Anyway you look at it, jet lag is no fun. Well, it might be fun if it gets you up by chance at four in the morning and you get to watch the sunrise feeling completely alert, for once, but in general, it sucks.
It usually finds us overtired, too awake, not hungry enough in time for the all-you-can-eat buffet or famished.
Why? According to a report on cnn.com, researchers at the University of Maryland developed a mathematical explanation as to what is going on with the body and brain when a person experiences jet lag.
What they found was that traveling anywhere can be difficult but it can be much harder to adjust to a new time zone when traveling east, when compared with going west. It’s all due to our internal clock.
Something called our ‘pacemaker cells’ have an internal clock of 24.5 hours, and apparently it’s easier to stretch it (going west) than to shrink it, (going east). It can take up to one day for each time zone crossed to readjust, ie, one day of adjustment for each hour of difference.
How can you lessen the challenge?
Exposing your body and brain to the local light cycle can help and is important for adjusting to the local time.
Like a newborn learning about night and day, your brain will note the new cycle and this will help you change faster.
That being said, you don’t want to exhaust yourself, so take a nap, (a short one), if you feel the need to.
Altering your waking and sleeping schedule before you actually travel can also be an aid.
Lifehacker.com recommends adjusting it by an hour or so if you can before going abroad. Seek out morning light to advance your body clock if you’re going east while avoiding late afternoon light, and do the opposite if you’re traveling westward.
It can also be helpful to take a small dose of melatonin in order to assist in going to bed earlier.
Take it easy, if you have the vacation time. If you need to, let yourself adjust to your new home or back to ‘normal’, one hour and one day at a time.