Anna Gragert
December 18, 2015 1:14 pm

Sleeping in on the weekend and jet lag may seem like two completely different concepts. After all, sleeping in can serve as a blissful experience full of dreams and love and soft pillows. As for jet lag… well, that definitely doesn’t paint the same picture. However, we have some shocking news that makes us want to shed a single tear: according to research, jet lag and a weekend sleep-in are pretty much the same thing.

At Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Orfeu Buxton and several other Harvard researchers conducted an experiment. They invited 24 people to sleep in a windowless, clock-less lab where they had no idea what was going on outside. In addition, they weren’t allowed to exercise, could only sleep 5.6 hours every night, and they had to live on a 28-hour day schedule. Essentially, this means that they were going four time zones west every single day, Buxton told Vox. (We’re going to go out on a limb here and guess that this wasn’t a fun time.)

Three-week trial wasn’t designed to torture subjects, but rather induce a state of jet lag in order to better understand the effects of sleep on a person’s health. And what Buxton’s team discovered was that the formerly healthy participants had physically deteriorated by the end of their trial.

So what does this all have to do with sleeping in on weekends? Here’s the deal: your body’s circadian rhythms are extremely important. Since this is your system’s internal clock, it allows your body to anticipate what you’re going to need throughout the day. For example, when you wake up in the morning, your body is instantly ready to eat breakfast and it starts to produce insulin. In that sense, our circadian rhythms control our organ systems (which is a pretty important job).

When you sleep in on Saturday and/or Sunday, this throws your internal clock into disarray, or “social jet lag.” That would explain why Mondays are awful, since our body’s aren’t able to flawlessly bounce back from the weekend time change. And this is just one of the negative effects we could experience. There are also studies saying that a poor sleep schedule can lead to heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Now, you may have noticed that Buxton’s study was quite extreme – but, all the same, it does prove that our circadian rhythms don’t like to be disrupted. Scientists have also found another cause for social jet lag: getting up at the wrong time. You’ve probably heard people describe themselves as either a “morning person” or “evening person” – which is actually a thing! There’s something called chronotypes and these explain that some people are better suited for morning while others prefer evenings. If you go against your chronotype, this can actually give rise to constant social jet lag.

Final lesson: sleep is important, especially when it comes to your everyday schedule. Now, it’s time for us to set our alarm for tomorrow (which is a bit painful, but necessary).

To read more on how sleeping in on weekends can be damaging to your health, check out Vox’s in-depth coverage here.

[Image via Paramount Pictures]

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