Do your weekends tend to throw off your normal sleep routine? Maybe you stay up later at night… and sleep a few extra hours in the morning. Well, scientists call that kind of schedule shift “social jetlag.”
Think about it: When you travel to another time zone – your normal schedule changes (even if you eat breakfast at the same time… it’s still “off” by an hour or two compared to when you usually eat.) Social jetlag is similar. Because many of us have the tendency to sleep in or stay out late…
And a 2015 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism shed some fascinating new light on the phenomenon.1 Not only did scientists find that 85% of people shift their schedules on their days off… But they found that social jetlag could lead to trouble when it comes to your health.
The study followed 447 healthy adults over the course of a week. It looked at their sleep schedules both during the workweek and on days off. They also took a pretty extensive set of bloodwork from each participant. Shockingly, these scientists found that people who dealt with a schedule shift of an hour or more on days off had:
- Higher triglycerides – an indicator of risk for metabolic syndrome and heart disease
- Larger waist circumferences and higher BMIs
- More trouble processing and regulating insulin levels – a symptom often associated with diabetes, heart issues, and unhealthy body weight.
So what can you do to avoid the issues caused by social jetlag?
Keep your schedule consistent – for your health!
Now, I’ll be the first one to say: It’s easier said than done. After all, we’ve all got those night-owl friends whom we only see after 10pm…and the temptation to sleep in on mornings where it’s an option — is almost irresistible. But if you want to live a long, healthy life, sticking to a sleep routine is key. Of course, that doesn’t mean isolating yourself.
So how can you avoid “social jetlag” – but keep your social life strong?
Let me explain:
1. Set 2 alarms
And set them up to go off at the same time every day.
- Your “time to wake up” alarm: set it for when you need to wake up to make it to work on time.
- Your “time to start winding down” alarm: about 9-10 hours before your wake-up alarm. This is to remind you that if you’re not already getting ready for bed… you should be.
2. Skip dinners out
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy the occasional date night out. But when it comes to social time, say “no” to dinner – and “yes” to brunch or lunch. That way, you have plenty of time to enjoy yourself – without forcing your schedule to change.
3. Get out more
Think of morning sunlight like nature’s cup of coffee – and try to indulge EVERY morning (especially on days you want to sleep in). That doesn’t mean you need to go for a run outside as soon as you roll out of bed…but a quick walk with the dog, or even a cup of coffee on the patio, tells your brain “I’m awake” – and keeps you from sleeping in.
(Tip: One great way to do this – and to spend time with friends in the process – is to make a breakfast date with a friend… at a restaurant with an outdoor patio.)
Now, I know life gets busy. Between birthday parties, work events, and just catching up with friends, chances are, you’ll still have the occasional late night. But by making your sleep routine the priority as much as possible, you’re doing your whole body good!
P.S. If you still have trouble convincing yourself to go to sleep, think of it this way: Scientists have found that running on too little sleep (even for a night) can seriously impair your ability to function at your best. That could lead to mistakes at work, slower reflexes while driving, and forgetfulness – among other things.
So you see, a regular sleep routine is key to ensuring high-quality, restful sleep – so stick to it!
1. Wong P, Hasler B, Kamarck T, Muldoon M, Manuck S. Social Jetlag, Chronotype, and Cardiometabolic Risk. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2015;100(12):4612-4620. doi:10.1210/jc.2015-2923.