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What is Social Jet Lag & Does It Affect You?

August 20, 2019

Have you heard about social jet lag? Here’s the gist

So, you’ve probably heard about straight-up, everyday jet lag (and maybe even experienced it a few times), but have you heard about social jet lag? It is a new term used by global sleep experts like Professor Achim Kramer, a German chronobiologist with a focus on medical immunology. His laboratory is engaged in understanding the molecular basis of the circadian clockwork in mammals and the impact thereof on physiological and behavioural processes. 

Quite a mouthful, right? In short - Professor Kramer is studying the human body clock and the impact it has on how humans behave themselves. According to the professor, a lot of emphasis is being placed on when we go to sleep and whether we remain asleep, while our waking times are not really the focus of discussion when it comes to a lack of adequate rest. This, according to him and his extensive research team, is a mistake - here’s why. 

Social Jet Lag: A Definition

Social jet lag occurs when a person is forced by conventions like the starting times of their school or job to get up at a time when they're body clock calls for sleep. While some people are naturally early risers, others are wired to sleep later and may still be in a very deep sleep when their alarms go off, causing a lack of adequate rest and impaired productivity (similar to what is experienced by travellers who have to adapt to new time zones on a trip). 

"The fact is, more and more people are missing their optimum windows for sleeping and waking and end up lacking concentration and being unproductive during the day due to inadequate sleep," explains Professor Kramer. But what can you do if you suffer from social jet lag? Surely your boss will not take social jet lag as an excuse for pulling in late every morning? 

Here are a few tips from the Kramer camp: 

  • Get as much natural daylight as possible. It keeps your body clock on an even keel. 

  • Experiment with waking times. Our sleep cycles work in 90-minute segments and it’s better to wake towards the end of a sleep cycle. Set your alarm for a few minutes earlier each day to see if you wake up less groggy. You can also use a sleep cycle app to measure your natural pockets of lighter sleep and time your alarm accordingly. 

  • Wind down and go to bed when you’re tired. Give yourself between 30 and 60 minutes to wind down in the lead-up to bedtime, and be ready to hit the hay when you start to get tired. If you ‘power through’ a bout of sleepiness, you will only be ready to fall asleep again easily a full 90 minutes later. 

  • Don’t eat after 7 pm. If you eat after that, your liver and other detoxifying organs will be forced to reactivate itself to deal with the food you’ve eaten, putting undue stress on the body. 

There you have it - a concise explanation regarding the social jet lag phenomenon and how it impacts on our ability to get adequate rest in the 21st century. If you’re in the process of rethinking your sleeping hygiene, you may also want to consider your mattress. Why not visit a Bed King branch in person to take advantage of our revolutionary Comfort Solutions Lab®? Lie down in a spacious booth and have your unique pressure points mapped by a sensor that determines your ideal level of sleeping surface support, which is used to provide tailor-made mattress recommendations. It’s as simple as that!

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