Social Jet Lag

In this video, Till Roenneberg discusses the concept of social time (which I have previously written about from a cultural perspective). Roenneberg also discusses “social jet lag”, as a way to debunk the stigma attached to people who sleep in later than the norm. He argues that people in different social groups benefit from keeping to their distinctive sleep routines. Societies force people to observe particular sleep-wake patterns, but compliance can be socially harmful for some people and it can be detrimental to their health:

This myth that early risers are good people and that late risers are lazy has its reasons and merits in rural societies but becomes questionable in a modern 24/7 society. The old moral is so prevalent, however, that it still dominates our beliefs, even in modern times. The postman doesn’t think for a second that the young man might have worked until the early morning hours because he is a night-shift worker or for other reasons. He labels healthy young people who sleep into the day as lazy — as long sleepers. This attitude is reflected in the frequent use of the word-pair early birds and long sleepers [in the media]. Yet this pair is nothing but apples and oranges, because the opposite of early is late and the opposite of long is short….

I am often asked whether we cannot get used to given working hours merely through discipline and by confining our sleep habits to certain times. The assumption inherent in this question is that the human body clock can synchronize to social cues. I tend to find that any such questioner, who usually also displays a somewhat disdainful tone towards the weakness of late chronotypes, is an early type — someone who has never experienced the problems associated with the [desynchronized] sleep-wake behavior of late chronotypes.

Via Brain Pickings.

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