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What is Social Jetlag and How Can You Overcome It?

June 14, 2017 2:06 am

We’ve all heard of travel jetlag, but have you heard of social jetlag? Apparently, it’s a thing. The phrase refers to when we skimp on sleep during the workweek and try to catch up on the weekend (or vise versa).  According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in three Americans is not getting the recommended sleep every night, which falls between seven and 9 hours.  A recent study by Sierra Forbush at the University of Arizona, found that for every hour of weekly "social jet lag," there is an 11 percent increase in the chance a person will suffer from poorer health, worse mood, fatigue and an increased risk of heart disease.

"Social jet lag can occur when people 'short' themselves of sleep during the work week, and the natural drive for sleep creates a sleep debt causing people to naturally sleep longer on the weekend," said Dr. Robert Oexman, director of Kingsdown's Sleep to Live Institute. "Conversely, social jet lag can occur when people get the normal amount of sleep during the work week and then choose to stay up later the weekends pushing them to sleep in on those mornings. People often think that if they 'make up' the sleep on weekends there will be no health consequences. Unfortunately, that is not true."

Oexman says the shift in our circadian rhythm on Friday and Saturday nights makes it more difficult to fall asleep at the right time Sunday night making it more difficult to wake Monday morning.

"Any time we shorten sleep we can see the short-term consequences of fatigue, memory issues, increase risk of accidents, changes in glucose metabolism, and increase in inflammation. If it becomes chronic we see a lower immune system, increase risk of heart disease, some types of cancer, and an increased risk of anxiety and depression," said Oexman.

Below are 5 ways to conquer social jet lag.  

Stick to a regular bedtime routine: Maintain the same bed time and wake time even on the weekends.  Participate in the same relaxing activities before bed each night. Take a hot bath or shower. Light stretching and getting ready for bed in a dimly lit room may also help. Shut all electronics off 30 minutes to one hour prior to bed time.  Always allow three weeks for changes in behavior and environment to impact your sleep.

Stay up on Friday: Choosing the occasional Friday as your night out is the best bet. That allows you to recover by going to bed at your normal time Saturday and waking at your normal time Sunday morning. Hit the sack at your regular bedtime Sunday evening.

Sleep cool: Ensure the room temperature is between 65 and 68 degrees. The key is to keep your head out from under the covers and exposed to the cool temperature. Remain thermal neutral by adding or tossing blankets as needed.

Practice deep breathing: Once you're in bed, if your body is still wired from the day, you may have a difficult time falling asleep. When you practice deep breathing, your brain recognizes that you're trying to relax and sends a message to your body to do so.

Light and noise: Your bedroom should be completely dark and quiet. Even a nightlight or bright alarm clock can inhibit production of melatonin, needed to fall asleep and stay asleep.  If your bedroom windows let in a lot of natural light – get blackout curtains or wear an eye mask. Eliminate all noise from the bedroom. If this isn't possible, invest in a white or pink noise machine.

Source: www.kingsdown.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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