You may have heard that lack of sleep can contribute to unhealthy weight gain.
More studies are now linking our habit of sleeping against our chronological clocks as being another major factor – and possibly being just as critical as sleeping too little.
This sleeping against our bodies’ natural rhythm is referred to as “Social Jetlag,” otherwise known as a misaligned circadian system. Here’s how this happens: most of us have work schedules that generally require us to wake earlier than our circadian cycles dictate. Problem is, over time this results in less sleep and a built-up sleep debt. Plus, our sleep is less efficient and we do not reap the same benefits from sleep. We then oversleep on weekends and then have more difficulty falling asleep on Sunday nights, perpetuating the circadian misalignment.
Circadian rhythms are known to control both sleep timing and energy balance in the body, and disruptions in circadian rhythms have been linked with metabolic dysfunction and obesity-associated disease. A new cohort study of 815 non-shift workers adds to this body of literature, as it found that individuals displaying even relatively mild social jetlag had higher rates of obesity and risk of metabolic disease.
The reasons for this are unknown, but a possibility is that social jetlag disrupts healthy habits such as diet and exercise in a way that may compromise health.
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