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Sleep and Social Jet Lag: The Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making

Posted: 07/10/2012 3:29 pm

Who gets more of a recharge at night: You or your phone?

It seems to me that the more scientific studies on sleep that are published, the more comfortable our high-tech mattresses and comforters are, the sleepier our sleep tea tastes, or the whiter our white noise machine sounds, the less actual quality sleep we get.

A lot of things have been said about sleep -- and there's so much research out there that you can learn something new almost anytime you read up on it. One thing we can all agree on is that life feels better after a good night's sleep -- yet we hardly get enough of those nights with eight to ten hours of uninterrupted, peaceful slumber.

In a comfortably soft (and cushiony) nutshell? Sleep makes you live longer, be smarter, look more beautiful and be generally more fun to be around. You will need less make-up and have more energy. It appears to be the solution for everything, or as John Steinbeck put it: "It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it."

Hearkening back to an era of simplicity -- and better sleep

There was a time when all we had on our nightstands was an alarm clock, a lamp and a book. Now we probably have our smartphone, one to three remotes, a variety of chargers and all kinds of other distractions. We usually write emails or check some kind of feed or timeline right before we fall asleep and right after we hit the snooze button. I admit I have sent emails that I have absolutely no recollection of after I'd taken a shower and had had some coffee. I am sure there are nights when our phone charges its battery longer than we charge ours.

Everyone is busy and on the run. There is so much to do -- and the day only has 24 hours. We are stressed out at work, our inbox is getting fuller and fuller and the to-do list becomes a "things that will probably never get done anyway" list. Our days are filled with emails, meetings, presentations, calls and quick and unhealthy lunches at our desks. Before and after the time at the office, we squeeze in errands or other supposedly fun things such as workouts, family activities, parties and occasionally even actual friends we want to catch up with. All of that is sprinkled with keeping up on Social Networks and the constant fear of missing a deadline or missing out on the great this-or-that, which (inevitably), everyone will be talking about the next day.

The one thing we usually sacrifice first is sleep. But the one thing we probably need most in these complex situations is sleep. "You snooze, you lose" -- so we just keep going. We have learned to function on a few hours of sleep during the week and hope to make up for it during the precious 48 weekend hours, while completely ignoring what our body needs.

That discrepancy between our internal clocks and our hectic lifestyle is becoming more and more of an issue. It's serious enough that researchers came up with a name for it: Social Jet Lag.

Learning the art of Social Jet Lag -- and Flight Control

Social Jet Lag is a bit like flying around the world without ever getting on an airplane. It describes what happens when we have a different sleep schedule on weekdays and on weekends -- our lifestyle and our sleep pattern are out of sync, just like when traveling across multiple time zones. We force our bodies to stay awake and somewhat alert during the week to get as many things done as possible and then try to catch up on sleep during the weekend; we basically force our body to do things at a time when it's not ready or prepared.

Interrupting and trying to tinker with our internal clocks so our life can follow our social clock by casually ignoring our body's signs when we should sleep can have serious side effects and mess with our mental and physical health. Researchers in Europe found that the risk of becoming overweight is much greater when you suffer from Social Jet Lag -- the bigger the difference between the sleeping patterns, the higher the risk. When staying up late, we usually tend to eat less healthily -- not to mention that it's more difficult to digest the food that we eat because all our bodies want is to rest and recharge.

The Substantial Argument for Regular Sleep

So getting a good night's sleep is the short-term solution for feeling well rested. In the long run, it's not just about going to bed early, it's also about having a regular sleep rhythm every day of the week. Besides the increased risk of obesity, regular quality sleep also cures and prevents pretty much everything else:


  • Better Mood: I am sure we all know what happens to our mood when we don't get enough sleep. We get irritated easily, we are moody and impatient -- and nobody really wants to deal with us. Have a great time at your networking event with that issue already under your belt.

  • Healthier Heart: Regular quality sleep can help prevent hypertension, an increase in stress hormones and irregular heartbeats.

  • Stronger Immune System: Sleep prevents and fights disease. Your mom was right; sleep is often the best medicine.

  • Improved Creativity and Memory: While you are asleep, your brain is busy consolidating new information, solving problems and storing new memories. Sleeping helps you process and remember information you acquired while you're awake.


Making sure you sleep enough and regularly has nothing to do with wasting time, being lazy or unproductive. While you sleep, your body and mind restore and recharge and no power nap in your chair or a half-a-day energy drink with a triple shot of espresso will ever have the same effect. It's not mind over matter when it comes to sleeping and feeling energized, performing better, being active and healthy.

Maybe it's time to pledge to our favorite pajamas to adjust our social calendars with our internal clocks.

Sweet dreams!

 
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This was originally published on The Levo League. You can read it here.
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