‘Social jet lag’ linked to heart disease, worse mood, study finds

TUCSON, Ariz. — Shifting your sleep patterns on weekends may seem rather harmless, but it can actually result in some serious health consequences, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Arizona examined the detrimental effects of social jet lag, defined as both going to bed and waking up later on weekends, by looking at 984 adults between the ages of 22 and 60.

Person sleeping on couch
A new study finds that people who go to bed later and wake up later on weekends are more likely to suffer from an array of health problems.

Each participant had been asked to take the Sleep Timing Questionnaire, a common diagnostic by which researchers were able to quantify patterns.  Health issues were self-reported through a survey that measured levels of sleep duration, insomnia, fatigue, and sleepiness, along with risk for cardiovascular disease.

The researchers found that social jet lag was linked to poor health, worsened mood, and increased levels of fatigue and lethargy.

Furthermore, for every hour of sleep thrown off by social jet lag, one’s likelihood of suffering from heart disease increased by 11 percent.

“These results indicate that sleep regularity, beyond sleep duration alone, plays a significant role in our health,” says Sierra B. Forbush, the study’s lead author, in an American Academy of Sleep Medicine press release.

While the American Academy of Sleep Medicine firmly recommends that adults should sleep seven-plus hours a night, the issue of when one should sleep is not as empirically established.

The ICD-10 recognizes delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD)— diagnosed as an irregular circadian rhythm— as a real health issue, but social jet lag is a more recent entrant into the medical lexicon.

To avoid social jet lag, the researchers recommend getting regular, high-quality sleep, as opposed to trying to play catch up.

The study’s abstract was published in the journal Sleep, and its grander findings were presented on Monday, June 5 at SLEEP 2017 in Boston.