Once again, while listening to National Public Radio, I heard a new category of "jet lag" that is not related to travel. It’s called "social jet lag." Till Roenneberg of The University of Munich seems to have hit upon something quite relevant to nearly all generations--as we all know, there is an incredible amount of research in the identification of risk factors that lead to obesity and ultimately the possibility of the development of diabetes- notably type 2. As such, unless a "magic bullet" is discovered to cure these diseases, we will need to learn to mitigate these risk factors. We now have been informed that "social jet lag" is the latest in a number of culprits.
What is "social jet lag?"
The current lifestyle of most people is very hectic - often with 2 very different schedules on weekdays versus weekdays (and for some the weekend begins on Thursday nights). Generally, if someone attends school or works during the week there is some structure and most have to retire early enough to be able to tackle the next day's activities. However, this structure is lost once the weekend activities begin. Instead of going to bed at 10 or 11 pm as one might do during the work and school week, social activities appear to begin around this time, and revellers will retire at varied times during the early morning hours and often wake up at 12 noon or later. This activity simulates the "jet lag" we experience when we arrive in a different time zone after flying for five or more hours! Hence, the new term "social jet lag."
What changes occur to our bodies when we sustain jet lag, including social jet lag?
1. Alteration of our biological time clocks
2. The desire to sleep, eat, and play at odds with current time zone
3. The secretion of stress hormones- cortisol, adrenalin, etc.
4. The desire to consume comfort food and alcohol
5. Less restraint in the consumption of food and alcohol
6. Disruption of sleep patterns that lead to less sleep
7. All of 1-6 may lead to weight gain, possible obesity and potential type 2 diabetes
Many of us in the health field (and those individuals that must work various shifts during the week) have experienced another form of jet lag called "professionally-induced jet lag." Young (and experienced) health care providers who perform shift work are required to be up all night, often experience the aftermath of this form of jet lag. After being "on call" every third night as a pediatric resident at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, the first move made when our shifts were over was to walk to the "Gold Medal" diner. This restaurant was the typical greasy spoon" and many carbs were consumed on those mornings. Most of us gained weight during our residencies and ate when we could - largely comfort food. In addition, because we never knew when the next eating opportunity would occur, we would tend to eat very quickly; yet another risk factor in the development of obesity. Fortunately, recent information shows that moderate coffee consumption has been demonstrated to have a positive effect!