Kathryn Schultz, on the nature of our internal clocks:
Among species, we humans are to time what Polish villagers have long been to place: unhappy subjects of multiple competing regimes. The first regime is internal time: the schedule established by our bodies. The second is sun time: the schedule established by light and darkness. These two we share with houseplants and virtually every other living being. But we are also governed by a third regime: social time. That sounds benign enough, like afternoon tea with a friend. But don’t be fooled. Social time is the villain in this drama, out to turn you against health, happiness, nature, sanity, even your own inner self. […]
Ultimately, though, [German scientist Till] Roenneberg is more interested in what he calls “social jet lag”: the exhaustion produced by the gap between internal and social time. You can, should you choose, quantify your social jet lag. Simply calculate the difference between the midpoint of your average night’s sleep on a workday and a day off. Say on workdays you fall asleep at eleven and wake up at six: Your midpoint is 2:30 a.m. On weekends, you fall asleep at one and wake up at nine: Your midpoint is 4:30 — and you’ve got two hours of social jet lag. You might as well fly from New York to Utah.Read more at New York Magazine.
Social jet lag, unlike real jet lag, is chronic. Its chief symptom is sleep deprivation, and sleep deprivation is — surely I do not need to tell you this — ghastly. It leaves you with the equilibrium of a despot, the attention span of a toddler, and the working memory of a fire hydrant. It’s one of the few human conditions that can make the characteristics of the tomb — dark, quiet, horizontal — seem unbelievably desirable. Not for nothing are torturers so fond of it.
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