Anyone who has taken a long-haul flight into knows the feeling of jet lag. That exhausted, nauseous heavy feeling of being awake when you shouldn’t be but the sun still shining brightly outside your hotel window. Here is exactly what is happening to your body when you confuse it by jumping through time zones.
Messing with your body clocks
The “body clock” is the informal term for the body’s circadian rhythms which are run from a master clock. This master clock is called the suprachiasmatic nucleus which responds to outside stimuli, mainly sunlight, to connect the body to it’s external environment and produces the hormone melatonin which runs the whole system. According to Time, by jumping through timezones, you are fighting your body’s programmed schedule and asking it to complete tasks it’s not ready to handle. This includes walking around the cobbled streets of Rome when your body thinks it should be tucked in bed. This leads to all sorts of adjustment issues in the body including indigestion, mental fatigue and lower immune function.
Better to fly west
According to a 2016 study done by researchers at the University of Marylan in the US, jet lag is worse when flying east. They believe this is because the body clock operates on a 24.5 hour schedule rather than straight 24 hours. This makes it easier to travel in the direction that makes your day longer rather than shorter.
How to fix it
There is no quick fix when it comes to jet lag and you have to go in with a comprehensive strategy. This includes drinking a lot of water on the flight, avoiding alcohol, choosing healthy food choices and fruits like cherries which have natural melatonin, and adjusting your sleep patterns while on the plane. Ultimately, jet lag happens to everyone and is usually fixed within a few days of arriving at your destination.