Culture

'Social Jet Lag' Is Killing You

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You may not be familiar with the term “social jet lag,” but chances are good that you’ve been affected by it. Basically, it’s a term for a situation most of us find ourselves in. We sleep in on the weekend, then come Sunday night, we can’t sleep. We’ve all done it.

It turns out that we’re hurting ourselves when we do it.

About 85 percent of people go to sleep and wake up later on the weekends than they do during the work week, thus triggering worse moods and chronic fatigue. A new study reveals that these effects, dubbed “social jet lag,” even extend to long-term health issues like increased risk of heart disease, with each hour of jet lag resulting in an 11 percent increase in risk.“These results indicate that sleep regularity, beyond sleep duration alone, plays a significant role in our health,” lead author Sierra B. Forbush, an undergraduate research assistant in the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson, told EurekAlert. “This suggests that a regular sleep schedule may be an effective, relatively simple, and inexpensive preventative treatment for heart disease as well as many other health problems.”This isn’t the first study to reveal the negative impact of social jet lag. A 2012 study also linked it to obesity, with a 33 percent increase in risk per hour of social jet lag. The study also found that people with social jet lag are more likely to smoke, drink more alcohol, consume more caffeine and be depressed than the rest of the population.

Yeah, none of that sounds particularly good.

To make matters worse, simply keeping your sleep schedule throughout the weekend doesn’t look like the answer either. The professor who coined the term “social jet lag, ” Dr. Till Roenneberg, argues that trying to do that will cause you to accrue a sleep debt. Instead, he believes that employers should adjust working hours to fit people’s sleep patterns.

Frankly, that doesn’t sound realistic.

Roenneberg has some advice for folks who can’t set their own schedule. He advises people who need to get up bright and early to try and maximize their sunlight in the morning, then avoid it later in the day so they can fall asleep earlier.

Considering the risks associated with trying to sleep in on the weekend, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to give it a shot. We’d like to keep you around and reading the site for a lot longer.