"We have identified a syndrome in modern society that has notbeen recognized until recently," said Till Roenneberg of theUniversity of Munich. "It concerns an increasing discrepancybetween the daily timing of the physiological clock and the socialclock. As a result of this social jetlag, people are chronicallysleep-deprived. They are also more likely to smoke and drink morealcohol and caffeine. Now, we show that social jetlag alsocontributes to obesity; the plot that social jetlag is really badfor our health is thickening." Each of us has a biological clock, he explained. |
We can't set thoseclocks according to our whims like watches. They are ratherentrained by daylight and night-darkness to provide the optimalwindow for sleep and waking. In modern society, we listen to thoseclocks "less and less due to the increasing discrepancybetween what the body clock tells us and what the boss tellsus." To find out how big this problem really is, Roenneberg's team iscompiling a vast database on human sleeping and waking behavior,which they'll eventually use to produce a world sleep map. Now 10years into the effort, they already have lots of information,including participants' height, weight, and sleep patterns. Their analysis shows that people with more severe social jetlag arealso more likely to be overweight.
In other words, it appears thatliving "against the clock" may be a factor contributingto the epidemic of obesity, the researchers say. The findings should weigh in on decisions about Daylight SavingTime, not to mention work and school times, they add. It would alsohelp if people began spending more time outdoors in open daylightor at least sitting by a window. As people fail to do this for onereason or another, their body clocks get set later and later,leaving them awake into the night and tired by day. "Waking up with an alarm clock is a relatively new facet ofour lives," Roenneberg says.
"It simply means that wehaven't slept enough and this is the reason why we are chronicallytired. Good sleep and enough sleep is not a waste of time but aguarantee for better work performance and more fun with friends andfamily during off-work times." And slimmer waistlines, too.
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