Human beings have internal biological clocks that are set to the natural path of the sun. Our modern lives, however, are calibrated on a different time horizon. According to a recent study, published in the magazine Current Biology, the discrepancy between internal and social clocks creates a permanent social jet lag that may be at the origins of severe pathologies.

Till Roenneberg, Interim Director of the Institute of Medical Psychology Team at Munich University, led the study of the sleeping and waking behavior of several thousand Germans who were on vacation and without mandatory social or work requirement, in order to calculate the natural phases of sleep.

Comparing the behavior of people living in eastern and western Germany, the study shows that the average mid-sleep moment varies by four minutes for each degree of longitude. The consequence is that the mid-sleep moment for Germans who live near the western border happens 36 minutes after the midsleep moment of Germans who live along the eastern border.

This would seem to make sense, given that the sun takes exactly four minutes to move by each degree of longitude. The issue, though, is that time zones are not strictly based on this path. The time zone in eastern and western Germany is in fact the same. As a consequence, people who live on the western edge of a time zone suffer from sleep deprivation. The social jet leg is the exhaustion produced by this gap, and might lead to chronic disorders.

Read more from La Stampa. Original article in Italian by Rodolfo Costa.

Photo - hang_in_there

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