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Social Jet Lag: The Misalignment of Biological and Social Time

Social jet lag is the misalignment of one's biological and social time resulting of not getting enough sleep / Photo by Getty Images

 

In a perfect world, people would go to sleep at night and wake up after eight to hours of refreshing sleep. But with the modern era we are living in, this rarely happens. Most people spend their days differently. Some would end their day at work, some would go to the bar and have a drink, while some people prefer to stay at home and relax. Little did we know, inconsistent sleep cycles can be extremely detrimental to one's overall well-being. 

When people sleep less than they should, their body and mind find it difficult to function. It seems that life has drained out of you and you couldn't think well. Be mindful because you're probably having a social jet lag. 

 

What is Social Jet Lag? 

Most people have a habit of staying late at night at waking up late in the morning. This is not just happening within a certain group of people, this can happen to anyone across the globe. In fact, about 87% of people are experiencing this in industrialized countries such as the United Kingdom. Most of us would probably believe that this is particularly normal especially in this generation. However, it's not. 

An article by the Cosmopolitan defined social jet lag as a direct result of not getting enough sleep, and your body being totally confused about when you should be asleep. It's the misalignment of one's biological and social time. A chronobiologist at the Institute of Medical Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, Till Roenneberg was the one who coined the term social jet lag last 2006. She wanted to describe the impact that drastic changes in sleep patterns can have on the body. 

Although some people would plan to catch up on sleep, Roenneberg showed that changes in sleep patterns actually disturb body systems. 

The Health Hazards of Social Jet Lag

The disruption of sleeping schedule negatively affects one's health. A research conducted by Duke University Medical Center found out that people who have irregular sleeping hours are more likely to suffer from body mass index, blood pressure, higher blood sugar, stroke or heart attack. The researchers analyzed over 2,000 participants' sleep patterns between the ages of 54 and 93 to find out the effects of social jet lag in their health. 

Additionally, a study led by Sierra B. Forbush, an undergraduate research assistant in the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson revealed that social jet lag is an important circadian marker for health outcomes. It is also linked with worse mood, poorer health, and increased sleepiness and fatigue. In fact, there's an 11% increase in each house of social jet lag in the likelihood of heart disease. 

Forbush explained that aside from the sleep duration, sleep regularity plays an important role in a person's health. Maintaining a good sleep pattern can prevent many health problems. The lead author also suggests that one should have an effective and simple sleep schedule. In proving this claim, the researchers analyzed survey responses from the community-based Sleep and Healthy Activity, Diet, Environment, and Socialization (SHADES) study. It was participated by 984 adults between 22 to 60 years old. 

Moreover, the researchers utilized the Sleep Timing Questionnaire to assess the social jet lag of the participants, their health, sleep duration, insomnia, cardiovascular disease, fatigue, and sleepiness. In conclusion, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests that adults need seven or more hours of sleep on a regular basis to maintain good health. 

Monitoring Social Jet Lag through Twitter

Previous studies proved that there are negative consequences of social jet lag. Not only it disrupts sleep pattern, but it can cause major health hazards in the future. Fortunately, researchers Eugene Leypunskiy, Emre Kıcıman, Mili Shah, Olivia J. Walch, Andrey Rzhetsky, Aaron R. Dinner, and Michael J. Rust found a way to measure social jet lag in people across the globe. 

In their research entitled "Geographically Resolved Rhythms in Twitter Use Reveal Social Pressures on Daily Activity Patterns," the researchers simply collected Twitter data from 1,500 United States locations throughout 2012-2013. They monitored about 240,000 people in 15-minute intervals and observed how Twitter activity changes from season to season and location to location. 

The researchers, then, revealed that social jet lag is different seasonally and geographically. The findings were also connected with the average commuting schedules and how many people changes their jobs. According to the Science Daily, the study found out that disruption in sleeping patterns are primarily because of social pressures and shifting school schedules. Rust added: "This is consistent with some studies that suggest that the effect of the sun on our lives may be getting weaker over time, perhaps as we spend more time indoors looking at our phones."

This study also affirms other studies that show the link between social jet lag and obesity. The researchers are planning to develop tools to help people in learning about their body's internal circadian clock and improve their lives by looking at their own individual timing data.

 

Social jet lag is connected with commuting schedules, changing jobs, social pressures and shifting school schedules / Photo by Getty Images

 

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