I suspect we don't have to explain 'social jetlag' to you — trying to fit too much into your schedule can lead to symptoms not unlike the body clock disorientation that causes jetlag. A recent study confirms that trying to cram too much into your calendar can not only ruin your sleep patterns, it can also make you fat.
Picture by Gideon
A study reported in Current Biology analyses 10 years of data about sleep behaviour collated from 65,000 people. The big conclusion, according to lead researcher Till Roenneberg of the University of Munich? We're tired, we're fat, we're over-caffeinated and we're frustrated:
We have identified a syndrome in modern society that has not been recognised until recently. It concerns an increasing discrepancy between the daily timing of the physiological clock and the social clock. As a result of this social jetlag, people are chronically sleep-deprived. They are also more likely to smoke and drink more alcohol and caffeine. Now, we show that social jetlag also contributes to obesity; the plot that social jetlag is really bad for our health is thickening.
Roenneberg offers two practical tips to help deal with an over-burdened calendar. Firstly, spend more time outdoors. If you don't get exposure to sunlight, your body clock can easily get confused. This can be a genuine challenge in northern and southern extremes, but in Australia it should be less of a challenge.
Secondly, try not to rely on an alarm clock. As he notes: "Waking up with an alarm clock is a relatively new facet of our lives. It simply means that we haven't slept enough and this is the reason why we are chronically tired." If you're trying to normalise your sleep routine, check out our guide to rebooting your sleep patterns.