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‘Social Jet Lag’ Is Not Good For The Health

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Adults who begin working early on weekdays often look forward to the prospect of sleeping in during the weekends. While this may seem like a normal thing for many, a new study begs to differ, calling this habit social jet lag.

According to Sleep Review, 85% of people sleep and wake up later on the weekends or their days off. And this societal or social jet lag has emerged to become an important circadian marker for health. This routine has been found to cause chronic fatigue, worse moods, increased sleepiness and poorer health overall. Each hour of societal jet lag is also linked to an 11% rise in heart disease risks.

All of these effects are independent of sleep duration and symptoms of insomnia, which are also related to social jet lag and health.

Sierra B. Forbush, an undergraduate research assistant in the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson and lead author on the study, says,

These results indicate that sleep regularity, beyond sleep duration alone, plays a significant role in our health.

She adds, “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.”

The term first “social jet lag” first appeared in 2012 in a study linking it to obesity. According to researchers then, those who suffered from this jet lag were more likely to smoke, consume larger amounts of coffee and alcohol, and were more depressed, Refinery 29 reports.

Till Roenneberg, a professor at the Institute of Medical Psychology at the University of Munich who coined the term, says, “The behavior looks like if most people on a Friday evening fly from Paris to New York or Los Angeles to Tokyo and on Monday they fly back. Since this looks like almost a travel jet lag situation, we called it social jet lag. They have to live a life almost in a different time zone in comparison to their biological clock.”

The researchers for this study analyzed data from the community-based Sleep and Healthy Activity, Diet, Environment, and Socialization (SHADES) study, where 984 adults between 22 and 60 years old answered survey questions.

Social jet lag was measured using a Sleep Timing Questionnaire, and the researchers calculated data by subtracting weekday from weekend sleep. The participants’ overall health was self-reported using a standardized scale, and the questions on the survey covered insomnia, sleep duration, cardiovascular disease, fatigue and sleepiness.

The study was published in the online journal Sleep.

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