The term “social jet lag” has started to gain a vast amount of traction as a term that is becoming widely used amongst health professionals and biohackers globally. But what does it mean and how is it affecting our health?
When we take a look at society we can divide up the week into two different routines. These are, the working week and the weekend, both of which are very different things to the normal person. During the week we will most likely have a set bed time, mine is about 21:30, whereas at weekends this routine often goes out the window for many and a set bed time is replaced by socialising with friends, going out after dark to clubs and bars or staying up late to watch a movie or the latest Netflix binge. As a result we often reduce our sleep times which is leading to a whole host of medical issues personified by a disrupted circadian rhythm. Going to bed later at weekends then results in “lay ins” where we sleep in longer than we would in the week, further disrupting our sleep/wake cycles.
Disrupted sleep can lead to loss of productivity in our waking hours and in the following week whilst at work, this is social jet lag.
In late 2017 a study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that people who ran this type of schedule suffered from low mood, more health issues and more sleep disorders than those who kept to a regular daily sleep/wake schedule. Health issues resulting from a disrupted sleep/wake cycle can include; diabetes, insomnia, heart disease, stroke, neurological disease and obesity.
Dr Amin, a leading researcher, has suggested that having a disrupted circadian rhythm can lead to “pathological states like insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders”. We cannot simply catch up on sleep. Our bodies have a 24 hour clock that must be entrained by external environmental triggers such as light, temperature and food. Any disruption to these cycles creates a disrupted body clock that can only be fixed by morning sunlight, blocking artificial blue light after dark and meal timing. You cannot simply set a bed time, an entrained body clock will set your bedtime naturally and you won’t have to think about it. You just have to entrain your body clock and keep it consistent. Napping, for example can cause a phase shift, much the same as light at the wrong time of the day does.
We live in the 21st century and we are not going to give up our evenings out and socialising, but we may want to wear your blue light blocking glasses out at the weekends, reduce the number of times you go out or set yourself a curfew when socialising with friends. If you do not, your health and longevity will suffer in the long run.