If you feel like you’re sleepwalking through the first day or two of the workweek, you’re far from alone. And it’s not all in your head--there’s a perfectly sound biological explanation for your “case of the Mondays.”
The scientific term for this ever-common Monday haze is social jetlag, which happens when your own personal biological clock is out of sync with the “clock” of your social obligations. We often feel this discord hardest on Mondays because many of our weekend activities are prone to disrupting our sleep wake cycles. And while a late night or two might seem like no big deal, it’s enough to throw your circadian rhythm out of whack for 24 hours...or longer.
Here’s a quick run-down of how this happens:
Social jetlag is similar to actual jetlag in that your body is on a different schedule than the world around you. But unlike jetlag caused by travel, social jetlag is a chronic condition, meaning your body doesn’t self-adjust after a day or two. You may recover this synchronicity by midweek, only to throw your system back into disharmony a couple days later.
And, unfortunately, this pernicious cycle can take a heavy toll mentally, emotionally, and physically.
It’s estimated that ⅔ of the working population suffers from some degree of social jetlag, and there’s a very good chance that it’s not only hindering your ability to meet quota each month but also affecting your overall health.
As far as sales performance goes, it’s simple math: when you mentally miss out on most of Monday, it means you’re putting 20% of your week’s productivity on the line. Not only this, but social jetlag wreaks havoc on the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, which is home to the higher-order executive functioning so crucial to your sales performance: things like focus, emotional regulation, and creative problem-solving, among others--all faculties you need to keep sharp in order to nurture important client relationships and close hard-fought deals.
Studies have also linked social jetlag to afflictions such as depression, excessive drug and alcohol use, heart disease, obesity, and metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes. Social jetlag can mask symptoms of other adverse health conditions--your body might be trying to tell you you’re unwell, but you chalk it up to regular old fatigue and the issue goes unaddressed.
And some of us are hit harder by the effects of social jetlag than others--this is where your chronotype comes in.
Commonly known as “early birds,” about 40% of people have a biological clock that lines up with the typical 8-5 workweek. More than half of people, known as “night owls,” naturally gravitate towards later sleep and wake times. This preference is called our chronotype.
For owls, going to bed early enough to wake up at 6 or 7 the next morning is a perpetual challenge--even if they’re able to eek out a reasonable bedtime most nights, there’s a much higher likelihood this will go out the window during days off. Those who are naturally inclined to hit the sack closer to 2 a.m., and wake up around 10, for instance, are liable to pay a steeper social jetlag cost than those whose schedules undergo less fluctuation. It often works out that later chronotypes will just succumb to sleeping less throughout the week, and then on the weekends sleep much longer in an effort to shrink their substantial sleep debt. Which, unfortunately, sets them up for further circadian disruption...and the cycle repeats itself week after week.
And it’s not a matter of laziness or bad decision-making, contrary to the prevailing cultural stigma surrounding late-risers. A person’s chronotype is by and large genetically predetermined and there’s very little they (or their employer!) can do to alter this biological imperative.
But no matter what your chronotype, the good news is that once you understand what’s going on in your body, you can begin to reverse ill-effects by making a few straight-forward tweeks to your routine.
While the ideal way to fight back against social jetlag is to keep your schedule ruthlessly consistent even on weekends, we realize this isn’t realistic. Luckily there are several ways you can curtail social jetlag while still making the most of your off days:
It might also be worth thinking further about your own personal chronotype. Are you a night owl squeezed into an early bird lifestyle? If you need an alarm clock to wake up during the week, it likely means you’re waking up earlier than is your body’s preference.
If the answer is yes, consider whether you have any wiggle room in your schedule that would allow you to begin your day at a time that feels more natural to you. Now that working from home is the norm, many of us have a little more flexibility than we did previously--use this silver lining to your advantage if you can.
Thankfully the cultural tide is beginning to shift on this front, as many employers recognize that not everyone is at their best during the standard workday. Companies such as Google and Dell, for instance, offer “flextime,” which means they give employees jurisdiction over their own start and end times.
If you feel like your natural rhythm is gravely at odds with your work hours, it might be worth discussing with your sales manager. Good bosses may be amenable to an adapted schedule if it means you’ll be sharing with the company your most productive, engaged, and energized self.
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