Did you know that an erratic bedtime schedule could lead you to experiencing “jet lag” without ever leaving home? When I was in college, I was guilty of going to bed later and later each night as the week wore on. In the beginning of the week I was asleep by midnight, but by the end of the week, I was turning off the lights at 4 a.m.
Social jet lag
Needless to say, each morning was more brutally groggy than the previous one. Essentially, I had a West Coast sleep schedule with an East Coast class schedule. Turns out, sleep experts have a name for this: it’s called “social jet lag,” and many of us experience it without ever stepping on a plane.
Going to bed at different times each night can confuse your circadian rhythms. When these biologically and environmentally sensitive rhythms are disrupted, it can be difficult for your body to tell whether it ought to be winding down for sleep or gearing up for a wakeful day.
It’s all too easy to kid yourself about how consistent you are about bedtime. Sometimes we think that we go to bed at the same time every night, but the truth is our bedtime is pretty elastic. How many times many have you gone to bed only to spend more of the evening awake, answering emails, watching TV or reading a book you just couldn’t put down?
Consistency is the key
You can help your circadian rhythms function properly by going to bed and rising at roughly the same time every day. Shoot for no more than 30 minutes of variation between all of your bed times and rise times—that includes the weekends! Adhere to this schedule, and you’ll avoid social jet lag. Trust me, it’s not a trip worth taking.
Take the one-week challenge
When you look at your Sleep History, you may notice that you are not getting enough sleep. Your sleep duration may be below the recommended value. Don’t be discouraged. Instead, challenge yourself for one week to keep the same bedtime and lights-out time and see how refreshing and energising if feels to be rested and in sync with your body’s own individual drive for sleep.