As the adage goes, "The early bird catches the worm." But as science now tells us, getting up early might actually be bad for your health. A new study reveals that if you struggle to wake up in the morning, you're probably doing damage to your body.
Social jet lag is when you're forced to wake up at a time that your biological clock isn't set to. So if you have a hard time getting out of bed before work, it might be because your body isn't set to rise at that hour and not that you're dreading those expense reports.
"‘Social jet lag is a habitual form of circadian misalignment, when individuals have to essentially sleep and wake at times that are out of sync from their internal, biological clock and shift back and forth in their sleep schedules due to social obligations," explains Dr. Patricia Wong of the University of Pittsburgh.
In other words, social jet lag is, "the discrepancy between what our body clock wants us to do and what our social clock wants us to do. It almost looks as if people on a Friday evening fly from Paris to New York, and on Monday morning they fly back again," says Till Roenneberg, a professor at the University of Munich.
But social jet lag could be worse for you than actual jet lag. The study found that social jet lag can actually increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, the study found that social jet lag was linked to increased fat around the midsection and a lower level of the "good" kind of cholesterol.
Your body then wakes itself up. "At the same time, our internal cortisol levels start to rise in the mornings. Cortisol is the same hormone that’s released if you have a fright and get that jolt of energy," said Dr. Barnes.
The effects that social jet lag can have on your body extend beyond sleep.
"With social jet lag, we're forced to eat at times when the body doesn't want to eat, or isn't prepared for digesting food properly. All these things coming together might influence the way you digest food and how you incorporate it into your body fat. The result is that you become overweight or obese," said Roenneberg.