re not actually traveling to a new place.

You drag yourself out of bed during the week and sleep in on the weekend. Rinse and repeat.

social jet lag tired man

But it's not necessarily your late Sunday mornings that's the problem.

Till Roenneberg, chronobiologist and author of Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired, states that people blame themselves for social jet lag when work schedules and lack of time outside are what’s really pushing us over the edge.

He said, "Every time we need an alarm clock it [...] we were forced to wake too early. So five days a week most of us are forced to live in a timezone that [does] not correspond[...] to our biological timezone. It’s [like you live] in London [but] work in St. Petersburg [...]. It’s only on weekends that we can live according to our own biological timezone."

We should be listening to our bodies and waking up when they say to. Professor Roenneberg clearly states, "Interestingly, most Anglo-Saxons think that social jet lag is caused by sleeping in on weekends and therefore you should set your alarm also on Saturdays and Sundays. This is the Puritan talking. Fact is, we’re going to work too early."

In 2017, research from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that people with an erratic sleep schedule suffer from poor moods, increased health issues, and more sleep dysfunction than those who maintain a regular sleep pattern seven days of the week.

In fact, he states that "The more social jetlag you have, the more likely it is that you are a smoker; the more alcohol you drink; the higher your caffeine consumption -- you're slightly more depressed than the rest of the population."

He even found that the more social jet lag a person experiences, the more likely they are to be overweight or obese.

Is Social Jet Lag Making You Tired All the Time?

Early mornings can wreak havoc on work-life balance. If you’re leaving the house at 7 am and not getting back till 7 pm it can be exhausting. You’ll start to get fed up with not having the energy to see friends, run errands, and always be running late because of oversleeping.

social jet lag morning commute

If you’re shuffling in 15 minutes late every day and consistently tired all the time. You need to make a change.

If this sounds like you, it could be social jet lag making you tired all the time. The hassle of staying involved and awake through work, life, and the weekend can leave you very sleep deprived.

Waking up early so that you have enough time to get ready, check social media, eat, say hi to your spouse, and get to work on time is a lot to handle. We’d say too much. And no matter how extroverted or high-achieving you are, work and being active in our lives dealing with people, even people we love, can be draining.

People need time to sleep, to rest, and to recharge.

Getting Over Social Jet Lag

While Professor Roenneberg states that all companies have a responsibility to adjust to people’s sleep requirements, he admits that we maybe 10 or 20 years off from employers offers truly flexible work hours.

Until then, we can try to do it ourselves.

“It’s important to inform the system, to inform society, and to inform employers that they’re more productive if they change work times,” he states. “It’s your bad conscience that makes you say, 'It’s the lazy me on weekends,' instead of acknowledging that the early work schedules are the culprit.”

But, if an extra hour of sleep in the morning just isn't doable for you right now, as I'm sure is the case for many employees in the US, there are some steps you can take to lessen the effects of social jet lag.

Roenneberg says that daylight may help. Early risers who want help falling asleep earlier at night so that they can get more sleep can try to get more sunlight in the morning and avoid sunlight in the afternoon and evening. People who need to stay up a little later should try to get more sunlight in the afternoon and evening, he says.

Hope Bastine, a sleep psychologist for Simba mattress, says we need to identify our individual sleep needs first and foremost.

Sleep Debt As Bad As Real Debt

social jet lag woman yawning

Bastine says, “Experiment with your productivity and [...] performance rate and adjusting your [...] schedule to that. Find a rhythm, a schedule, a lifestyle that [...] suits you, and [...] makes you feel in harmony with yourself. Make sure your sleep schedule is as non-negotiable as possible.”

She states that “sleep debt,” the fatigue we stack up as we miss out on hours of sleep during the week, needs to be treated as carefully as real debt.

“If you’re trying to catch up [...], go to bed [...] one hour earlier and sleep in one hour later. It’s spreading out the repayment of your sleep debt like you would your credit card or [...] mortgage. You don’t pay it all at once, you spread it out. [Y]ou’re not changing your brain too much in terms of your habits, but you are still trying to catch up on sleep.”

So, fixing your social jet lag is very doable. Determining what suits your schedule, and how you can make small changes to stick to it, can make all the difference. You might even be able to enjoy the weekend more.

For tips and tricks on how to improve your sleep quality and make sure you’re getting the rest you need, check out How Many Hours of Sleep Did You Get? You’ll find helpful information on how to make sure you don’t wrack up that sleep debt. 

You'll also want to make sure that you aren't sleeping too hot, which you can read about here, and this cooling mattress can help with that. Plus, don't forget to add an extra level of comfort with a premium weighted blanket.

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