We are working harder, playing harder and sleeping less. What shut eye we do manage is frequently poor quality. But yay - here comes the weekend! Exhausted from our busy week everyone is looking forward to relaxing, staying out late, catching up with friends, of course a good long sleep in and maybe even a quick ‘Nanna nap’. If this sounds familiar, you may be suffering from social jet lag.
Social jet lag is a result of the changes in sleep patterns experienced by many when comparing their work day sleep schedule to their day off sleep schedule. Days off commonly see people catching up on their zzzz’s, snoozing at times which more closely mirror their natural body clock rhythm. Often they are sleeping longer and at different times than usual. This switching of sleep schedules affects the body, mimicking the changing of time zones experienced by travellers. People may suffer jet lag type symptoms; fatigue, headache, difficulty concentrating to name a few. Fortunately, when you change time zones, day light hours also change and your body can readjust quickly resetting it’s body clock. Unfortunately, when it comes to social jet lag, you remain in the same time zone and the disrupted sleep schedule is ongoing.
With the importance of sleep well documented, it is not surprising that this continuing disturbed sleep schedule is detrimental to health. Munich University, Professor Till Roenneberg suggests social jet lag affects nearly two thirds of the population and may be associated with many increased health risks. Sufferers are more likely to be smokers, with higher levels of alcohol and caffeine consumption. He also proposes an increased incidence of depression and obesity associated with social jet lag, the severity reflecting the degree of suffering.
Minimising the impact of social jet lag on your life is not simple. The solution is finding that job where the hours perfectly match your body rhythm. Until you do, daily exposure to sunlight may help, as will maintaining your regular weekday schedule through the weekend where practical.