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Everyday Jet Lag: What’s Your Chronotype?
Dr. Kelly Brown an Assistant Professor in the Vanderbilt Neurology and Sleep Medicine Department explains what everyday or social jet lag is. Do you change your sleeping habits during weekend? Listen to how this can send your body into several different time zones.
Teera Wilkins: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt University Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Teera Wilkins with Occupational Health Clinic. Hi, today, I am interviewing Dr. Kelly Brown, an assistant professor in the Vanderbilt Neurology and Sleep Medicine Department. Dr. Brown, what causes every day or social jet lag?
Dr. Kelly Brown: Social jet lag is a term that has been coined to describe the habits of most of people of staying up late over the weekend and then sleeping in late on weekend and is called social jet lag because it is similar to traveling several time zones each weekend. So, shifting your time of waking and time of sleep by several hours is like traveling over several time zones every weekend.
Teera Wilkins: Is it true that all of us have a chronotype; and if we do, what are the different chronotypes possible?
Dr. Kelly Brown: A chronotype refers to a person’s preference to be a morning person or evening person and most people do have a general preference to be a little bit more of a morning person or an evening person; but in some people, this can be very extreme and they can stay up very late at night and sleep in very late or the opposite.
Teera Wilkins: Can the brain be affected by the social jet lag at all?
Dr. Kelly Brown: Yes, the biggest problem with altering your schedule drastically on the weekend is that when you have to get up Monday morning for work particularly if you slept in pretty late over the weekend, it can be very hard to wake up. You can have difficulty with attention and vigilance. You can have more errors on the work site, and it also affects your body. There have been various studies that had been published about social jet lag, and it has been noted that obesity is very prevalent in people who tend to sleep in later over the weekend, and it turns out that the later you sleep in, the more obese you would likely be. Also, people that altered their schedule by more than an hour or two on the weekend are more likely to smoke cigarette, drink alcohol, and use excessive caffeine, and they are also more likely to be depressed.
Teera Wilkins: How can someone prevent or correct this condition?
Dr. Kelly Brown: The researchers that have looked at this have said that the idea would be that you would find a job that meets your chronotype. So, if you happen to be a night owl, you would fine a job that would allow you to come in the later morning or the mid day. So, some people that are night owls do try to find second or third shift jobs or work later in the afternoon or in the night, but that is not really a possibility for most people. Most people have to work a usual 9-to-5 job. So, in that case, it is probably a good idea to not shift your hours on the weekend by more than one hour, to try to keep pretty close to usual weekday schedule. Other things you can do is prevent using bright light in the evening or sitting and looking at the computer screen late into the evening because that can shut off your internal melatonin, and it can make it very difficult for you to fall asleep. If you do use a computer screen at night, some people actually use blue light blocking sunglasses when they use their computer at home at night.
Teera Wilkins: That is pretty interesting. I never heard that before.
Dr. Kelly Brown: Other ways to prevent social jet lag would include trying to sit in dim light in the evening, which can help you fall asleep. You would avoid alcohol in the evening and caffeine afternoon as alcohol and late-day caffeine can interrupt your sleep. You also may have a calm-evening bedtime routine such as taking a bath or reading quietly. Quiet exercise like reading is preferable to TV which can also alert you. You might want to keep your bedroom cool and dark. If you are a night owl, you should try to get some bright sunshine early in the morning because early morning sunshine can actually reset your internal clock and help you fall asleep at night. If you are morning person and you are having trouble staying awake in the evening, getting late-day bright light such as taking a walk in the evening can actually help you stay up longer and help reset your clock in the other direction. Another thing you can do is try to eat regular meals and eating good breakfast, because eating regular meals also helps adjust your circadian clock. Another thing we often use for the patients who are having trouble falling asleep if they do have a difficult time falling asleep in the evening is melatonin. We use melatonin sometimes 30 minutes before bed; but in someone with an extreme case of being an night owl, we might give melatonin three to four hours before bedtime and another dose right before bedtime. If you are having difficulty falling asleep, staying sleep, or feeling sleepy during the day, it would be a good thing to discuss this with your primary care doctor and even to consider a visit to a sleep specialist as we can often help to improve your sleep and feel more energized during the day.
Teera Wilkins: Thank you so much for giving us this information.
Teera Wilkins: Thanks for listening. Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast on the form at the bottom of this page. If you have any story suggestions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can use the “Contact Us” page on our website at healthandwellness.vanderbilt.edu.
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