January 13, 2015
Jetlags aren’t only for people traveling to and from places with different time zones. Believe it or not, you can also experience it on your bed mattress on a smaller yet more disturbing scale. According to chronobiology professor Till Roenneberg, social jetlag is a circadian rhythm disorder experienced by anyone who suddenly shifts sleeping schedules. In other words, your natural body clock and social clock have become misaligned.
It doesn’t seem like a big problem, but make a habit of disrupting your body’s natural internal clock and you’ll have to pay for the consequences! Luckily, you can do something to prevent it from worsening. Here are some of them:
Set your snooze time when you’re most naturally inclined to sleep. That way, your body’s circadian rhythm and your sleeping schedule would be as aligned as possible. Train yourself to go to bed at a specified time everyday (that includes weekends). In case you’re having trouble with that, a few snacks, drinks, and bedtime stories can help you on your way to Dreamland. You also need to wake up at a specified time. If you have another way of doing that besides using your trusty alarm clock, then by all means do it!
Touch no alcoholic beverages before bedtime – the stuff won’t help you get a good sleep as some would have you believe. It can help you get you some Zzz’s for one short, rough night, but you’re going to suffer from sleeplessness after that. It will also leave you feeling weak and exhausted in your waking hours, which in turn would worsen your social jetlag. So if you want a healthy sleep life, avoid booze at all costs!
Exposure to natural and artificial light tends to hinder your sleepiness. Studies show that melatonin production in humans gets disrupted whenever they sleep with the lights on. Melatonin is the hormone your body produces naturally to induce sleep. So as much as possible, do your snooze times in a pitch black room. Install blackout shades in and around your bedroom, and have your sleep mask ready to cover your eyes as you doze off.
After waking up, it is best that you get exposed to an ample amount of sunlight, since light helps synchronize your body’s circadian rhythm. Moreover, sunlight is a good source of Vitamin D, which brings a lot of health benefits such as better bone health, decreased risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and an enhanced immunity system. Ideally, outdoor exposure to sunlight for 30 minutes is enough, preferably during noontime.
If left unattended, social jetlags could lead to serious health complications like fatigue, obesity and depression. So try to remedy it as soon as you notice a sleep misalignment in your schedule. Take note though that these tips are simply pointers for informational purposes only; for professional medical advice, better consult your doctor.