25.05.2021 change 25.05.2021

Birdwatching is like having jet lag, say researchers

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Differences in the amount of sleep between birdwatchers (and other people getting up early on weekends) and the rest of the society can cause symptoms similar to jet lag and social and health problems, say researchers.

The team from the University of Tübingen (Germany) and the Poznań University of Life Sciences decided to check how getting up early on weekends affects birdwatchers. They asked over 2,400 German birdwatchers about their sleep pattern. It turns out that on weekends, they get up a quarter of an hour earlier than on weekdays. People who do not observe nature, in turn, sleep about 30 minutes longer on weekends than on weekdays. The total difference is therefore 45 minutes.

This, according to the research, resembles the condition following plane travel and a quick change of time zones, known as jet lag. Researchers describe weekend or holiday differences in the amount of sleep as a social jet lag. Its main symptoms are: general fatigue, loss of appetite, problems with concentration and memory, clumsiness and a general lack of energy. Researchers know these symptoms from their own experience, because they engage in this 'unhealthy behaviour' themselves.

Professor Christoph Randler from Tübingen, chronotype researcher and the first author of research published in the international Journal of Sleep Research said: “We are not only researchers, we also watch birds as a hobby, so we wanted to look at how this affects our sleep comfort.”

He adds that among the hobbyists there are both people with an owl chronotype, who prefer night lifestyle, as well as early birds. If the former get up much earlier, they are sleep-deficient. Meanwhile, he emphasises, sleep comfort is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.

Researchers notice the problem, but they emphasise how important getting up before dawn is for them. They explain that many bird species are active early in the morning, and the desire to see and hear them can be enormous.

Co-author Professor Piotr Tryjanowski from the Poznań University of Life Sciences said: “Even if biology is your profession, you will not always find time for it on weekdays, and bird enthusiasts who have different professions certainly won't. Birdwatching is a truly democratic hobby for all: teachers, doctors, locksmiths, priests and policemen. They can do it only during weekends.”

The source article: 'Negative social jetlag –Special consideration of leisure activities and evidence from birdwatchers' is available at https://doi.org/10.111/jsr.13372

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