Have you ever felt like you need a day of rest whenever you travel to a faraway place for vacation? The tiredness and feeling “off” caused by jet lag can be a bummer for travelers for those who embark on long-haul flights, especially eastward or westward.
The body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, which is regulated by the hypothalamus and influenced by factors like light exposure and meal timing, struggles to adapt to the new time zone. As a result, travelers often find themselves feeling fatigued, disoriented, and experiencing a range of symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, and digestive issues.
The severity and duration of jet lag can vary from person to person and depend on factors like the number of time zones crossed and individual resilience. But now, researchers at Northwestern University say they may have figured out a cure.
The team of US researchers modeling those circadian rhythms has landed on what they say is the fastest way to shake off jetlag and reset your body clock – a strategy that could apply to groggy shift workers too, writes Science Alert.
“Having a larger meal in the early morning of the new time zone can help overcome jet lag,” says applied mathematician Yitong Huang of Northwestern University in Illinois, who led the modeling study.
“Constantly shifting meal schedules or having a meal at night is discouraged, as it can lead to misalignment between internal clocks.”
The findings echo earlier studies on meal timing, but also extend our understanding of why circadian rhythms tire with age.
“Conflicting signals, such as warm weather during a short photoperiod or nighttime eating — eating when your brain is about to rest — can confuse internal clocks and cause desynchrony,” says study co-author Dr. Yitong Huang in a media release. “Most studies primarily focus on one particular time cue or a single clock. Important gaps remain in our understanding of the synchronization of multiple clocks under conflicting time cues.”
Next time you’re traveling remember: breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.