If you're like many people, you have a set bedtime and wakeup time from Monday through Friday. On weekends, however, anything goes. The problem is this: If you go to bed and get up at different times on different days, you may suffer the side effects of a phenomenon known as social jet lag.

Social jet lag has nothing to do with flying, but it does have to do with the havoc we play with our internal body clocks on a regular basis. Although the idea of rising at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday may be less than appealing, as may the notion of climbing into bed at 10:30 p.m. when there's still so much fun to be had, experts tell us that sticking to a regimented sleep schedule is best for your health. What happens when your schedule is all over the place from day to day? Your body clock gets out of whack. And with that comes some possible health issues.

If you have social jet lag, you may experience chronic fatigue. When you live by one schedule on certain days and by a different schedule on others, your body is always trying to compensate for the shift. This disconnect between what your body gets and what it needs can cause you to feel tired pretty much all the time, which may negatively impact your work and social life.

Weight gain may be another unwanted byproduct of social jet lag. Research out of Germany has proven an association between the lack of adequate sleep and obesity. When our sleep schedules are out of sync with our natural biological rhythms, our hunger hormones may rev-up and cause us to eat more. And being overweight is associated with a host of health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

So how can you stave off social jet lag? Although it sounds painful, try to get up and go to bed at the same time every single day. Of course, this may not always be possible. You might find yourself at a late-night wedding or catching an early-morning flight. The good news is you don't have to achieve perfection in order to see results.

According to the scientists, the more hours our lifestyle is out of sync with our natural biological rhythms, the greater the potential for weight gain and other health problems. So if you can dial back your schedule somewhat—say, going to bed 30 or 45 minutes later on weekends instead of two hours later—you may be able to improve if not completely eradicate your social jet lag symptoms.




Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen. "Obesity and the Biological Clock." Web. 10 May 2012. http://www.en.uni-muenchen.de/news/newsarchiv/2012/2012_roenneberg.html