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Resetting Circadian Clock to Minimise Jet Lag

Jet lag is an interesting topic of conversation. It is fair to say that only a few of can endure a long haul flight without feeling a somewhat out of whack when we travel long distances across different time zones. You may find you will experience symptoms when jet lagged such as headaches, fatigue, insomnia, and digestive upsets may affect for a number of days those experiencing long air journeys as you get back to work.

Jet lag is caused by a misalignment between your persona body clock in the human brain and the external environment that triggers our day to day performance and the ability to sleep according to Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, a director of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

What happens when you get jet lag?

Your internal body clock controls our circadian rhythms, which is a set of about twenty thousand neurons in the human brain just above your optic nerve. This manages the functions of a number of body systems over a period of 24-hours and regulates when we are awake or asleep, its response to light and other cues from the environment.

Our internal clock makes use of environmental cues to continually reset at a typical rate of an hour per day or so as the climate changes. There isn't adequate time for your internal clock to synchronise your body to your new time zone if you cross through different time zones within a matter of hours.

Minimising jet lag

You should be able to minimise the effects of crossing different time zones allowing your internal body clock some cues. If you have winter getaways or a few business trips on your calendar. You may just need to make few adjustments, like going to bed, awakening and eating meals a little earlier or later if your destination is only a zone or two away. Try the following if you're crossing several time zones:

  • Gradually try to adapt by switching before the trip: Move bedtime and mealtimes a little closer to the schedule of your goal destination several days before you leave. Even a partial adjustment may be helpful your body clock to adapt.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink enough fluids, but not alcohol or caffeine during the flight. Caffeine and alcohol worsen the symptoms of jet lag by promoting dehydration. They can also affect sleep.
  • Adjust your bedtime as quickly as possible when you arrive: In the new time zone ensure you don't turn in until it is bedtime.
  • Use the daylight to help you readjust: Get out in the early morning sun if you need to wake up earlier at your new destination. Expose yourself to the afternoon or late day sunlight if you need to wake up later.

A quick fix for jet lag?

Dr. Clifford Saper and co-workers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the year 2009 identified a second “master clock” that can control circadian rhythms when food is scarce. The body's circadian rhythms are left to conserve energy.

It's been suggested that a brief fast may activate a quick reset of the circadian rhythms and that humans may have a similar mechanism. Dr. Saper suggests fasting for the day for 12-to-16-hours before and during travel. This method hasn't been verified in clinical double blind trials, but there is a significant body of evidence and testimonials to its effectiveness in journals and other media.

It is advisable to check with your doctor to see if fasting is expedient for you before you try it. In addition, during your flight, you will must to drink plenty of water not coffee, alcohol or juice.

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