Need This New Innovation? The Concept Of Social Jet Lag

For most of us our circadian rhythms are out of sync. This makes it hard to get up in the mornings and often keep us awake at night. This is due, in part at least, to the uneven sleep schedules that most of us have by differing ourYawn (Photo by Juanedc/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)Yawn (Photo by Juanedc/Creative Commons via Wikimedia) sleeping hours on the weekends to accommodate social gatherings. Researchers in Europe have created the phrase "social jet lag" to describe the effects of this prevalent practice.

Basically, social jet lag is the difference between what our body clock tells us we need to be doing for optimum wellness and our busy social clocks that have us shifting hours back and forth. Essentially we end up with a form of jet lag without leaving the ground.

This is more than just something that makes us a little more tired as we try to readjust to the weekday grind. Till Roenneberg, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Munich's Institute of Medical Psychology, in Germany, says that people who have a different time schedule on weekends than the one they stick to during the week have triple the chance of being overweight. 

Roenneberg and his colleagues surveyed 65,000 individuals and found that of those whose "time zones" differed, the greater the difference the higher the Body Mass Index (BMI). This finding mirrors previous research that had found a link between BMI and sleep deprivation and irregular sleep schedules. In addition to obesity these studies have also found an increase in other chronic diseases such as diabetes as well as a higher risk of cancer among shift workers. Social jet lag may impact individuals in much the same way.

Sleep (Photo by David Shankbone/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)Sleep (Photo by David Shankbone/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)Among the theories of why this happens is one that says that there is metabolic disruption at the cellular level as well as irregular meal times that have us eating at times when our bodies are not ready for food. This can affect how we digest food and how our bodies convert it into fat.

Based on these findings, Roenneberg recommends that employers be more open to allowing employees to have more flexible schedules to get them working at their optimum rather than trying to force the early birds and night owls into a one-size-fits-all schedule. In addition to added productivity, healthier employees could lead to lower health costs.

As Ronneberg says, "On an epidemiological level, we pay an enormous price for not being within our natural clocks."

Source: CNN,