Social Jet... Lag


By Anjelica Blige

Photo courtesy of Vincent Bellet.

If you are like me then the morning alarm is not your best friend. You constantly try to tell yourself that five more minutes will suffice. You grumble about that last beer from the night before.

Low and behold there is now evidence that may help explain the true struggles of confronting the despised alarm clock.

Till Roenneberg, PhD, a professor of chronobiology at the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology, completed a study that examined the sleeping patterns of 65,000 participants. The research concluded that by using an alarm clock during the week but not on the weekends you are three times more likely to become overweight and thereby increase your body mass index.

“Social jet lag,” according to Roenneberg and his team of European researchers, can be classified as “the discrepancy between what our body clock wants us to do and what our social clock wants us to do.”

The same research continues to summarize that “over the past decade, people have been going to bed later but still getting up at the same time, losing about 40 minutes of sleep on workdays.” Such lifestyle habits influence people to spend less time outside, which may cause the lateness of their circadian–or 24-hour–rhythms.

The research addresses the fact that disturbing the circadian system “may contribute to weight-related pathologies.” The circadian system is responsible for controlling a variety of biological functions including organ operations, body temperature, and blood pressure. With all the vital workings these cycles affect, it seems obvious that we should try not to tamper with our circadian rhythms.

However, the use of an alarm clock does just that–and how else are we supposed to get up for work or class?

Since social jet lag is also dependent on the amount of time you spend outside, consider spending less of your week indoors. By simply spending just that extra 40 minutes outside a day you might be able to bring your circadian system back in line and thereby better maintain bodily functions.

Shelby Freedman Harris, director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City also offered some helpful ways to recover from social jet lag.

For one, try and get as much beauty sleep as possible. The better sleep that you get the easier it will be for your body to readjust and regroup on the weekends–especially come Monday morning.

Exercise is a great way to get yourself moving. Working out regularly makes you less likely to crawl right back into bed.

Expose yourself to as much sunlight as possible. Eating near a window–or better yet eating outside, if the weather allows–will awaken your body and allow for the melatonin levels in your system to diminish. Melatonin is the chemical that makes you sleepy.

But many of us will find one essential suggestion difficult to adapt to our social lives: allowing yourself to only one night of boozing on the weekend. Alcohol can hurt how you sleep, so to ensure the best rest pick either Friday or Saturday to drink–not both–so you at least have the other day to recover and allow your body to rejuvenate.

As the new year just dawned, you can make it a point to keep these helpful facts in mind and sleep the best slumber possible in 2015.