Social ‘Jet lag’: the weekend confuses us

If we talk about jet lag, almost all of us understand it to mean the discomfort we experience when, traveling long distances, we cross multiple time zones and are faced with a different local time (and sunlight) upon arrival. Our physiological variables need time to readjust to the new local time, and this produces symptoms such as fatigue, stomach problems, difficulty concentrating… One of the most affected processes is sleep, which insists on following the pattern it had before the flight.

What is perhaps not so well known is that there are other types of jet lagAs the jet lag Social. What does it consist of? Let’s put ourselves in situation.

If they ask us if we have occasionally stayed until “1000” to finish watching a program on television (pay attention to the schedules of the prime time!), or a series on a platform, surely we would all answer in the affirmative. We have an excuse: endless work days, which do not help reconcile our family life and leisure. And of course, since the day does not have enough hours for everything we want to do, the only solution is to postpone it to the night.

In the end, we end up normalizing going to the gym at odd hours, or spending a little time chatting or having a drink with friends at the end of the day.

Dream debts (unpayable)

The problem is that this “end of the day” comes later and later. And yet, the alarm clock insists on ringing in the morning at the same time as always, to force us to fulfill our work or study obligations.

Thus, from Monday, fatigue accumulates, and so does our sleep debt. The hours that we are stealing at night are inevitably taking away from our nightly rest.

When (luckily!) the weekend arrives, we take the opportunity to compensate by sleeping what the body asks of us. With no schedules to restrict us, we tend to get up later and try to catch up on sleep stolen during the week. Well, when the center of sleep on work days differs by more than two hours from the center of sleep on days off, we speak of jet lag Social.

At this point, raise your hand if you keep the same schedule throughout the week… Although it would be the right thing to do to guarantee the health of our circadian system, we would surely see few hands raised. In fact, it is estimated that this disorder is suffered by at least 50% of students. If, instead of two hours, we consider only one hour difference between work days and days off, the proportion of affected would rise to 70%. It is as if every weekend they change the time for 7 out of 10 people.

If we think that this alteration hardly affects us, we are deceiving ourselves. Among other things, irregular sleep patterns are associated with poorer academic performance. In addition, the jet lag social has also been linked to an increased risk of metabolic disorders, including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Shutterstock / tommaso79

damn alarm clock

It has a solution? The covid-19 pandemic, and the increase in teleworking that it brought with it, made it possible to verify that customizing work schedules would allow us to sleep more during the week. During confinement, going to bed and getting up later on weekdays significantly reduced the jet lag Social. Especially for people with a more evening chronotype, who seem more predisposed to experience it.

Unfortunately, it is not usual that we can choose our work schedules or other obligations that force us to use the alarm clock. In fact, using an alarm clock is considered one of the main reasons for jet lag Social.

On the other hand, it seems that this problem could affect men and women differently. Although the truth is that there are not enough studies in this regard and, in addition, it is difficult to separate it from the chronotype itself, since women tend to be more morning.

If we were aware of the importance of maintaining our internal temporal order to maintain good health, the demand for more conciliatory working hours, not only with our family life, but also with our biological time, would be heard.

In the meantime let’s blame the alarm clock.

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