Science Says This Trick Can Help You Beat Jet Lag

Vacation is over. A pile of laundry is waiting to be cleaned. But perhaps most dauntingly, your body is still eight hours ahead of local time. Cue droopy eyes and total lack of energy. Jet lag, we are so over you.

Luckily, a new study found a novel trick for getting your body clock back on track, and it’s extremely straightforward: Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner on a normal schedule. You’ll immediately lessen jet lag symptoms.

It’s a far cry from doctors’ typical jet lag tips ― like avoiding caffeine and alcohol before you try to sleep, slowly adjusting your sleep schedule to a new time zone or even using small doses of melatonin to help fall asleep when your body typically wouldn’t want to, the study’s author Cristina Ruscitto, a researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of Surrey (and former long-haul air crew member), told The Huffington Post.

The idea is, she said, “that you readjust by eating in line with local time ― not just sleeping on local time.”

This revelation could be an easy fix for jet lagged travelers everywhere. And it might also be a big help to airplane flight crews and others who may not be able to take sleep aids because of airline safety restrictions ― or who may not have access to (or time to use) other remedies like light box therapy or exposure to natural sunlight, Ruscitto said. 

Food keeps the circadian system in sync

The fact that our circadian rhythms, our body’s internal clocks, are related to eating is well-established, she explained. 

The body’s full circadian system includes not only the central clock in the brain, but also the peripheral clocks in other organs like the stomach, liver and lungs, she said. “Peripheral clocks respond to food and the central clock responds to light.”

People experience jet lag when all of these clocks are out of sync with each other ― which happens when we change the timing of our routine behaviors (eating, sleeping and being exposed to light).

So the prediction that adjusting meal timing to a regular schedule would help lessen jet lag makes sense, Ruscitto added. “Eating regularly provides information to the circadian system, telling the body to be active.”

To test their hypothesis, researchers found 60 airplane crew members who were working a flight with a time change of at least four hours and a layover of at least 48 hours after they landed (so they could track their jet lag symptoms for two full days post-travel).

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