Scientists specializing in studying human sleeping habits may have found a link between sleep schedules and obesity, states a report from WebMD and other news outlets. Specifically, the scientists at the University of Munich’s Institute of Psychology have coined a term called “social jet lag” which refers to the incongruity between your sleep schedule during the week and the weekend. The scientists in Berlin, Germany claim that people who try to compensate for their lack of sleep during the work week by sleeping in late during the weekend might pose a health risk. This “social jet lag”—the difference in sleeping patterns throughout the week—might make the difference in a person’s chance of unhealthy weight gain.
How does it happen?
Social jet lag might best be described through an example. Say you work a typical eight hour workday, one that requires you to wake up around 6AM or so every morning during a typical week. Because you wake up at 6AM during most mornings, your circadian rhythms might align with a natural sleeping pattern designed around waking up at such an early time. Even though you might not like it, you’re more accustomed to waking up at that time than any other time. But when the weekend rolls around, you relish the opportunity to sleep in later, maybe until 8, 9, or 10AM. The discrepancy between those two general wakeup times—weekdays and weekend mornings—can take a toll on your body because it just wants a regular sleeping schedule. Switching around your wakeup times can put a great deal of stress on the body.
In other words, the sudden shift in your sleeping habits is equitable to sleeping in a different time zone: your body suddenly struggles to stick to its circadian rhythms, and this takes a toll on various systems in a body. Under the sleep-induced strain, your body can’t perform normal metabolic functions as well as when it’s properly rested. Thus, the stress induced by your body from oversleeping (or underseelping) could lead you to gain weight over a period of time.
Social jet lag is a common practice
Perhaps the biggest problem with social jet lag is that it’s a nearly ubiquitous phenomenon, at least in the US. How many times have you said or heard someone else say that they’re looking forward to the weekend to “catch up on some sleep?” Sleeping in late on the weekends is practically a cultural pastime for people in the US, particularly among people who work night shifts, keep long hours, or stay out late at night. If the social jet lag theory proves true, that could mean serious trouble for the health of millions of Americans, and just one more factor in the ongoing obesity epidemic plaguing the country.
What about you?
Do you think that you might be suffering from social jet lag? Would you be willing to sleep in less during the weekend if it meant maintaining a healthy weight? Let me know in the comments below!
About the author:
Amelia Wood contributed this guest post. She pursues freelance writing projects in the medical billing and coding online niche. She especially loves hearing back from her readers. Questions or comments can be sent to wood. amelia1612 @ gmail.com.