When you travel between time zones, you have to inevitably confront the issue of jet lag. While many of us consider it an inevitable nuisance, jet lag is a fairly interesting phenomenon. This article details why jet lag occurs and what remedies may be used to counter it.
Jet lag is a combination of fatigue and other symptoms caused by travelling abruptly across different time zones. Another name for jet lag is ‘time zone change syndrome’. Our bodies have circadian rhythm, an internal clock that keeps track of day and night and adjusts our body’s performance and processes accordingly. Typically, this clock tells our body that it is time to sleep when it’s night but it also dictates many other behaviors.
So how exactly does this clock work? The simple answer is light. By tracking the light hours, the body clock is able to regulate our daily routine and tweak the performance of the body accordingly.
Why jet lag occurs?
Naturally, when we travel across multiple time zones, our body clock is all messed up. It is confused and may take a few days to readjust to the new time zone. The feeling of confusion and fatigue that is symptomatic of jet lag occurs while our body clocks are adjusting.
In a rather interesting experiment recently, researchers found out that when mice were moved across time zones, a protein called S1K1 is released which essentially stops normal body clock functions and their sensitivity to light. In other words, the protein stops light from regulating the body clock. This is done, scientists say, primarily so that the body does not react to non-day light such as moonlight. But at the same time, if the production of S1K1 is reduced in mice and they are exposed to the right amount of daylight, they can ward off the effects of jet lag very quickly.
How to get rid of jet lag?
There’s no way you walk out of a 17-hour flight and get rid of jet lag right away. Jet lag takes some time to go away and the best you can do is adjust your habits accordingly and make it go away sooner. The most effective method of getting rid of jet lag is to expose your body to light at the right hours. You have to manipulate your body’s exposure to light so that the body clock once again becomes regulated by this light.
This may sound difficult but there’s a brilliant little app called Called Entrain that calculates the exact hours when you should get light after a time-zone shift. The app takes into account your flight duration and other critical details.
Another way of tackling jet lag is to take small doses of melatonin, the substance that makes your body sleepy. Typically, our body produces this naturally but while suffering from jet lag, you can take 5mg doses in early evening. A study shows that this helps a person get back to normal routine and adjust his/her circadian rhythm far more quickly.
You must note the duration of time you have to stay at your new time zone. If you are staying for a day or two, for example, there is no need to try to shake off the jet lag or adjust your routine. For such a brief trip, keep your watch matched to the time at home and keep a similar routine of sleeping, waking and working. This will minimize the adverse effects of jet lag.