Do you still have time for social jet lag?
Whether we check the time on the dial of a classic
wristwatch or the latest model of the
Apple Watch – it is identical.
Nevertheless, we perceive the same unit of time in each
the moment different. Is there time for social jet lag?
Time races, or seems to stand still
We experience hours, days or years like the blink of an eye or as endlessly long, depending on our state of mind, life situation and activity. Hardly anyone can remember what they did in the past months in times of lockdowns.
We notice how strongly the perception of time is linked to the places we stay and the activities we undertake.
If memories become blurred in a sea of screen views, then it is more difficult for us to concretize memories in retrospect from the sea of billions of pixels.
Necessary for survival
Astronomers were the first to be interested in the exact measurement of time. This was followed by the seafarers of earlier centuries, the explorers on land, in the sea and the first pioneers of flight. For them, exact time measurement in combination with the respective geographical determination was vital.
The first portable clocks (H1 to H4) were developed by John Harrison (1693 – 1776) for seafaring, incentivized by a tender of the British government, which promised a phenomenal sum of 20,000 English pounds to the one who succeeded in developing a clockwork for accurate timekeeping that could be carried around.
Harrison’s watches were tested on long sea voyages and since they showed a deviation of a few seconds over the years, he received only a part of the tender sum after a long dispute.
The wristwatch – still an object of desire
While today none of us would set out on a journey with old maps instead of relying on GPS measurements and Google Maps, the classic wristwatch, plain or as an elaborate chronometer reminiscent of the adventures of the time, is still an object of desire.
And rightly so, because a classic watch can give the wrist an inimitable elegance that goes equally well with jeans and a tuxedo.
Optimization every second
In clear contrast to simple timekeeping are digital watches such as Apple’s Watch, which in addition to the current time (in all time zones of the world if desired) reports the exact sea level at which one is currently located as well as (in the family version) the exact whereabouts of the children.
Using the activity services of this digital watch, you can see every day by means of a blue, green and red ring to what extent you have achieved the daily goals of moving, exercising and standing, which you defined yourself beforehand. The watch shows whether you have already reached 10,000 steps and that washing your hands took less than 20 seconds and reminds you to keep at it.
Body in continuous scan mode
Being able to check the saturation of blood oxygen, heart rate and heart rhythm at any time with the watch on the wrist pulse may be exciting or rather disturbing for some medical laymen. The possibilities offered by a sophisticated digital watch are fascinating from our point of view.
The fact that you can also make calls, receive messages and write text messages with this watch seems almost anachronistic.
Of course, the clock also watches over sleep.
As fascinating as a digital watch is for reminding oneself of one’s training goals during intense periods and rejoicing over every meter of altitude climbed while hiking; when it comes to sleep, the desire for optimization counteracts the medium used for this purpose.
We may have treated our body to a soothing body oil with lavender like SIEVER_S intact before bed. We know that we should avoid the blue light from screens for two hours before going to bed, if possible. We know the beneficial effect of Digital Detox in the vacations that deserve their name. By digitally measuring our sleep patterns, we dutifully record, but do not change the quality of our sleep.
Social jet lag
If it’s not just about measuring sleep but the quality of sleep, it’s worth knowing that three factors determine our sleep: The circadian rhythm (there is already a very informative article about this from GloriousMe here), genetic disposition and what sleep researchers like Professor Dr. Till Roenneberg “Call it social jet lag.
Our genes determine to a large extent whether we belong more to the “early larks” or the “night owls”. Whereby this disposition changes in the course of life. In purely biological terms, young children are early risers, teenagers are late risers, and then the curve drops sharply again over the course of a lifetime, until around the age of 55.
The circadian rhythm is determined by the day/night rhythm of the earth and is stored in the information of our cells. The first two factors are therefore not changeable for us.
Way of life
The third factor is our lifestyle. This causes most of us to continually get too little sleep during the week and try to make up for it on days off, like the weekend. Sleep researchers point out that 80 percent of people who usually get up at the same time during the week still need an alarm clock to wake up.
The effect resulting from continuous sleep deprivation is similar to the effects of jet lag after time zone changes. We are simply permanently tired, but in our modern lives we have become accustomed to consuming too much caffeine, gaining weight relatively easily, often drinking too much alcohol, and on top of that we have a higher chance of developing diabetes II and resorting to cigarettes.
Irritability and mood swings are also among the consequences of constant lack of sleep.
How much sleep is optimal?
There is no average value. For each person the amount of sleep is individual and also the ideal time to go to sleep is different for each person. Waking up at four in the morning can have nothing to do with insomnia if we are among those for whom going to sleep at 8:00 in the evening would be ideal.
However, since this doesn’t fit with most rhythms of work and social life, we accept social jet lag, thereby reducing our opportunities for creativity and reducing our potential to learn.
Sleep in the optimal time window enables us to process what we have experienced and to develop new things based on this knowledge. Albert Einstein is known to have preferred ten hours of sleep.
How much sleep do we need?
We could find out more about what times and lengths are ideal for us if we chose our sleep-in and wake-up times for about five days in a row without any “social” pressure and without an alarm clock.
At first, most of us then sleep too long, making up for the sleep we missed in advance. After a few more days without an alarm clock and without the goal of a certain time to get up, we could see where our optimum is.
However, since we rarely do this even on vacation, because there is always a wonderful sunrise behind a fascinating temple or in front of a mountain panorama to experience, an early train or ship to catch, breakfast times in the hotel and, and, and, and …. we have to live with continuous social jet lag as a consequence. Sleep researchers believe that the vast majority of our society suffers from sleep deprivation.
Light as a decisive factor
One reason why circadian rhythms, internal clocks and social rhythms are increasingly divergent is light. Our waking hours take place mostly indoors. In Central Europe, we spend an average of one hour per day outdoors during the working week – and three hours per day on weekends.
However, the light in buildings cannot be compared with daylight. Even on dull, cloudy days, the natural light we take in through our eyes is many times superior in lux to any indoor light source.
Simple and analog
That’s why it’s always worth putting the digital clock aside during the day, closing the laptop and going outside for at least half an hour. Our eyes, our interest in the quality of our sleep and an old-fashioned but elegant wristwatch so that we don’t miss the next appointment after that is all we need.
If the challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us one thing: We have no time for social jetlag but need quality more than anything else.