Social jet lag sleeping disorder has nothing to do with traveling, despite its misleading name. It is the process of disrupting your sleeping pattern on the weekends, causing you to feel the same as you would if you had jet lag from traveling. It is compared to living in a different time zone on weekends or your traditional days off than you do on your days that run on a strict schedule. Your body has to become accustomed to a new sleeping schedule than your biological clock is used to, putting your body under duress.
How Social Jet Lag Happens
If you work a traditional Monday through Friday job from 9 to 5, you probably go to bed and wake up at the same time each day during the week. You know how much sleep your body needs to be able to properly function at work and you adjust accordingly. On the weekends, however, you might be out late drinking alcohol, smoking and partying, or just going to bed several hours later than you would during the week and most likely waking up later as well. This goes against what your biological time clock is used to, making it difficult to get up as well as go to sleep during the week.
Set a Strict Schedule
Avoiding social jet lag is not impossible, but it does require you to change a few habits. One of the most important things you can do is get up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Even if you do not have anything to do at 6 AM on Saturday morning, your body will react better if you make sure it is used to getting up at the same time every day. Use this time to do something good for yourself, such as exercise or read. You gain an extra few hours of “me time” which can also help your overall wellbeing.
Skip the Caffeine
Caffeine might help you get up and going in the morning, but it could also disrupt your sleep at night. Even if you are not feeling the effects of those cups of Joe late at night, your organs are feeling the side effects. If you lie awake at night, your coffee habit could be the culprit. In fact, it might not even be coffee, but any drink or food (chocolate) with caffeine could make it hard for your body to settle down at night, making you feel groggy in the morning. Try to limit your caffeine consumption to one or two cups a day and make sure they are as early as possible so your body can wind down.
Get your Vitamin D
You need sunlight, even though you are not soaking it up on a beach. Your body needs it to regulate your sleeping patterns. Studies show that people that get access to early morning sun are better able to get their bodies into a regular pattern, avoiding the side effects of having a social life on the weekends. If you are able to position your desk in an area where you get direct access to the sun, you will reap the benefits of the sun without much effort. If that is not possible, at the very least, get out and get 15 minutes of sunshine on your lunch and breaks to help your body wind down at night.
Social jet lag is real and is a real problem for many people. It puts you at risk for a variety of disorders and issues, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Rather than risking your health, it is important to set up a schedule that is conducive to your body’s biological clock. Getting up early on the weekends might not be on your priority list right now, but if it could prevent social jet lag and subsequent health issues, your effort and diligence in the process will be well worth it.