Is Social Jet Lag the New Jet Lag?

Conventional wisdom (attributed to Ben Franklin) suggests that “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” This sentiment has become so ingrained that many people are inclined to feel guilty for sleeping late into the day. Yet the Roman historian Tacitus noted that the barbarians of ancient Germania, who lived without clocks and formal work schedules, would typically sleep quite late into the morning and wake long after sunrise.  Many modern people attribute their poor sleep quality and daytime tiredness to going to bed too late, but could the real culprit in fact be merely waking up too early? We have a perception that it is most natural to wake at the crack of dawn and rise with the sun, yet many animals are naturally nocturnal. While humans are undoubtedly generally diurnal, studies of human circadian rhythms have shown that every person has a somewhat unique, genetically determined biological clock. We all follow the same 24-hour circadian rhythm, but in a sense our internal watches are not all synchronized. It has been universally observed that there are “morning” and “evening” people. Whether one is naturally inclined to wake earlier, later, or somewhere in between is referred to as one’s chronotype, and it can be objectively assessed by measuring the expression of clock genes.

Clock genes do not necessarily encode proteins associated with the setting or maintenance of the circadian rhythm; rather, they are genes whose expression within the cell is, for whatever reason, temporally dependent. Basically, certain genes are expressed more at certain times of day, and this variance correlates with the 24-hour circadian rhythm. This allows an individual to be chronotyped by measuring the levels of the proteins encoded by these genes at different times of day and comparing those levels to the pattern found in other individuals. Researchers typically take samples from hair follicles, a tissue which has been found to express clock genes in relatively high proportion. Clock genes are expressed in a set pattern in everyone, with regular peaks and troughs which follow a 24-hour cycle, but the cycle is basically phase-shifted in different individuals. Some people have an internal clock that is a few hours fast, which corresponds to an “early” chronotype that naturally wakes and sleeps earlier. Others have been found to have a “late” chronotype, like a clock that is set to run a few hours slower than average, which naturally leads to later times for sleep onset and waking. It is established as conventional wisdom that humans’ sleep/wake cycles are set by the sun, but the persistence of a late chronotype in some individuals argues that this may not be ideal or even natural for everyone. While it is clear that the sun helps to set the circadian clock and maintain its 24-hour rhythm, it does not necessarily follow that it dictates the pattern of sleeping and waking within that rhythm. Nocturnal animals, whose behavior adheres to a circadian rhythm but who sleep during the day, are a clear example of this. For another thing, the amount of daylight varies seasonally to a significant extent, yet most people maintain the same duration of sleep year-round in spite of this. While the sun essentially winds the circadian clock, individual genes can still determine at what hour certain events are scheduled.

Contrary to Ben Franklin’s assertion, for individuals with a “late” chronotype there is evidence that going to bed and rising early does not make one healthy, wealthy, and wise; in fact, it actually makes one more likely to develop diabetes.[i] It can also impair academic performance,[ii] so if success in school can be taken as a proxy measure of wisdom attainment and a predictor of future wealth, it would mean that Benjamin Franklin was apparently wrong on all three counts, at least for individuals with an evening chronotype. From this phenomenon has evolved the concept of “social jet lag,” defined as the discrepancy between the sleep/wake timing of one’s circadian clock and the sleep/wake timing as mandated by one’s social clock. Social jet lag is formally assessed by measuring the difference in hours between the midpoint of one’s sleep period on weekdays versus the weekend. This difference, which is admittedly subject in part to behavior and lifestyle choices, has been found nonetheless to correlate very closely with one’s chronotype as assessed by clock gene expression. On the weekend, when for most people nature is free to take over and sleep can be taken whenever it is desired, some people will continue to go to bed relatively close to the time they would during weekdays, while other people stay up much later on average. For some people this can be as late as 1 AM with a wake time around 8:30 or 9:00.[iii] For these people, assuming that on weekdays their work or school schedule mandates a wake time between 6:30-7:00, the choice is to either forego two hours of sleep every night or force themselves to go to bed two hours earlier than normal. Every Monday, their social schedule essentially equals the experience of traveling backwards over two time zones, hence the term social jet lag. It has been estimated that the human circadian clock can only shift forward at a rate of about 1 hour per day (it can shift backwards more easily, about 1.5 hours per day),[iv] meaning it would take such people fully two days to adapt their sleep schedules to a typical workweek. They won’t be fully functional until Wednesday.

Fortunately, adjustment to jet lag and social jet lag can be favorably modified through the use of hypnotics and by administering exogenous melatonin.[v] Traditionally, many herbs have been used for their hypnotic properties to promote more restful sleep, and the benefit of these treatments very likely extends beyond merely relieving insomnia and improving work productivity, since sleep is crucial to so many aspects of physiological functioning. Inadequate sleep has been shown to decrease insulin sensitivity and has been correlated with the onset of type II diabetes,[vi] a disorder rapidly becoming ubiquitous among civilized populations. Energique® offers several products to support natural, restful sleep, which can be incorporated into holistic protocols to treat a number of chronic diseases. Some of these products include:

Insomnia HP™ – High-potency homeopathic formula that may temporarily relieve symptoms due to fatigue and restlessness from an inability to sleep.

Valericom ™– Spagyric herbal formula containing valerian, passionflower, and other herbs that may support restful sleep.

Melatonin – Supplement containing the sleep hormone, enhanced with the addition of vitamin B6 to support endogenous melatonin synthesis.



[i] Koopman ADM, Rauh SP, van ‘t Riet E, et al. The Association between Social Jetlag, the Metabolic Syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in the General Population: The New Hoorn Study. Journal of Biological Rhythms. 2017;32(4):359-368. doi:10.1177/0748730417713572.

[ii] Smarr BL, Schirmer AE. 3.4 million real-world learning management system logins reveal the majority of students experience social jet lag correlated with decreased performance. Scientific Reports. 2018;8:4793. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-23044-8.

[iii] Takahashi M, Tahara Y, Tsubosaka M, et al. Chronotype and social jetlag influence human circadian clock gene expression. Scientific Reports. 2018;8:10152. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-28616-2.

[iv] Eastman CI, Burgess HJ. How To Travel the World Without Jet lag. Sleep medicine clinics. 2009;4(2):241-255. doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2009.02.006.

[v] Herxheimer A. Jet lag. BMJ Clinical Evidence. 2008;2008:2303.

[vi] Potter GDM, Skene DJ, Arendt J, Cade JE, Grant PJ, Hardie LJ. Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Disruption: Causes, Metabolic Consequences, and Countermeasures. Endocrine Reviews. 2016;37(6):584-608. doi:10.1210/er.2016-1083.



Dr. Ian Spohn, ND Ian Spohn, ND is a naturopathic doctor who enjoys challenging the dogmas of both conventional and alternative medicine. He is a passionate supporter of the paleo diet and classical homeopathy.




Any homeopathic claims are based on traditional homeopathic practice, not accepted medical evidence. Not FDA evaluated.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.



Claims that are based on traditional homeopathic practice are not accepted as medical evidence. Not FDA evaluated. Energique Pro requires that customers log in to certain areas of our website. Portions of the website are only available to certified healthcare professionals, and Energique Pro reserves the right to limit access to only them.

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