What is 'social jet lag'?

What is 'social jet lag'?

In our fast-paced, interconnected world, the term 'social jet lag' has emerged to describe the misalignment of biological and social time, shedding light on the consequences of imposing external schedules on our internal body clocks. Here, we explore the concept of social jet lag, its symptoms, its impact on gut health and associated health risks while also providing insights into how it influences our sleep cycle and quality.

Understanding social jet lag

Social jet lag is the misalignment between an individual's biological circadian rhythm and their imposed social schedule. This misalignment often occurs when people alter their sleep patterns on weekends or during social events, akin to the jet lag experienced after long flights across different time zones.
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Impact on eating habits

Socialising can significantly impact eating habits, disrupting regular mealtimes and influencing food choices. The irregular schedules associated with social jet lag can lead to inconsistent eating patterns, potentially affecting digestive processes and contributing to gut health issues.

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Symptoms of social jet lag

Common symptoms of social jet lag include insomnia, difficulty concentrating, daytime fatigue and disruptions in bowel habits. These symptoms are indicative of the strain placed on the body's internal clock, reflecting the misalignment between biological and social time.

Impact on gut health and other health risks

Social jet lag can adversely affect gut health, as irregular eating patterns may disrupt the balance of the gut microbiota. This imbalance can contribute to digestive issues, constipation or diarrhoea. Additionally, social jet lag has been linked to a range of health risks, including increased susceptibility to chronic conditions, metabolic disorders and compromised immune function.

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Influence on sleep cycle and quality

The imposed social schedules associated with social jet lag can disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to changes in both the duration and quality of sleep. This disturbance can result in insomnia, early waking, excessive sleepiness and an overall feeling of unwellness. Discover 'How your diet can help your sleep'. You may also be interested in reading 'A guide to holiday sleep'.

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Calculating social jet lag

To calculate social jet lag, one can compare the midpoint of sleep on workdays to the midpoint on free days. The larger the difference, the greater the social jet lag. For example, if an individual typically goes to bed at 11 p.m. on workdays and at 1 a.m. on free days, the social jet lag would be 2 hours.

Tips to prevent social jet lag

  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Strive to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Gradual adjustments: If you need to shift your schedule, make gradual adjustments of 15–30 minutes each day to minimise the impact on your body clock.
  • Limit stimulants before bed: Reduce the intake of caffeine and electronic devices before bedtime to promote better sleep quality. You may be interested in trying our 'Relaxing cherry & lavender mocktail'.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine: Establish calming pre-sleep rituals to signal to your body that it's time to wind down.

Social jet lag highlights the intricate relationship between our internal biological clocks and external social demands. Recognising its impact on eating habits, gut health and overall wellbeing empowers individuals to make informed choices. By adopting strategies to prevent and manage social jet lag, we can foster healthier sleep patterns and contribute to a more balanced and vibrant lifestyle.

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