"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Resetting your circadian clock to cut back jet lag

What happens during jet lag?

An internal master clock — a cluster of 20,000 neurons within the brain just above the optic nerve — controls our circadian rhythm. In response to light and other cues from the environment, it coordinates the functions of assorted body systems over a 24-hour period and regulates after we sleep and wake. As the environment changes, our internal clock uses environmental cues to slowly reset itself at a mean rate of 1 hour per day. If you cross several time zones inside just a few hours, your internal clock doesn't have enough time to regulate your body to the brand new time zone.

Say you are taking an 11-hour flight from New York City to Honolulu. Your plane departs at 6:00 AM and lands at 11:00 AM Honolulu time. Maybe you've got half a day to spend on the beach, but chances are you’ll not have the energy to enjoy it. Your body continues to be on New York time, where it's 5 p.m., so it's beginning to wind down by bedtime. It will take 5 or 6 days in your body to reach Honolulu time.

Reducing jet lag

If you may have some business trips or winter travel routes in your calendar, you may minimize the impact of crossing time zones by giving your internal clock some helpful cues. If your destination is just a zone or two away, chances are you’ll have to make minor adjustments, similar to eating, going to bed, and waking up just a little sooner than usual (in case you're traveling east ) or just a little later (in case you are heading west). If you might be crossing multiple time zones, you may try the next:

  • Switch slowly before traveling. For several days before you allow, progressively move mealtimes and bedtimes closer to your destination's schedule. Even a partial switch may help.
  • Stay hydrated. During the flight, drink loads of fluids, but no caffeine or alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol promote dehydration, which worsens the symptoms of jet lag. They also can disrupt sleep.
  • Change your bedtime as soon as possible upon arrival. Don't go in until it's bedtime in the brand new time zone.
  • Use the sun to assist you adjust. If it is advisable rise up early to your destination, get out within the sun early within the morning. If it is advisable not sleep later, expose yourself to sunlight within the late afternoon.

A fast fix for jet lag?

It has been theorized that an analogous mechanism may occur in humans and that a brief fast may trigger a rapid restoration of circadian rhythms. Dr. Saper suggests fasting for 12 to 16 hours the day before and in the course of the trip. For example, in case you're taking a flight from New York City to Honolulu, you'll avoid eating for just a few hours before takeoff and in the course of the flight, but eat a very good meal as soon because it's convenient after landing. This technique has not been tested in clinical trials, but there are various praises of its effectiveness within the media.

If you desire to try it, it's a very good idea to examine along with your healthcare team to see if fasting is correct for you. And you'll still have to drink water—not caffeinated beverages, juice, or alcohol—during your flight.