If you’ve ever experienced an irregular sleep schedule by staying up late and sleeping late, then you’ve experienced social jet lag. Sleeping inconsistently over the weekend, known as “social jet lag”, can be dangerous to your health. Even sleeping long hours to catch up does not reduce the risk of developing health problems due to social jetlag.
This article describes what factors lead to social jet lag, how it affects your health, and how you can improve your sleeping habits.
What is social jet lag?
Social jet lag occurs when you stay up late on the weekend and then sleep in later than on weekdays. The daily change in sleep times affects your body circadian rhythm or his natural internal clock.
Social jetlag affects the body in a similar way to travel jetlag. Shifting your sleep times makes your body feel like it’s in a different time zone. This can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
For example, if you stay up late on Saturday evening and then sleep late on Sunday morning, you will likely have a hard time falling asleep on Sunday evening. This is because during your usual Sunday bedtime, your body wasn’t awake for hours to feel tired. This likely makes it difficult to get up early on Monday morning.
Social jet lag and health
Changing your body’s clock frequently doesn’t just cause daytime sleepiness. It can also have a significant impact on your health.
Weight gain and chronic diseases
Social jet lag has been linked to several chronic health problems. Changes in the circadian rhythm caused by inconsistent sleep times cause changes in the circulatory system and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Social jet lag has also been linked to an increased risk of obesity and diabetes. A 2019 study found a link between social jet lag in teenagers and an increased risk of obesity.
Social jet lag has also been found to affect the timing of hormone secretion and the activity of immune cells in the body. These changes can be linked to an increased risk of chronic illness and obesity.
Individuals who regularly experience social jet lag are also more likely to smoke cigarettes and consume excess caffeine. These habits can significantly disrupt sleep.
Depression, mood swings, and cognition
A 2021 study found that people with misaligned sleep cycles were more likely to experience depression and anxiety than those who went to bed and woke up at the same time each day. The study found that the more participants changed their sleep schedule, the higher the risk of developing depression.
Social jet lag also affects school performance. It is important to note that teenagers and young adults are most at risk of experiencing social jet lag. This means that their ability to learn new information in school could be influenced by their sleeping habits.
Tips for a better sleep
Fortunately, there are simple steps that can improve and even eliminate social jet lag.
Focusing on your sleep hygiene is an important part of combating social jetlag. Try to go to bed at the same time every day, including weekends. A 2019 study found that participants who kept their sleep and wake times within 15 to 30 minutes of the same time each day reported better sleep, less depression, and less stress. Study participants were also able to improve their cognitive reaction time scores.
There is nothing like a cozy Sunday nap, but proceed with caution. Getting more sleep on the weekend can make it difficult to fall asleep at night. Try to limit your nap to less than 20 minutes, or recharge your batteries with a stroll outdoors in the sun.
Lifestyle changes that can improve social jet lag include:
- Emphasize: If worried thoughts keep you awake on Sunday evenings, check out stress management techniques, such as relaxation exercises and mindfulness. Meeting with a therapist can also be helpful.
- caffeine: If you are prone to having trouble falling asleep at night on the weekend, try to limit your caffeine intake to the morning hours.
- alcohol: Alcohol can affect your sleep cycle, so try to limit it as much as possible.
- diet: Try not to eat rich, fatty foods before bed. These foods require more digestive energy and can make it difficult to fall asleep.
- exercise: Try to do some physical activity every day to make your body feel tired at night. Try to avoid exercising right before bed, as physical activity can be stimulating.
Social jet lag occurs when you go to bed later on the weekend and wake up later than on weekdays. It can happen to anyone at some point. Teenagers and young adults typically have the highest rates of social jet lag.
Social jet lag can have serious health consequences and has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, and decreased academic performance. To improve social jet lag, try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
A word from Verywell
Social jet lag is a common problem that we all face from time to time. If you change your regular sleep schedule on the weekends, it may be time to stick to a more consistent schedule. While it may feel difficult to get the same sleep times every day, you will likely notice the health benefits right away. If you are concerned about the quality of your sleep, speak to your doctor.
frequently asked Questions
Which age group has the highest prevalence of social jet lag?
Social jet lag is most common in late adolescence and most commonly affects people between the ages of 16 and 18.
Does a nap help with social jet lag?
While a nap can feel rejuvenating in the moment, it usually doesn’t help with social jet lag. If you’ve had trouble falling asleep on the weekends, try limiting your naps.
How can I learn my sleep chronotype?
The sleep chronotype relates to your body’s natural tendency to sleep. This is usually referred to as an early bird or a night owl. To understand your chronotype, consider when you feel most energetic and when you feel most tired during the day.
What is a normal sleep rhythm for adults?
Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. The hours you sleep are not as important as keeping those hours constant each night.