Could you die from Social Jetlag?

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In 2012, Till Roenneberg, PhD, a professor at the Institute of Medical Psychology at the University of Munich coined the term “social jetlag” to describe the sleep debt that people face whose sleep schedules do not fit into the socially-typical norms. Social jetlag has also been described as “the discrepancy between work and free days, between social and biological time”.

For example, let’s say Kyle’s biological clock is wired to make him feel sleepy at midnight and wake up at 8am each morning. This would give him the 8 hours of sleep he needs to feel rested and happy. However, to get to work on time, he needs to set an alarm to wake him up at 6am.

Roenneberg would describe Kyle’s sleep pattern as having a ‘two hour social jetlag’. Kyle is losing 2 hours of sleep each work night and suffering from sleep deprivation. On free days he would revert to sleeping until 8am (or later) to catch up on the sleep debt that he has accrued over the work week.

Studies have shown that social jetlag has a detrimental impact on physical and psychological health as well as workplace productivity:

  • For every hour of social jet lag, the risk of being overweight or obese rises about 33%
  • For every hour of social jet lag, there is also an 11-percent increase in the likelihood of heart disease (atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease).
  • Social jetlag also increases your risk of developing metabolic diseases such as diabetes
  • There is also a strong correlation to worse mood and increased sleepiness and fatigue.
  • Those who experience social jetlag are more likely to use substances such as caffeine and nicotine to sustain an alert state outside of biological norms. This has its own negative health effects.

What is clear is that not getting enough sleep as well as getting poorly timed sleep causes life-threatening illnesses. Visit www.sealy.co.za to see how loving your bed could help you love your sleep more.

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