During the week, I'm pretty good about going to bed early enough for a solid eight hours of sleep. But as the weekend approaches, opportunities to go to dinner parties, catch the midnight release of a new movie, or simply hit the town with friends are just too tempting to pass up, so more often than not, I go to sleep well after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. I'll be the first to admit that my bedtime takes a backseat on the weekends, but according to experts, "social jet lag" can actually wreck your sleep schedule if you're not careful.
The first time I heard the term "social jet lag," I assumed it described the introvert burnout that I experience when I spend too much time socializing in a given day. The phrase does have something to do with mingling and getting tired, explains Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., a sleep, nutrition, and diet expert and author of the book The Magnesium Miracle. "Social jet lag is when a person follows a different sleep schedule during the weekends and then ends up tired and dragged for work on Monday," she tells Elite Daily over email.
Guys, the symptoms of social jet lag are no joke. Similar to travel jet lag, a drastic change to your weekend sleep schedule can cause things like drowsiness, sleepiness, irritability, lethargy, and even some disorientation. The one crucial difference between the travel and social varieties, though, is the sun. "Social jet lag is similar to travel jet lag, except the key difference is light," explains Dr. Khalid Saeed, D.O., a board-certified doctor of emergency medicine and internal medicine at Tampa Bay Concierge Doctor.
"When you travel, the sun is coming up and setting at a different time, and your body can reset its own clock to match," Dr. Saeed tells Elite Daily over email. "With social jet lag, the schedule disruption is chronic because you stay in the same place." This might not seem like a big deal, but it's almost like you're constantly traveling, he explains — or, at least, that's what your body is feeling beneath the surface. "You are consistently living your life in a different time zone in comparison to your biological clock," says Dr. Saeed.
But hey, life happens, right? You shouldn't have to have a strict bedtime on the weekends — that's just not what weekends are for. So if you spend a Friday or Saturday night hanging out late with your friends and don't get to sleep until way past your regular bedtime, the key to getting things back on track is spending some time outdoors, says Dr. Dean. "To reset the sleep-wake pattern," she explains, "stand facing the sun (make sure your eyes are protected and you are sunburn-protected) for 10 to 15 minutes so that you get a healthy dose of sunlight." This simply resets your nighttime melatonin and makes sure it’s not activated to make you sleepy during the day."
If you're stilling having trouble falling asleep at a normal hour come Monday night, Dr. Dean recommends sipping a soothing drink before bed. Drinking magnesium citrate powder mixed with either hot or cold water, she explains, is a natural way to help your body relax and fall asleep when you're having a hard time adjusting back to an earlier, post-weekend bedtime. And for a throughout-the-day sleep reset, Dr. Dean suggests putting a teaspoon of the magnesium powder (she recommends Natural Calm) into your water bottle and sipping on it periodically.
While getting back to a healthy sleep schedule during the week is important in its own right, the negative effects of social jet lag can potentially have long-term results, too, if you don't take steps to break the cycle. "It is probably not a huge deal if you have a short period (no longer than a few months) where you experience social jet lag," Dr. Dawn Dore-Stites, Reverie sleep advisory board member and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Sleep Disorder Center at Michigan Medicine, tells Elite Daily in an email. But a persistent social jet lag issue, she explains, could mask more dangerous sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea or sleep deprivation.
Although some people have an easier time bouncing back from a weekend of sleep variations, every body is different, and some people are just more sensitive to disruptions to their sleep schedule than others. "If you know that you can be thrown off significantly by a change in your sleep schedule, you want to preserve your sleep schedule more than those who are not as affected," says Dr. Dore-Stites. While you can always work with your doctor to figure out how much sleep works best for your body, she explains that the standard recommendation for adults is between seven and nine hours per night.
If you can get a few friends onboard, maybe try to make some weekends an early night by just grabbing dinner together and then going your separate ways to keep to your bedtime routine. Plus, if you go to sleep early on Friday, chances are you'll be up early enough on Saturday to snag all the best produce at the farmer's market or beat the mid-morning brunch crowd.