Jet lag often refers to the negative consequences of traveling through multiple time zones, for example for a holiday or work. Social jet lag is something different, but it does exist. With social jet lag, the biological clock is not in line with the daily routine. Studies show that social jet lag can have serious negative effects on mental and physical health.
Could you be suffering from social jet lag? And if so, what can you do about it?
What is a social jet lag?
There are big differences between people’s sleeping patterns. One is an evening person, and goes to bed late. The other is a morning person and goes to bed a little earlier. These differences in sleep patterns are known as chronotypes.
In today’s 24-hour society, we often live under the influence of external clocks. We get up early because we have to get to work on time, and go to bed later because we also have social activities planned. When our professional and social lives go against our chronotype, social jet lag sets in.
How does a social jet lag affect health?
When our work and social lives don’t match our natural chronotype, people often start to follow two different schedules: one on weekdays and one on weekends. This means changing sleeping patterns twice a week, creating a constant feeling of jet lag that can have serious health consequences.
Can social jet lag be harmful to health? People who suffer from social jet lag suffer from mental fog and may have impaired memory and cognitive abilities. The effects can also be physical. In fact, people with social jet lag are three times more likely to be obese. Researchers have also found that people with this condition have a significantly higher risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, both of which can contribute to lifelong health problems. The greater the difference between your natural rhythms and the demands of the outside world, the greater your risk of chronic health problems.
How do you get rid of a social jet lag?
If you think you’re suffering from social jet lag, there are several ways to get your schedule back on track. First, you need to know your natural chronotype. Understanding your natural schedule is essential to meeting this. Second, you should try as much as possible to sleep at the hours your body needs it. This often means refusing certain social activities or advocating a different work schedule. In addition, you should try to maintain the same sleeping and waking hours on days off. Even a half-hour difference can throw your circadian rhythm off the track.
If you can’t change your life to accommodate your biological needs, there are ways to push your internal clocks forward or back. Turning off screens or blocking blue light with orange lenses can help night owls fall asleep earlier. Exposure to morning light in the morning can similarly help people wake up naturally at an earlier time.