Health

Find out if "social jet lag" is making you pack on the pounds

Those of you who wake up to an alarm each morning don't need me to tell you there's often a discord between when you want to get up and when you have to get up.

Woman sleeping at desk

Masterfile

Those of you who wake up to an alarm each morning don’t need me to tell you there’s often a discord between when you want to get up and when you have to get up. A recent European study shows that forcing yourself out of bed doesn’t just cause irritation; it can also cause weight gain.

Social jet lag, as explored at the CBC, is identified as a thoroughly modern affliction. People are staying out late, getting up early and building a considerable sleep debt, then sleeping in on weekends. Researchers say that people who can’t follow their natural sleep inclinations are more likely to smoke, be depressed, drink and eat more, and gain weight. (Though some of those causal connections are unclear.)

As with education styles, relationship preferences, and work habits, our sleep schedules are highly individualistic. Maybe Martha Stewart only needs four hours of sleep before she returns to innovating decorative doilies, but I need at least seven hours if I want to remember where I keep my shower. So it stands to reason that the prevailing, one-size-fits-all workweek (coupled with the business of birthday parties, yoga classes and French clubs) might not work for many.

I can’t help but wonder if part of social jet lag, and the pressure to be social, is connected to the another social trend. Eric Klinenberg, author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, says that more and more people are choosing to live alone. When you live with roommates, or even more so when you live with a partner, there’s no requirement to leave the house for social interaction. You can just heat up some scalloped potatoes, watch an episode of 30 Rock and hit the sack. When you’re single and living solo, you have to make more of an effort to be with people. This can translate into later evenings, which are fun, but can be very disruptive to sleep habits.

So what’s the answer? More sleep and less socializing or more socializing, more sleep and less work?