Social jet lag and how do we tackle it

05 Jan 2021

What is social jet lag?

We are all aware of jet lag, but not necessarily of the term social jet lag. It is a prevailing health concern and researchers have identified a broad array of associated risk factors. But what exactly is social jet lag?

Researchers coined the term to describe the discrepancy between social and internal clocks. You might have experienced going to bed and waking up significantly later on your days off compared to your workdays. Similarly, you might have felt sleep deprived and slept it off during the weekend. The reasons for this could be insufficient routine or misalignment between your social schedule and your chronotype. Indeed, an early morning meeting for night owls is out of sync with their inner biological rhythms.

A link to adverse health outcomes

Social jet lag has been linked to obesity, cardiovascular risks, mental issues and unhealthy behaviours such as smoking. A recent study published in the Journal of Sleep Research revealed that social jet lag could also worsen several aspects of cognitive performance. Scientists are now discovering that synchronisation of your inner and social clocks are as important as sleep quality and duration.

How can you tackle social jet lag?

The key recommendation is consistency. Keeping consistent sleep-wake timings and getting enough sleep throughout the week will help you to achieve this. When you feel sleep-deprived, try going to bed earlier and waking up only slightly later.

Light is also a useful measure. Research recommends getting as much natural light throughout the day and especially in the mornings. Light exposure can advance your circadian rhythms and make you go to bed naturally earlier. Reducing screen-time before bed is also useful as it can delay your inner rhythms and sleep onset as a result.

Calculating your misalignment

Research has identified the ways you can calculate your social and internal misalignment. The LYS app is free to download and allows you to see the magnitude of your social jet lag.