Social Jet Lag: Time Difference Adjustment

Ian C. Langtree Content Writer/Editor for Disabled World
Published: 2015/03/17 - Updated: 2020/10/01
Contents: Summary - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: Social jet lag occurs when your body is out of sync with work or study schedule and you feel sleepy, despite being awake. Our daily lives are controlled by two naturally occurring phenomena: our internal circadian clock and the rotation of the earth. The expression social jet lag has more widely become associated with an unrelated delayed sleep phase syndrome and cultural jet lag has therefore become the conventional term.


Getting your brain into gear for school or work is particularly hard when your post-holiday or daylight savings time clock is out of synch with the hours you sleep at this point. You may have traveled and now find your travels are over, yet you still experience, 'jet lag,' or maybe you are feeling drained without even having gone anywhere. You may be experiencing, 'social jet lag,' something that occurs when your body is out of synch with your work or study schedule and feel sleepy, despite being awake.

Main Digest

Social Jetlag

Social jet lag is defined as a syndrome related to the mismatch between the body's internal clock and the realities of our daily schedules. Humans show large differences in the preferred timing of their sleep and activity. This so-called "chronotype" is largely regulated by the circadian clock. Both genetic variations in clock genes and environmental influences contribute to the distribution of chronotypes in a given population, ranging from extreme early types to extreme late types with the majority falling between these extremes. Social (e.g., school and work) schedules interfere considerably with individual sleep preferences in the majority of the population.

Cultural Jet Lag

The expression social jet lag has more widely become associated with an unrelated delayed sleep phase syndrome and cultural jet lag has therefore become the conventional term. Cultural jet lag is sometimes just referred to by its initials: CJL.

Jet Lag

Medically referred to as desynchronosis and rarely as circadian dysrhythmia, is a physiological condition which results from alterations to the body's circadian rhythms resulting from rapid long-distance trans-meridian (east-west or west-east) travel on high-speed aircraft.

Delayed Sleep-phase Disorder (DSPD)

Also known as delayed sleep-phase syndrome (DSPS) or delayed sleep-phase type (DSPT), is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder affecting the timing of sleep, peak period of alertness, the core body temperature rhythm, hormonal and other daily rhythms, compared to the general population and relative to societal requirements.

The Human Body Clock

A person's body clock is regulated by structures in the brain and is influenced by light. Light hitting your eyes triggers changes associated with wakefulness. Yet for different reasons, a person's waking time is many times shifted later following holiday vacations, travels, or daylight savings time. People are forced to under-sleep in these circumstances. It may make the back to work or school effort feel even worse that it would otherwise.

If you have had a nice, somewhat cool and dark place to sleep while you have been on holiday, your social jet lag is more likely to be pronounced according to Victoria University sleep psychologist Professor Dorothy Bruck. The good news; however, is the cure is usually right outside of your bedroom - daylight. Everyone has a body rhythm that runs on approximately a twenty-four hour cycle, says Professor Bruck. Yet it actually runs a bit more than twenty-four hours. Our body rhythm is around twenty-four and a half or twenty-five hours for the majority of people.

What Does This Mean to You?

What this means to you is if you follow your body's natural rhythm, which is more likely when you are on holidays, you begin going to bed a little later each night and sleeping in a bit more each morning. Holiday socializing at night is yet another thing that finds you headed towards social jet lag. People do stay out later and they are less likely to feel sleepy at an earlier time because their body is running a little faster than twenty-four hours all the time. They know they do not have to get up for their early morning alarm clock.

The need to get up and moving in the morning usually keeps social jet lag in check. As soon as a person wakes up in the morning, they get the light in their eyes and that is a very strong cue to the person's body that it is daytime. It helps people to keep a bit closer to a twenty-four hour body rhythm. Yet if you have not had to get up and moving because you have had a wonderful holiday devoid of commitments, you might very well have ended up with a body clock that has shifted by a number of hours.

Some people who live a very passive and indoor lifestyle in darkened rooms as they are on holidays actually come very close to completely inverting their day-night cycle, something that takes a large effort to reverse. For the majority of people, the end of January simply means getting used to waking up a few hours earlier. It might take a person's body several days to adapt.

Efforts You can Make to End Social Jet Lag

Some different tips are listed below that may help you to re-program your body clock to be in synch with an earlier school or work day. These tips can help your body to remain in synch. These tips include the following:

If you find it hard to sleep well, or find being sleep deprived affects you particularly hard, it is worth attempting to maintain your week day schedule as much as you can on weekends according to the Sleep Health Foundation. Professor Bruck says, 'Sleep is as important as healthy food and exercise.'

Sleep physician Dr. Keith Wong says not receiving enough sleep impairs a person's reaction time, problem solving ability, immune and mood system and may - over a period of time, lead to long-term health issues such as diabetes and heart disease. Poor sleep has also been linked to weight gain and may impair a child's ability to learn while at school. Sleep Health Foundation President Dr. David Hillman stated, 'Research has shown that students who do not get enough sleep experience difficulties with understanding lessons and struggle to complete assignments, exams and tests.

The Australian Sleep Association says most adults require six-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half hours of sleep each night in order to function and feel as if they are able to manage life adequately. Nine hours of sleep is recommended for adolescents, while five-to-twelve year-olds need even more sleep.

Facts and Statistics

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Cite This Page (APA): Langtree, I. C. (2015, March 17 - Last revised: 2020, October 1). Social Jet Lag: Time Difference Adjustment. Disabled World. Retrieved June 21, 2024 from

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