Food and Behaviour Research

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22 January 2015 - MNT - Study finds 'social jetlag' is associated with obesity-related disease

A new study has discovered an association between social jetlag, obesity and obesity-related disease including metabolic disorder, inflammation and diabetes.

Social jetlag is a term used to describe the difference in individual's sleep patterns between work days and free days.

The study of over 800 people from the Dunedin Longitudinal Study2, published in the International Journal of Obesity3, found that individuals with a greater difference in sleep between free days and work days are more likely to be obese and suffer from obesity-related disease, than those with little to no difference between these timings.

Unlike travel jetlag, which can cause temporary problems with metabolism, social jetlag can occur chronically throughout an individual's working life so is more likely to induce more serious, chronic consequences for metabolism.

Dr Michael Parsons, lead author of the study, from the Mammalian Genetics Unit at Medical Research Council Harwell, said: "Social jetlag is an under researched but potentially key contributor to why 'living against our internal clock' has an impact on our health.

"Our research confirms findings from a previous study that connected people with more severe social jetlag to increases in self-reported body mass index (BMI), but this is the first study to suggest this difference in sleeping times can also increase the risk for obesity-related disease."

This study assessed the height, weight and waist circumference of participants in the clinic, as well as measuring C-reactive protein (hsCRP) and glycated haemoglobin in blood, biomarkers for inflammation and diabetes respectively. It then compared these findings with results from a questionnaire which assessed participants sleep duration and chronotype - their preference in sleep timing.

The researchers found that just a two hour difference in sleep patterns at the weekend can increase the risk of an elevated BMI and biomarkers for inflammation and diabetes.

The reasons for these increases are unknown, but a possibility is that social jetlag disrupts healthy habits such as diet and exercise in a way that may compromise health.