There’s nothing worse than arriving at an exotic vacation destination and finding yourself feeling tired, irritable, and groggy because of jet lag.
So to help travelers combat this age old problem, experts have revealed the secret to beating the exhaustion and contrary to what some may think, the trick involves not eating.
As anyone who has suffered from jet lag will know, it is a condition that causes fatigue, irritability and headaches and occurs following long flight through several time zones. It results from the disruption of circadian rhythms in the human body.
Jet lag: To help avoid the pesky condition, doctors suggest fasting for 16 hours before deplaning (stock image)
In simple terms, the circadian ‘clocks’ help are bodies respond to light and dark so that humans know it’s time to go to bed when it dark outside and time to wake up when the sun rises.
But quickly crossing several time zones throws the body’s clocks off and leads to jet lag, which means that for ‘each time zone you cross, it takes about a day of adjusting to a new light/dark schedule to get in sync with local time at your new destination,’ according to the Harvard Business Review.
But doctors now have a solution to quickly adjust to the new time zone: fasting.
Dr Clifford B. Saper and his colleagues at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston thinks that a lack of it food may ‘resynchronize’ body rhythms faster than light and dark.
The realization comes after doctors at Beth Israel published a paper on how the brains of mice readjusted when they were only fed once a day.
Dr Saper said: ‘The mice would be awake and alert and ready to go an hour or two before a meal was due to appear to have maximal chance of getting the food.’
And after his research, he hypothesized that fasting and then eating again probably works as a way to reset the biological clock on humans because food is as essential for survival as sleep is, meaning hunger can influence circadian rhythms as much as changes in light/dark patterns do.
He has yet to run a clinical trial on humans but has found fasting for 16 hours before deplaning to be a successful way to prevent jet lag when he travels, and he has received a dozen letters from people who have found the technique to be successful, according to Vogue.
So now, instead of adjusting their sleep clock, travelers can modify their feeding clock the next time they board that long flight.
So try to stay away from the prepackaged pretzels and nuts but remember to stay hydrated as water doesn’t cause the clock to readjust – only calories do.
And while 16 hours might seem like a long amount of time, Dr Saper insists that it is absolutely necessary to give the body time to adjust to a new time zone.
‘Because the body’s clock can only shift a small amount each day, it takes the average person about a week to adjust to the new time zone,’ Dr Saper said. ‘And by then it’s often time to come home.’
Indeed, some experts go as far as to suggest a 24-hour fast, noting that avoiding food both before and after the flight back home will do wonders in terms of avoiding any sluggish feelings or trouble sleeping.
But for the travelers who don’t want to try fasting, other ways to avoid jet lag include sleeping on the plane (and bringing headphones) to help block out any noise, getting some fresh when the plane lands as that helps the body reset its natural time clock and avoiding or limiting alcohol intake as that can worsen jet lag symptoms.