If you come from the land down under, travelling to exotic destinations often comes with dreaded jet lag, with older adults thought to be more susceptible to the condition.
However, scientists in the US have found that with some well-coordinated meals, international travellers could reduce how long they suffer from the affliction that comes with crossing time zones.
Traversing multiple time zones disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm or internal biological clock that regulates various internal processes throughout the day and responds to cues such as light exposure, food and physical activity.
In a nutshell, symptoms like chronic daytime fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, dehydration, and general aches and pains are a result of a discrepancy between your internal body clock and the time at your destination. And as we age we become more prone to the misalignment which causes jet lag.
There are many ways to alleviate jet lag but researchers from Northwestern University and Santa Fe Institute have now revealed that eating a large hearty breakfast in the time zone of your destination and skipping the evening meal the night before, may reduce the time you are jet lagged.
Modern research shows that circadian clocks are present throughout the body and each relies on certain cues for regulation. As an example, the brain’s clock depends on sunlight, while the peripheral organs calibrate at mealtimes.
Postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University and the study’s lead author, Yitong “Pepper” Huang says, “Conflicting signals, such as warm weather during a short photoperiod or nighttime eating — eating when your brain is about to rest — can confuse internal clocks and cause desynchrony.”
Together with her co-authors, Huang, developed a mathematical model to study the interactions between multiple internal clocks under the effects of ageing and disruptions like jet lag.
The model also replicated four meal schedules over a 24-hour period. These included four equally spaced meals throughout the day and night, three meals when hungry, three equally spaced meals during the day time and three days of eating a large breakfast and skipping a nighttime meal.
According to their results, the way to better sleep is to forego that heavy nighttime meal and indulge in a breakfast of champions the next morning.
“Having a larger meal in the early morning of the new time zone can help overcome jet lag. Constantly shifting meal schedules or having a meal at night is discouraged, as it can lead to misalignment between internal clocks,” Huang stated,
While it can be frustrating, jet lag should not have to restrict your travel plans and can be avoided if you stay vigilant with your sleeping patterns, hydration levels, eating well and general routine.