Social Jet Lag


Mondays are the worst. Seriously. It doesn’t seem to matter what time I go to sleep the night before; waking up in the morning is extremely difficult. Then on top of being tired, I find myself anxious and moody for the entirety of the day. Yes, worse than usual.

Since starting at Gold’s, I’ve noticed this problem getting worse. I chalked it up to simply not being used to waking up pre-6am, but after a full blown anxiety attack this morning, I knew something was up. Especially since the anxiety started last night after what was  otherwise an amazing and relaxing weekend with the boy and friends.

Then I heard a study mentioned on the radio that said something about “social jet lag” being associated with difficult Monday mornings, so I had to investigate.

PR Newswire published the story a few days ago, and Huffington Post had a piece published yesterday.

So what’s so special about Sundays? We may have trouble catching our 40 winks thanks to a phenomenon that’s been dubbed “social jet lag,” sleep specialist Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., who consulted on the survey, tells The Huffington Post. Staying up later on Friday and Saturday nights — and consequently sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday mornings — essentially shifts the entire biological clock, he says, as if you had traveled across time zones. “When Sunday night comes around, your body is used to staying up later and sleeping later,” he says, and suddenly you’re frustratedly counting sheep.

The other factor is likely stress, says Breus. Of those who are employed full-time, 48 percent identified Sunday as the most difficult night to fall asleep, and 43 percent of homemakers felt similarly, reflecting the effects of stress about the week ahead

Well that sounds familiar. My poor boyfriend had to deal with a mini-mental breakdown last night on the way home from his sister’s because I was freaking out over my looming work schedule.

I don’t necessarily sleep in too late on the weekends thanks to coaching the two running groups, but I am usually up later, and tend to take naps. During the week, particularly since starting at Gold’s, I’m pulling 12-14 hour days on 6 hours of sleep. And I’m not just working. I’m trying to workout and lose weight too.

Despite my efforts, it seems like no matter what I do, my waistline won’t budge. Some further poking around shows that social jet lag may also be to blame.

The story was actually published in the UK and reported by NPR over a year ago.

“As sleep researchers, we do believe that there’s an intimate relationship between insufficient sleep and the drive to store fat,” Dr. Helene Emsellem of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, Md., told us.

The connection between poor sleep and higher body weights has been documented in shift workers such as nurses, in mothers of infants, and even in toddlers and teens. In some cases, people do eat more when their schedules are wacky. But Emsellem says it’s also possible that something more primitive is at play here.

“Unfortunately, we have caveman’s hard-core wiring,” Emsellem says, “and insufficient sleep in primitive times was read by the body: Danger, store fat,” she says.

Not super shocking. The correlation between lack of sleep and weight gain isn’t a new revelation, but I guess I was trying to be optimistic in thinking my 6 hours was sufficient. If I take a step back though, I realize that I do find myself wanting more to eat during the week, depriving myself, then binging on the weekends.

How do I plan to combat this?

  1. Go to bed earlier during the week. Easier said than done, but it’s definitely the only thing that will really make waking up at 5:15am okay.
  2. Drink less coffee. I’m definitely battling my internal clock with how much caffeine I consume, even on the weekends. I try to shut up my body’s cry for sleep and push through, which weakens everything internally, including not only your metabolism, but your immune system as well.
  3. Eat less junk. Okay, I don’t eat a ton of junk, but when I’m really tired, I tend to ignore how I feel when I eat too much gluten and dairy, or drink too much alcohol and go buck wild… only to feel terrible later. Makes sense since I’m already weakening my immune system…
  4. Don’t be so hard on myself. If I sleep for 5 hours, can’t keep my eyes open and find standing up difficult, I probably shouldn’t push myself like a crazy person in the weight room on the same day I have to coach runners. Just not a smart idea. Also, looking in the mirror and constantly belittling my appearance isn’t healthy.


The boy reminded me on the way home last night that there’s no reason to be unhappy, and it’s true. Things are good. My brain just likes to distort reality sometimes.

So here’s to a better, more self-aware week. Hope you can cure your Mondays.


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