Sleep Hygiene Tip of the Week: How to avoid social jet lag

You get up every weekday early, stay up late, and rack up some sleep debt between Monday and Friday.

Saturday and Sunday morning you sleep in, and you maybe even take a nap during the day.

Then Monday morning rolls around and you feel sleep deprived already, thanks to that early morning alarm.

Here you go again, another week of sleeping less than 7 hours a night, followed by a temporary catch up, then BOOM, the Monday morning blahs.

Does this sound familiar? If it does, then you belong to a large section (estimates run between 30 and 60 percent) of our population experiencing what is known as social jet lag. 

We all know jet lag as a disruption of our sleep (circadian) rhythms that’s caused by traveling across several time zones, leaving us out of sync. Social jet lag also desynchronizes our rhythms, but without the vacation or business trip built in.

Social jet lag, also known as Monday morning blues, is what happens when we short ourselves of sleep over a period of time, then sleep extensively for a couple of days to “make up” for lost sleep, only to put ourselves at risk for renewed sleep deprivation when we start the cycle all over again.

Like yo-yo dieting, sleep habits that promote social jet lag, when practiced on a regular basis, aren’t harmless. Misaligned circadian rhythms increase your risk for diabetes, obesity, and depression. They can also put you at higher risk for drowsy driving, poor performance while on the job, and relationship struggles due to irritability, absentmindedness, and mood swings.

If you have always been a morning lark or a night owl, you have a well established chronotype. This means your circadian rhythms represent the characteristics of one of these two common sleeping patterns.

If you know your chronotype, find ways to honor it if you are able. For instance, if you have any flexibility in your work schedule, take advantage of it. More companies than ever have instituted flex time plans or can grant you adjusted working hours if it means you will get better sleep; a well-slept employee is a successful one. It may mean you go to work earlier and leave earlier, or start your day later and work later.

How to avoid social jet lag by focusing on sleep hygiene

  • Go to bed at a decent hour, allowing yourself at least 8 hours to capture a full night’s sleep (so, if you must get up at 530am, then go to bed at 9 or 930pm for best results)
  • Get up at around the same hour everyday, even on weekends (your circadian rhythms will appreciate it!)
  • Spend more time out of doors, especially in the morning. A blast of natural light every morning makes for an easy circadian reset
  • If you work indoors every day, find a good source of natural light or use a full-spectrum lamp in the morning at your desk to help support daytime wakefulness, which will help improve evening sleepiness after the sun goes down
  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet to maximize your sleep environment
  • Put your phone or other handheld gadget away an hour before bedtime to prevent exposure to blue spectrum light, which can interfere with circadian system processes which help improve melatonin release in the evening

Learn more about social jet lag

Check out a great infographic on social jet lag here at BizBrain.

Here’s a basic abstract on the roots and definition of social jet lag from Chronobiology International.

Huffington Post has numerous articles on social jet lag archived here.

A scientist from Germany has put together this interesting short video on body clocks that help explain social jet lag.

The diagram below illustrates the timeline for a normal circadian rhythm. Note that melatonin (the sleep hormone) is secreted at around 9pm and stops around 730am. Remember, blue light exposure during this time will wreak havoc on your ability to fall asleep, as this kind of light essentially shuts down melatonin production and release. This is the reason why the backlit screen on your electronic tablet, handheld game or cell phone should be turned off at night. If you struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep, this bedtime habit just may be the culprit.



About Tamara Kaye Sellman (621 Articles)

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Best of Sleepyhead: See our best previous posts on the body clock – SleepyHead CENTRAL
  2. Light therapy hacks and more to reset your circadian rhythms

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