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Charge Up for Good Health

Is Your Schedule Making You Fat?

Scientists have identified a new phenomenon called social jetlag that may be to blame for your widen...

I’m on my third cup of coffee today -- and it’s only 11 a.m. I don’t know about you, but lately my work and social obligations have been cutting into my sleep. So I was fascinated to read that researchers at the University of Munich have coined a term for the phenomenon -- social jet lag. “There’s an increasing discrepancy between what your body tells you and what your boss tells you,” says German scientist Till Roenneberg, author of the study and Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired. Ain’t that the truth!

Roenneberg explains that your biological clock -- going to bed when it’s dark and waking up in the light -- has been derailed by a growing number of obligations. In his study, he looked at sleep patterns and physical health (including height and weight) of thousands of participants. And he found that people with social jet lag -- those “who live against the clock” -- are much more likely to be overweight.

I’ve noticed that when I’m tired and hungry (as opposed to just hungry), I’m far less likely to resist unhealthy foods like chips and sweets. Plus, I’m more apt to grab something quickly that will pass for dinner (like a peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat) than cook myself a healthy, balanced meal (like a salad with grilled fish).

How can I reverse my social jet lag? “Spending more time outdoors, or at least in front of the window, during the day will get you in a better pattern,” says Roenneberg. “Then try to go to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier each night than you have been until things start to seem like they’re back on track.” Now, excuse me, while I get the mail, and hop on our swing set with my daughter -- the first time I’ve played in months!

What will you do to get outside more often?

For more great health and lifestyle content, check out the rest of Completely You



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