What a Messed-Up Body Clock Can Do To Your Health

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Ever find yourself falling asleep at your desk on Monday morning? Well, you’re not alone.

As your body gets used to a sleep schedule, long weekends filled with late nights and an even later wakeup call, or simply sleeping in on the weekends, can cause your body clock to get all out of whack.

According to the Wall Street Journal, this sense of exhaustion come Monday morning is known as social jet lag. It happens when weekday and weekend sleep schedules don’t match up, causing the body’s internal clock gets out of sync with the environment. The best way to avoid this includes forcing yourself to sleep, even if you find yourself wide awake during your normal weekday bedtime.

We know, you may tend to stay up later during the weekend after going out with friends, but if this is the case, try to avoid sleeping in very late.

Sure, staying up later during the weekends is normal, but when your late night affects the entire next day, and you find yourself sleeping until noon, you are causing a bigger problem and throwing off your entire body. According to Mary A. Carskadon, a sleep expert at Brown in an article for WSJ, the issue is connected to body rhythm, “When the rhythm is synced up appropriately, our bodies can anticipate what’s needed next and how to time it appropriately.”

Because this natural body clock is controlled by darkness and daylight, sleeping in until noon on the weekends can cause your body clock to be thrown off because you do not get the normal amount of daily light exposure.

The issue of light exposure becomes even greater with the increased use of technology, especially in bed, and during later periods throughout the night. Although you know you are looking at a computer or iPhone screen, your body does not and this causes confusion for your natural body clock which in turn can cause you to toss and turn at night.

In a study conducted by Canadian Scientists participants went camping and were only exposed to natural light and campfires, the participants body clocks and melatonin, a hormone associated with sleep, were in tune with the sunrise and sunset. Meaning that melatonin increased after the sun set.

Without technology, and other unnatural light sources, the participants were able to increase and reduce levels of melatonin naturally, which in turn reset their body clocks.

“What was striking is that after camping, our biological night, when melatonin levels rise, nearly synced perfectly with sunset,” Kenneth P. Wright, director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the University of Colorado Boulder told WSJ.

Participants in the study who did not reset their body clocks through camping were found to have higher melatonin levels until an hour or two after waking up. This is directly connected to why you may find yourself feeling like you are still sleeping while you are sitting in your 9 a.m. meeting on Monday morning.

Based on the fact that technology alters your daily body clock, the added change from the weekend where you stay up later or sleep in way past your normal workday time frame, creates even more confusion for your clock.

Altering the schedule on weekends adds to the confusion, and adolescents may have it worst of all. Their maturing biological clocks naturally push them to remain awake a little later at night, and artificial light adds to the pressure — but they still need about 9 hours of sleep, Dr. Carskadon told WSJ.

Ironically, the idea of catching up on sleep really does not apply and can actually cause more sleep deprivation in the long run. Adults should instead focus on getting a certain amount of sleep per night (7½ hours is ideal) then once the initial sleep schedule is sorted out, sticking to the schedule on both week nights and weekends can help your body clock and your overall ability to stay awake come Monday morning.

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