Your alarm rings. It’s 6.30am – a work day. You reluctantly drag yourself out of bed and start your daily routine, eyes barely open. You’re eagerly awaiting that cup of coffee to help you actually wake up.
At work, you’re counting down the days until the weekend – those few days you can go out late followed by a much-needed recovery sleep in the next morning. Sounds good…but it may not be as good for you as you think.
It turns out that changes in rising time could be messing with your body clock and have knock-on effects for your health.
Welcome to social jet lag.
What is it?
Social jet lag is a term coined by sleep experts to describe what happens when your natural body clock and your daily routine don’t align, for instance when you go to bed and wake up later on weekends than during the week. The effects may also apply to a person who is naturally a night owl but must start work at 7 am, as well as a morning person who routinely stays up late to work.
Recent research published in the international journal, Sleep Medicine, found that almost one-third of Australians (excluding shift and evening workers) suffer from social jet lag.
Who is most affected?
The study found that full-time workers are worst affected, with some suffering more than two hours of social jet lag on work days compared to non-work days. Those suffering were more likely to have used their phones or computers in the hour before bedtime and were more likely to experience side effects such as sleeping too late, waking up feeling tired, and still showing up to work when they felt they should have called in sick.
Another supporting study found that social jet lag can be associated with poorer health, worse mood, increased sleepiness and fatigue.
The conclusion: it’s not only the amount of sleep you get that’s important but also when you get it.
How can you beat it?
Even if you’re getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night, sticking to a regular waking schedule is the thing that will help you most overcome the symptoms of social jet lag. If you’re experiencing at least two hours of social jet lag, then it’s recommended that you go to bed earlier rather than get up later]. Or, if you know you’re going out late, maybe nap in the afternoon rather than sleeping in. It also pays to change your lifestyle and try to cut back on anything that may be encroaching on precious sleep time, especially technology use.
Need a little help falling and staying asleep?
If you’re someone who avoids going to bed early because you know you’ll have trouble falling or staying asleep, you might consider support from an evidence-based natural medicine.
ReDormin Forte is a natural medicine that contains a specific combination of herbal extracts, referred to as Ze 91019. In clinical research it has been shown to help re-establish healthy sleep patterns within two weeks, helping to reduce the time taken to fall asleep and increase the time spent in the deeper, restorative stages of the sleep cycle.
And if all else fails, doing this one simple thing before bed is guaranteed to help you fall asleep faster.