German researcher Till Roenneberg believes that there’s a conflict between our busy lives and our biological clocks, and it’s creating a type of jet lag that he refers to as ‘social jet lag.’
He says people who might fall in the category of socially-jetlagged include those whose weekday work schedule is drastically different from their weekend schedule, causing a major shift in sleeping patterns.
One good way to measure if you’re socially jet-lagged might be if you wake up at 4 and 5 a.m. during the workweek, and then take full advantage of your rest on the weekend by sleeping in past, say, 10. Roenneberg says this sleep pattern may have the same effect as switching time zones, which can have a nasty affect on the body.
In his study recently published in Current Biology, Roenneberg found that for approximately every hour of social jet lag a person experiences, their risk of being overweight or obese rises by about 33 percent.
And while he couldn’t make a distinct connection between a disrupted body clock and greater risk of obesity, there’s already a great deal of research linking weight problems to lack of sleep. Experts believe that poor sleep can cause the body to store more fat, leaving night shift workers, new mothers, and teens at greater risk for less shut eye and greater health risks.
While a safe explanation may be that the longer we’re awake, the more time we have to consume calories, Dr. Helene Emsellem of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders, believes that there may be something more profound at work.
With this and other evidence, experts have been able to confirm that sleep is vitally important to our body and mind function. And while the average adult is likely only getting between 5 and 6 hours of rest a night, they should be getting closer to 8 or 9.
May 15th, 2012