Win Back Your Mondays: Social Jetlag Is Sabotaging Your Sales Performance

Are you dragging at the start of the workweek? Making tweaks to your weekend routine could help.
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Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
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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.” 

Living In a Different Timezone Than Your Biological Clock

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:

  1. After our busy workweeks, most of us (understandably!) view the weekends as a time to unwind. While what “unwinding” entails looks different for everyone--we might stay out until last call with friends, let ourselves indulge in a Netflix binge that bleeds into the wee hours, or stay up devouring our latest book club installment, etc.--many of our go-to weekend activities promote a delayed bedtime, starting Friday night. 
  1. Then, in order to meet our sleep need, we allow ourselves to sleep in the following morning. Many of us are additionally carrying around sleep debt from the workweek that we need to make up, to boot, and so may be inclined to sleep even later. And while it is important to pay down your sleep debt, changing your wakeup routine to do so isn’t ideal (more on this below!)
  1. When we move our sleep and wake times later, even just for the duration of the weekend, it shifts our circadian rhythm, which makes it very difficult to fall asleep at our “regular” time on Sunday night. And so when our alarm goes off on Monday morning, not only are we exhausted from short sleeping, but our biological clock is running seriously behind schedule--a double whammy. No wonder you feel groggy, grumpy, or headache-y--it’s as if someone shook you awake in the middle of the night and told you to start cold-calling.

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. 

The Scourge of Social Jetlag 

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.

Early Birds and Night Owls

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.

Recommendations for Curbing Social Jetlag

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:

  • Set your alarm. At the very least, aim to keep your wake time consistent. While you might be tempted to sleep in--especially after a late night!--the better option is to grab a midday nap instead. Naps are a viable way to pay down sleep debt, and have the added bonus of keeping your biological clock in balance so you won’t be dead on your feet during your Monday morning meetings. Here are our suggestions on the best way to nap
  • Rise and shine. Prioritize getting sunlight first thing in the morning, especially on Mondays. Sunlight signals to your brain that it’s time to be awake and is helpful for recalibrating your circadian rhythm. A walk, jog, or bike ride outside are great options if available. But if you’re not able to be outside, try setting yourself up beside a window while you have your coffee. Aim for at least fifteen minutes of exposure.
  • Keep it clean. If you’re practicing good sleep hygiene regularly throughout the week, it will be easier to stick with on the weekends. Good sleep hygiene means you’ll also likely be dragging around less sleep debt, which will help you resist the siren song of a Saturday morning lie-in. One of the most impactful ways to do this is to cultivate a healthy winddown routine--you can find our recommendations for that here (scroll down to the Evening Winddown section).

Working With--Not Against--Your Biological Clock 

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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