What is Social Jet Lag and How Can It Affect Your Sleep?

social jet lag

Everyone hates the sound of their alarm in the morning, and so when the weekend rolls around, turning off your alarm (or at least setting it a little later!) is more than satisfying.

If you work the usual 9-5 routine or study during the week, chances are you’re using the weekend to catch up with your friends, and with some well needed rest.

But while you think you’re doing your body a favour, sleeping in on the weekend could be doing more harm than good! In fact, you could be giving yourself social jet lag.

What is social jet lag?

Social jet lag, in its simplest terms is a delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD) caused by a change in sleep routine that can occur at the weekend. The term was coined by Professor Till Roenneberg of  The Institute of Medical Psychology at the University of Munich

Much like the exhaustion you feel after a long-haul flight, social jet lag is the name given to the impact disrupting your sleep pattern has on your mind and body. When you sleep in longer at the weekends, then push your bedtime back to go for a few drinks, you’re continually unsettling your weekly sleep schedule.

During the week, your body gets used to getting up and going to bed around the same time. Once you throw this out of the window on the weekend, your internal clock, known as your circadian rhythm, becomes confused.

What effects does social jet lag have?

While it may seem that extending your sleep schedule is a good thing, the lack of routine can bring about a whole host of health problems.

Staying up late and pressing snooze at the weekends has been linked to the development of bad moods, due to increased irritability and fatigue.

But it’s not just your mood that can be affected. Research has shown that a poor sleep schedule can increase your chances of developing heart disease, and just a two-hour sleep difference in patterns can increase your BMI and biomarkers, putting you at risk of obesity and diabetes.

This means that a regular sleep schedule can be one simple way of reducing the risk of developing heart disease, among other serious health problems.

As well as the health implications, social jet lag has been found to have a hugely negative impact on a student’s education and exam results. The lack of concentration they experience due to fatigue can have a detrimental effect on their ability to learn. This means that getting your kids to bed at the right time is more important than ever.

Can you ‘catch up’ on sleep?

An in-depth study on the effects of catching up on sleep was carried out by Researchers from University of Pennsylvania and University of South Australia.

The study found that while having a ‘recovery sleep’ after several nights of sleep deprivation did improve participants performance, it was not on the same level that it was before the deprivation.

This indicates that catching up on sleep is not possible, and it is more worthwhile to aim to have a steady sleep routine.

Optimising your sleep schedule

Luckily, social jet lag is easily avoided. As this research shows, sleep regularity is just as important as sleep duration. So, when you’re tempted to watch just one more episode of your TV show, or order that extra drink at the bar, sticking to your regular sleep routine is in your best interests in the long run.

There are many things you can do to optimise your sleeping schedule, including making sure you stick to a routine as much as possible by choosing a regular bedtime, and improving your diet and exercise routine.

Changing your sleeping environment can also be a big help. For example, when was the last time you replaced your mattress? Make sure you get one which is supportive and comfortable enough so that you can sleep soundly. Also check whether your pillow provides the right amount of support for your neck. There a number of pillow reviews out there, which can help you choose the best option for how you sleep.

Our range of bespoke beds means that you’ve got the perfect level of comfort, and you can drift off as soon as your head hits the pillow. Contact one of our friendly team today to find out which quality made bed and mattress is for you.