If you’ve ever traveled between time zones, you’re familiar with the groggy, thickheaded feeling of jet lag. What you might not realize, however, is that you’re likely putting your body through jet lag on a far more regular basis – without even leaving your house. Social jet lag is a term scientists use to describe the conflict between your body’s specific circadian rhythm and your actual sleeping schedule. For example, say you typically go to bed around 11PM and get up at 7AM during the week, but when the weekend comes, you opt to binge that extra episode of Orange is the New Black, going to bed at midnight and sleeping in until 8AM. That change equals one hour of social jet lag. A team of researchers out of the University of Arizona decided to take a look at what this type of sleeping pattern does to the body. It turns out that that consistently deviating from your body’s preferred sleep schedule has some rather negative effects, including a higher risk of heart disease, as well worsened mood and increased fatigue.
Lead author Sierra Forbush, a research assistant at the Sleep and Health Research Program at the U of A, and her colleagues analyzed the data from nearly 1,000 adults in Pennsylvania, comparing midpoints between when the subjects went to bed and woke up, both during the week and on the weekends. What they found is that for every hour of social jet lag recorded, participants had an 11 percent increase in the potential for cardiovascular disease. People were also 28 percent more likely to rate their overall health as poor or fair as opposed to excellent.
Forbush’s study isn’t the first research exploring the link between social jet lag and poor health. Professor Tami Martino from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada posits that lack of consistent sleeping times can throw off the body’s circadian rhythm, putting you more at risk for heart attacks and increasing the possibility of worsening underlying cardiovascular disease. And a 2012 study from Till Roenneberg, a professor at the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology, showed the link between social jet lag and increased risk for obesity.
Forbush concludes that her findings further stress the far-reaching effects sleep has on our health. “Physicians often tell people to think about their diet and exercise, but I think this offers an additional preventative strategy,” she told Newsweek. “It’s not just about getting enough sleep, but getting regular sleep. Ideally, you want to be going to bed and waking up at the same time every day of the week.”
So, in the end, next time you’re tempted to watch “just” one more episode, you’re better off packing it in and calling it a night, hitting the hay at your usual bedtime. Your heart – and the rest of your body – will thank you for it.
This article originally appeared in Sleep Retailer eNews on September 28, 2017
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