Struggling to stay awake at your desk? You could be suffering from a new condition known as 'social jetlag', which is causing sleep deprivation and adding to the obesity epidemic in modern society.
The term 'social jetlag' has been coined by researchers at the University of Munich in Germany to describe the mismatch between our body clocks and the reality of our daily lives, reported the UK's Daily Mail.
"We have identified a syndrome in modern society that has not been recognised until recently," said Dr Till Roenneberg, a researcher at the university.
"It concerns an increasing discrepancy between the daily timing of the physiological clock and the social clock."
Our physiological clock, or 'body clock', as it is often known, revolves around the natural rhythms that regulate our sleeping and waking lives.
These biological temporal rhythms are controlled by environmental factors like daylight and darkness, and when they are disturbed or irregular can cause sleep disorders, hormone imbalances, bad eating habits, and other conditions.
"In modern society, we listen to those clocks less and less due to the increasing discrepancy between what the body clock tells us and what the boss tells us," said Roenneberg.
"As a result of this social jetlag, people are chronically sleep-deprived. They are also more likely to smoke, and drink more alcohol and caffeine."
Roenneberg and a team of researchers at the university have been studying human sleeping and waking patterns from around the world for 10 years.
The team has compiled their research in a database documenting not only people's sleeping habits, but also their height, weight and other factors that could contribute to the regulation of their body clocks.
They noticed that people fighting 'against the clock' were at greater risk of being overweight, leading to the conclusion that social jetlag could be contributing to the growing problem of obesity in modern society.
"Now, we show that social jetlag also contributes to obesity; the plot that social jetlag is really bad for our health is thickening," said Roenneberg, who suggests that spending more time outdoors, or even by an open window may help mitigate the problem.
Failure to spend adequate amounts of time outdoors in daylight is the reason people's internal clocks are being pushed back, as people spend more time awake later into the night and become more tired during the day.
"Waking up with an alarm clock is a relatively new facet of our lives," Roenneberg said.
"It simply means that we haven’t slept enough and this is the reason why we are chronically tired.
"Good sleep and enough sleep is not a waste of time but a guarantee for better work performance and more fun with friends and family during off-work times."
The research has been published online in the journal Current Biology.