Semmelweis University study provides important insights into the consequences of social jet lag

08/20/2021 | by Eszter Turopoli | Semmelweis Health Well-Being

Researchers at Semmelweis University have been the first to show a correlation between social jet lag and the neural control of cardiac function. According to their study, the more sleep rhythm is determined by social expectations rather than our biological clock, the poorer the sleep quality and the less favourable the heart rate variability indicators. The journal "frontiers in Neuroscience" has now selected the paper to be among the most important publications on the autonomic nervous system from the past two years.

The photo shows a person on a train. All that can be seen of her head is the blond hair tied into a bun, which rests on her arm on a small green train table. On the left of the picture is a section of the window with a passing piece of meadow.
The more our sleep rhythm is determined by social expectations rather than our biological clock, the poorer our sleep quality. Image source: Unsplash

The journal frontiers in Neuroscience has selected the most significant publications on the autonomic nervous system from the past two years. Among them, the scientific paper on social jet lag by the Chronophysiology Research Group of the Department of Physiology at Semmelweis University, which is listed by the journal in its Editor’s Pick compilation.

“Social jet lag describes the difference in sleep timing between work days and days off. On work days, people generally go to bed earlier and get up earlier because many of us have to be at our workplaces by 8:00 am in the morning. On holidays and weekends, on the other hand, you have the opportunity to live according to the circadian rhythm set by your own biological clock. This means that we can lie down when we are tired and get up when we are rested. There can be a difference of several hours between the two time windows. This social jet lag is like going on a journey and crossing 2-3 time zones every weekend,” explains Dr Krisztina Káldi, Associate Professor at the Department of Physiology.

The staff of the Chronophysiology Research Group, in collaboration with the Institute of Behavioral Sciences, investigated whether there was a correlation between social jet lag and subjective sleep quality as well as heart rate variability, which is a good indicator of the state of the autonomic nervous system. The focus population of the study was healthy young men.

“The level of social jet lag can be reduced by flexible working hours or, for example, by starting school later, since teenagers are most likely to go to bed later and get up later according to their biological clock. However, individuals can also commit to being less affected by social jet lag: Those who like to stay up late should spend as much time as possible in natural light in the mornings. In addition, it is advisable to reduce intense exposure to blue light in the evenings, and it is useful to change the brightness of mobile phones and monitor screens with a blue-light filter programme”, Ágnes Sűdy, PhD Student at Semmelweis University, points out.

Scientists have also confirmed that daylight saving time increases the rate of social jet lag by confusing our biological clocks, and is therefore fundamentally harmful to our health.


Find the study in frontiers in Neuroscience:

"Association of Social Jetlag With Sleep Quality and Autonomic Cardiac Control During Sleep in Young Healthy Men"


Stay up to date!

Subscribe to our EUniWell newsletter for regular highlights and save the dates to upcoming EUniWell events delivered straight to your inbox: