While most modern jet lag sufferers will tell you that it’s not possible to sleep in a new time zone, the reality is that our bodies are very adaptable. Just like any other major life event, like a move, a wedding, or even going to college, it’s possible to adapt to any time zone very quickly and easily.
Jet lag can cause insomnia, and no UK citizen likes having to sleep in a strange time zone. If you’re planning a trip abroad, getting to grips with jet lag can make or break your holiday – and it’s surprisingly easier than you think.
The hardest part about traveling to a new time zone is the jet lag. After flying around the world, you’re bound to feel exhausted. And when you arrive in a new country, you may not feel like sleeping. But, there are some simple things you can do to get better sleep and feel better during your trip.. Read more about jet lag can’t sleep for days and let us know what you think.
Because long-haul trips are such a major part of my job, I’ve spent a lot of time attempting to fight jet lag at its own game. Some travel writers claim that alterations in their circadian rhythm go unnoticed, and that long-term travel only makes things worse. My own physique, on the other hand, is unique. Jet lag has been a big thorn in my side as an insomniac who resorted to meditation to assist lull my body to sleep. I dealt with the hazy dissonance with mid-afternoon naps and a week of walking about like a zombie at the start of my journey.
It was insufficient.
I chose to delve into sleep, jet lag, and circadian rhythms studies and publications. In the process, I devised a method that has significantly reduced my jet lag while traveling between time zones and has helped me sleep better in general.
Despite the fact that this isn’t a normal narrative article, many people complain about jet lag and ask how to alleviate it. I decided to share what I’ve learnt. How to overcome jet lag when traveling is outlined here, along with some helpful hints to keep in mind before you leave home to assist it endure less time. And, if you’re anything like me, sleep has long been a problem for you, using some of these techniques even when you’re not traveling will almost certainly help you sleep better.
That sensation of being both thrilled and tired when you land in a new place after a long trip, waiting for jet lag to kick in.
Chronomedicine and Circadian Rhythm
Understanding how jet lag affects the body requires first learning about circadian rhythm, which is the body’s “clock” that regulates our sleep and waking cycles.
We’ve all read pop culture articles about how “night owls” or “morning folks” are always better than the other. The reality is that your genes influence your body clock and may play a role in whether you fall into one of these two categories. It’s not that you don’t want to wake up early or can’t work nights; it’s that your genes are interfering with the natural rhythm of your body, making it more difficult for you.
This article focuses on jet lag, which occurs when the body clock is out of sync. The circadian rhythm, on the other hand, is crucial to grasp as a foundation for understanding why this may happen. It’s a 24-hour process in the body that impacts much more than sleep and has a significant effect on the immune system, metabolism, body temperature, hormones, and much more.
Different organs and systems in the body have their own circadian rhythms, which are regulated by a “central clock” in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, as you’ll see below. From plants to animals to humans, almost every creature on the earth has its unique circadian rhythm.
More and more research is pointing to a circadian component that influences bodily functions, to the point that a new branch of medicine has emerged: chronomedicine (or chronotherapy). Researchers discovered that rats with cancer reacted better to therapy given in decreasing dosages over a 24-hour period in the 1970s. Later studies revealed that circadian rhythms are essential for a variety of diseases, demonstrating that particular genes, and therefore the physiology of what those genes affect, follow a 24-hour cycle.
Three circadian rhythm researchers were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2017 for discovering a “clock” protein that, like an actual clock, changes depending on the time of day. The protein is built up at night in nocturnal species (like mice), but not in non-nocturnal organisms.
Because of how circadian cycles impact the body’s systems, mice study revealed that when a large dosage of paracetamol was given in the morning, there was no adverse effect. When the same dosage was administered at night, however, it had a negative impact on their livers. In other words, this subgroup of medical practice has shown that there are optimum periods for medical treatments in some illnesses, such as prostate cancer, as well as less than optimal or even dangerous occasions.
What Is the Origin of the Term “Jet Lag”?
Jet lag is a relatively new phrase, which makes sense given that aircraft are a relatively new technology. When I started composing this essay, I wondered when it first appeared in writing.
Popular Science magazine published an article in May 1958 that alluded to its impact on human bodies. The book, titled “Trials of the Jet-Age Traveler,” cautions that traveling across the globe may cause:
“At almost the speed of sound, your eating and sleeping routines will be thrown off like never before… While zipping between the time zones of Paris, Beirut, and Karachi, you may make a mental adjustment by just resetting your watch. Your body, on the other hand, isn’t so readily swayed.”
Then there was the Federal Aviation Administration’s “Time Zone Effects on the Long Distance Air Traveler” study from 1969, which noted that pilots in the 1930s filed early body clock reports. The research makes it apparent that although there was no conclusive study on jet lag in 1969, desynchronization of the circadian rhythm was a significant issue for both passengers and pilots. (Its last recommendation of moderate activity and a warm bath to assist promote sleep is also one of my favorites.)
Jet lag made its way into popular culture via the media that society consumes, according to government research. According to an article in Air and Space Magazine, the first appearance in newspapers was in a Los Angeles Times story by Horace Sutton on February 13, 1966:
“If you want to be part of the Jet Set and travel to Katmandu for coffee with King Mahendra, you may expect to have Jet Lag, a debility similar to a hangover. Jet lag is caused by the fact that planes move so quickly that your biological rhythms are disrupted.”
The phrase was first used in the late 1940s, according to Google’s nGram graph for jet lag in publications from 1800 to 2008, with the term gaining momentum during the later half of the twentieth century, culminating in the year 2000.
Why Do We Get Jet Lag? What Is Jet Lag and Why Do We Get It?
The time difference between our internal body clock and the location we are currently visiting is known as jet lag.
Jet lag is, at its core, a chronobiological issue. The same problems occur not just while flying large distances, but also when working shifts. Both require a shift in the way your biological clock interprets time. It isn’t only people that are affected.
Daily solar cycles are essential to many different species, from insects (honeybees may experience jet lag, too!) to plants, algae, and so much more, according to scientific writer Lisa Geddes in her book Chasing the Sun. Plants and their night-day cycle were the subject of a Yale University research published in 2019. The circadian clock is essential to plants in much the same way as it is to people, according to Joshua Gendron, director of Yale’s Gendron Lab and senior author of the research.
Much of our biology changes between day and night in a natural cycle that our bodies easily adapt to. Change such rhythms via shift work, long-haul travel, or sleeplessness, and the consequences on the body are many, resulting in a “lag” between what the body expects and what it receives moment to moment.
I’ll start with long-haul flights since this is a travel website. Our circadian cycle is momentarily out of sync with the new destination’s time when we travel great distances. This implies that we expect dawn and dark to arrive at certain times, which are unexpectedly different from what is occurring outdoors. Not only does desynchronization impact sleep, but it also affects body temperature, blood pressure, hormone balance, and when and how hungry we are.
You know when you wake up at 3 a.m. after a long trip and grimace when you turn over to check the time because you just know it’s not day time yet your body is all tense? NO, GET UP, IT IS NOT NIGHT, IT IS ALL A LIE? That’s correct. When this occurs, I feel like a permanent day/night bird, unsure of which is which and dreading the early morning waking.
The SCN, as I previously said, is a “master clock” in our brain that utilizes light exposure to synchronize all of our organs’ functions. It synchronizes our circadian cycle while also keeping everything in line with the Earth’s rotation, and it’s located in the hypothalamus, “an region of the brain right above where the optic nerves from the eyes intersect.”
Our body’s internal time measuring system is affected by the synthesis of melatonin, a sleep hormone generated by the pineal gland to signal to our bodies that it is soon time to rest. The direction we travel has an impact on that system; flying west is easier on the body than flying east.
According to Dr. Smith L. Johnston, a flight physician and NASA’s head of the fatigue management team, each time zone we pass takes approximately a day to adapt to. However, not all cases of jet lag are the same. According to a 2016 research, not only is it easier to recuperate from westward travel, but jumping between a few time zones may be more difficult for our bodies than a bigger difference.
To emphasize the issue, a 2017 research of sports teams and travel discovered that flying east impacted athletic performance (in this instance, sprinters) for up to three days after arrival. What about a westward expansion? According to the findings, going west is less taxing on the body, influencing waking times more than peak performance.
Visualization of our body clock. National Institutes of Health (NIH)
According to a New York Times article from July 2016,
If you did nothing to combat it, a westward journey over nine time zones would take you approximately eight days to recover from. According to the estimate, crossing the same amount of time zones heading east would take more than 13 days. This recuperation period is longer than if you traveled straight around the world, traversing 12 time zones (about the distance between New York and Tokyo).
This is due to the fact that the body’s internal clock has a natural period of slightly longer than 24 hours, which means the body has an easier time extending the day (going west) than shortening the day (moving east) (heading east).
When I return from Vietnam, it takes me a week to adapt, but with the suggestions below, I’ve been able to avoid the effects of jet lag on my daily life.
I used to just curl up in a ball on the carpet and call it a day at 3 p.m.
Jet Lag Signs and Symptoms
It’s difficult to get a good night’s sleep when your body clock is all over the place. I’m not a great sleeper in general, though I’ve much improved my sleep problems over the years, so I’m essentially a zombie when I’m jet lagged.
The following are some of the signs and symptoms of jet lag:
- Having trouble falling asleep
- Inability to sleep throughout the whole night
- Exhaustion throughout the day
- Fog in the head
- Coordination is impaired.
- An increase in allergies and/or asthma symptoms for certain people (see below for more)
- For others, stomach pain is a common occurrence (see below for more)
- Mood swings, such as irritability or emotion.
Jet lag is a pain! However, by following the advice in this article, you should be able to reduce the symptoms and obtain better sleep in a new location.
Is our Immune System Affected by Jet Lag or Sleep Deprivation?
Jet lag is more than just getting a few more hours of sleep when traveling. As previously stated, many research have been conducted on the consequences of long-term circadian rhythm alterations on the body. Some even address the significance of circadian rhythm in neuropsychiatric disorders, where scientists have shown that clock genes are involved in the pathophysiology of a variety of diseases, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression.
Chronobiology and chronomedicine studies are offering new methods for the treatment of mental disorders by stabilizing sleep and circadian behaviors.
Your immune system, like your neuroendocrine system and many other bodily function loops, has a circadian rhythm. According to a 2015 study on body clocks and immunity,
Most immune cells contain circadian clock genes and have a large number of genes that are expressed on a 24-hour cycle. This has a significant impact on cellular functions, such as the daily synthesis and release of cytokines, chemokines, and cytolytic factors, the daily gating of the response via pattern recognition receptors, and circadian rhythms of cellular functions like phagocytosis, migration to inflamed or infected tissue, cytolytic activity, and proliferative response to antigens. As a result, changes in circadian rhythms (e.g., clock gene mutation in mice or environmental disturbance comparable to shift work) cause immunological responses to be disrupted. We talk about the significance of these findings for human health and what areas future study should focus on.
Shift employment or long periods of jet lag may impair the natural immune system’s defensive responses. Chronic misalignment of our biological clocks, such as when eating and sleeping habits clash with the natural light-dark cycle or when we work long shifts, is linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, and cancer.
Cells of the body’s central clock in the SCN (top) and other body clocks in other tissues, such as the immune system (bottom), have a clock based on autoregulatory feedback loops, as shown in the diagram below (middle right inset). The rhythmic expression of different kinds of molecules is controlled by this clock.
Through humoral, neuronal, and systemic signals, the SCN clock controls the many peripheral clocks (including those in immune cells). The immune response’s circadian control is therefore not a single body clock, but rather an amalgamation of signals from the central (SCN) clock and all of the peripheral clocks located in immune cells, organs, and even infection sites throughout the body. (Relating to inflammatory diseases and the circadian clock, according to the source.)
It’s also worth mentioning that various peripheral clocks adapt to the new time zone / shifted time at varying rates, so your SCN may be better acclimated than, say, your liver. (Source)
The SCN as well as the peripheral clocks. Source.
In a study published in early 2024, researchers used genetically modified mice to delete the BMAL1 clock gene. The researchers sought to see how the body clock affected infection-fighting cells in the context of pneumonia. They previously knew that mice infected during the day had a tougher difficulty fending off pneumococcal bacteria than mice infected at night. The goal of this experiment was to amplify that disparity by eliminating the mice’s capacity to adjust their body clocks.
In a press release about the research, principal study investigator David Ray, PhD, said, “We were extremely astonished to find that these mice, who had no clock in a group of immune cells, were more resistant to bacterial pneumonia.” “Almost everything we’ve learned about the body clock so far, whether it’s from shift workers or mouse studies, suggests that interrupting the body clock makes humans and animals worse, not better.”
Furthermore, according to a research published in the journal Genome Research in January 2024, our circadian rhythms have a larger impact on our capacity to fight illnesses than previously thought. Jennifer Hurley, the study’s main author, told Inverse that although scientists understood that persistent disturbances to the circadian clock throughout a lifetime may raise the risk of certain illnesses, they didn’t know how the disruption caused the higher risk.
“We saw that all of the illnesses related to persistent circadian disturbance were also tied to inflammation, which is an immune system byproduct. However, there was no comprehensive knowledge of how the clock regulates the immune system in cells or species. The goal of our research was to assist close that knowledge gap.”
So, what did Hurley and his colleagues discover? They discovered that macrophages, which are specialized cells that aid in the identification and elimination of bacteria and other dangerous organisms in the body, play an important role in inflammation levels in the body. And it turns out that they have an impact on the body’s circadian clocks as well. The following is an excerpt from the Inverse piece:
Macrophages, according to Hurley and her colleagues, use the circadian regulation of metabolism to alter their responses to infections and stress. However, Hurley claims that the exact nature of their timing was completely unanticipated.
“We discovered that the circadian regulatory mechanisms in the cell are more complicated than we previously thought, implying that circadian rhythms likely regulate more than we thought,” Hurley adds.
“Our research has a lot of promise to advance science,” says the author.
Because our body clocks impact a variety of systems that we rely on to operate, it’s even more important to attempt to avoid jet lag while traveling. Sleep hygiene and adequate sleep are important for the immune system’s functioning as well as for waking up feeling refreshed.
Chronotherapy is even being looked at as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
Scientists are increasingly turning to the body’s circadian cycle to assist manage current illnesses and therapies in the future. With the pandemic, coronavirus research are looking into chronomedicine’s discoveries on how the time of day affects the body’s reactions to medicines – and even whether they are beneficial or dangerous.
“We wanted to completely understand why this medication was helpful to some individuals but had bad effects on others when we observed the debate around the usage of ibuprofen,” said Harry Karmouty-Quintana of University of Texas Health. Harry’s team suggests giving anti-inflammatory medicine at specific times of the day in a report published in the British Journal of Pharmacology called The case for chronotherapy in Covid19-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome, which would affect the body’s response to the medication without interfering with its fight against COVID-19.
The research adds, “We believe that the intrinsic circadian clock of the lung and immune system may control separate components of CRS, and therefore, chronotherapy may be utilized to successfully treat ARDS in COVID19 patients,” which ties in well with the mast cell sections below. Mast cells have their own circadian cycle, and as they degranulate, they produce cytokines (release inflammatory substances into the blood). According to Harry’s team, giving medicine depending on the timing of the inflammatory surge may help the body recover faster.
As stated in the conclusion:
“This means that the best time to take a medication is in the afternoon, and that taking it at night should be avoided. This is especially essential when delivering immune modulators, which are typically given in a single dosage. Furthermore, the aim of COVID19 chronotherapy is to prevent attaining steady-state medication levels, which, like antiinflammatory therapy, would suppress the virus-directed inflammatory response.”
How to Beat Jet Lag: My 5 Tips for Quicker Recovery and Better Sleep
This list of suggestions has not been evaluated by a doctor; rather, it is based on what I’ve discovered works for me as I’ve toured the globe. I’ve discovered a mix of different methods for minimizing jet lag that really mitigates the impacts of jet lag, gathered from my reading and experimentation. As a frequent traveler, jet lag is a major issue. I was rewarded for making it more tolerable.
Even if people aren’t traveling as much these days, these techniques may still be utilized to obtain a better night’s sleep, stick to a more beneficial sleep pattern, or guarantee that transitioning from day to night – whether for studies, work, or other reasons – is seamless.
Use these five methods to overcome jet lag on your next trip, or just join the legions of people who wish to sleep better and have fewer 4 a.m. disruptions. You may improve your sleep, flight recovery time, daily lucidity, and health by treating jet lag and/or circadian rhythm disorders. Our bodies, according to science.
Melatonin! Does melatonin assist with jet lag and sleep in general? It can, but only in far lower amounts than you would expect.
Melatonin production rises as night falls and the SCN receives less light. Our bodies’ production of melatonin drops at dawn, and our bodies’ daytime circuits take control.
I take melatonin in two ways, both at 300mcg (not milligram) amounts – far lower than the dosage recommendations on the over-the-counter medication you can get at your local pharmacy or on Amazon. For me, less is more, and physicians seem to agree.
“Most current melatonin pills are approximately twenty to thirty times the proper dose,” Scott says in his 2018 article “Melatonin: Much More Than You Wanted to Know” on Slate Star Codex.
He goes on to say that
I prefer the 0.3 mg figure because of a slew of research that either favor the lower dosage or show no difference between doses, as well as clear evidence that 0.3 mg provides an impact that is closest to natural melatonin spikes in healthy individuals, and UpToDate generally has the greatest recommendations. You could make a case for anything up to 1 mg, in my opinion. Anything more than that, and you’re far too high. Excess melatonin isn’t harmful in and of itself, but it may lead to tolerance and disrupt your chronobiology in other ways. I would guess that sufficiently low doses are safe and effective long term, based on anecdotal reports and the impossibility of becoming tolerant to a natural hormone at the dose you naturally have it, but this is just a guess, and most guidelines are cautious in saying anything after three months or so.
The dose suggested on most bottles is much greater than what studies have proven our bodies need, and although I am not a doctor, I have had excellent results with a significantly reduced dosage. When testing for insomnia in individuals aged 50 and above, even lower doses (0.3mg is optimal) are helpful. When I take the prescribed dosages (even as little as 1.5mg tablets), I see a negative effect the following day.
So, what should a traveler do?
- Purchase the proper melatonin dosage. This means getting 300mcg tablets rather than the huge ones you’ll find at the drugstore. Sundown Naturals or Life Extension products are good choices at this dose. See LabDoor’s article here, through SSC, if you want to evaluate the purity / dependability of your supplement.
- The timing varies, and research on taking melatonin for jet lag aren’t as conclusive as those on dosage. Personally, I sleep well after arriving at my location; the problem is waking up in the middle of the night. In such instances, I’ll go to bed normally, but if I wake up around 4 a.m., I’ll take 1/2 of a 300mcg pill to go back to sleep. I’m not going to do this for more than three days.
- If jet lag has thrown off my circadian rhythm to the point that it can’t remember when it’s nighttime, I take 300mcg just before bed.
Examine’s extensive examination of the research and effectiveness of melatonin may be found here.
Even though I’m no longer traveling, I still take 300mcg of melatonin every night at 8 p.m. (with a target bedtime of 10pm). It’s very beneficial for becoming sleepy when I need to and for having a good night’s sleep. Any dosage more than 300mcg causes me to have much too vivid nightmares and wake up feeling sluggish.
Limiting blue light exposure at night may help you avoid jet lag and maintain a regular sleep pattern.
Getting in the habit of signaling to your SCN and your body when it’s time to go to bed and when it’s time to get up is an important part of managing circadian rhythms. We are exposed to a lot of artificial “blue” light (even if it seems white) in the contemporary world, which serves as a daylight signaler to our brains. Our bodies are more easily fooled by LEDs, fluorescent lights, or the backlit displays of our mobile gadgets. It’s even more perplexing when your body clock believes you’ve traveled halfway across the globe.
The title of a research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January 2015 encapsulates everything: “Using light-emitting eReaders in the evening has a detrimental impact on sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness.” According to the research, individuals not only generate 55 percent less melatonin while using an iPad at night, but it also takes longer to fall asleep after snuggling into bed. In addition, the sleep had reduced REM (rapid eye movement) time. The iPad users felt sleepier the following morning and had trouble staying up.
Those who read books, on the other hand, were more awake when they awoke. If that wasn’t terrible enough, the research discovered that the identical iPad users’ circadian rhythms were off by more than an hour the following night. Because they had read on a blue-light gadget before bed the night before, they started to feel sleepy later.
Is there agreement that blue light has an impact on the circadian rhythm?
Yes, in general, but there is some recent debate over how much blue light from a phone or computer impacts the body vs. serves as a stimulant. Professor Russell Foster of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford in England is one of the dissenters. He thinks that it is the stimulation of our neurological systems by gadgets, not the blue light itself, that is the problem. We do, after all, spend a lot of time on our phones and tablets.
Many scientists, however, disagree with him. Blue light from our portable gadgets, according to the Sleep Foundation, “can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, enhance alertness, and reset the body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) to a later schedule.” Blue wavelengths “suppress delta brainwaves, which promote sleep, and increase alpha brainwaves, which generate alertness,” according to Live Science, which also applies to our smartphones and tablets.
While utilizing them less before night may produce a less exciting atmosphere, blue-blocking is not a waste of time. That is, at least, where science stands as of September 2019.
I’ve found it a lot simpler to adjust my body’s schedule when I need to, I’ve slept better, and I’ve felt more awake in the morning since I began limiting blue light at night. Instead of simply doing it to avoid jet lag, I now do it on a regular basis. As a consequence, I get more restful sleep.
Nighttime Blue Light Restrictions
How to Use F.lux on Your Laptop
* For other F.lux applications for jet lag, check the list below.
I’ve personally pushed every friend and family member who doesn’t have F.lux installed on their laptop to do so right now, promising them that it would transform their life. As I work in the nights, I’ve never encountered a software that has had such a significant effect on my sleep cycle and comfort.
In the evenings, I’ve always been more productive, typically beginning around 4 p.m. I’ll gladly work till the wee hours of the morning. And, of course, it was impossible for me to go asleep after hours of pecking. F.lux filters blue light from your screen at sunset and brightens it in the morning, depending on your location. It’s a free software, and I strongly urge you to contribute since it’s essentially eye cushions.
They didn’t ask me to write this, and I’m not connected with them. I just evangelize since it has made such a significant impact in my ability to work effectively in the evening without feeling awful the following day.
With f.lux, you can see how the screen changes from day to night.
Using the new ‘Night Shift’ app for iOS or the Twilight app for Android.
If you have an iPhone or iPad, you may utilize the new “night shift” option to exclude blue light, effectively “Fluxifying” your gadget for nighttime usage, which can help you sleep.
The Twilight app for Android lets you accomplish the same thing with your phone or tablet, eliminating blue light beginning at sunset.
Wearing Blue-Blocking Eyewear
If you don’t want to install a software on your laptop, these very attractive (well, not so much) orange spectacles can help you block blue light: Uvex Skyper Blue Light Blocking Computer Glasses with SCT-Orange Lens Uvex Skyper Blue Light Blocking Computer Glasses with SCT-Orange Lens These enable you to read on whichever device you choose while still blocking blue light.
I know you’re really beautiful.
See these DONNA blue blocking lenses for a less bulky option (good for smaller faces). The DONNA glasses came with a little screwdriver, a durable case, and new screws for the sides when I purchased them.
Another alternative is SWANNIES tinted blue light blocking glasses (available in various sizes) or their untinted variant (supposedly celebrity endorsed?) (available in one size only).
To help you adapt quicker, change your time zone BEFORE you leave.
Many articles discuss how to overcome jet lag after you arrive, but I’ve found that communicating to my body ahead of time that I’m in a different time zone significantly reduces my adjustment time.
How to change your time zones in advance.
- F.lux was adjusted to the new time zone 5 days before I left, so my laptop will block blue light during the evening hours in that nation.
- I’ll wear those blue blocking spectacles about the home at nighttime in my new destination if it’s a very significant trip — such as a time when I need to deliver a keynote or presentation. Yes, this makes me seem to be a moron. No, I don’t leave the home in them. Yes, I’ve discovered that it does make a difference.
- At the same time as I begin my F.lux routine, I begin taking melatonin at the onset of dusk at my new location. So, if I’m flying to Saigon but am now in Montreal, I’ll take 1/4 of a 3mg melatonin tablet at 9 a.m. Montreal time for the next 5 days. This does imply that I have a harder difficulty sleeping over those few days, but the technique effectively reduces the effects of time upon arrival.
- The free Jet Lag Rooster app will show you precisely how to adjust your schedule depending on your bedtime, waking hours, and trip plans if you want details on how to prepare ahead of time.
Jet Lag Rooster schedule example
- Another app for changing time zones is the premium Timeshifter, which uses a combination of neuroscience and technology to assist you move time zones by taking into consideration your sleep pattern, chronotype, travel itinerary, and a variety of personal preferences. It has received rave reviews and is endorsed by Silicon Valley and NASA astronauts. It not only advises you how to change your sleep pattern, but also when to take naps (and when to caffeinate) along the way. Its strategy is focused on individualization, since everyone responds to light and light changes differently. According to the creator, if you follow the app’s instructions to the letter, you’ll be able to “move the clock three to four times faster than usual.”
- Invest in Re-Timer glasses if you want a one-stop shop version of this strategy. Re-Timer attempts to gradually change the time of day when light reaches your eyes in order to accommodate your travel schedule. These glasses, instead of orange lenses, produce green light and are worn for approximately 50 minutes each session. This helps to activate the regions of your brain that control your 24-hour body clock. The business is keen to point out that they are not trying to completely change your sleep pattern before you go. Instead, before you go, the glasses retime your body clock in tiny increments, and the process continues once you arrive. The glasses were created by two sleep psychologists and evaluated by the F.lux team here.
Wearable smart gadgets may assist you in shifting your sleep and adjusting more quickly.
Because of the large number of frequent flyers, there is a strong drive to create technologies that can microanalyze sleep cycles and possible jet lag.
In late 2019, engineers affiliated with the Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute developed a way to deliver personalized advice using smart wearable technology. In the study about this advice, published December 2019 in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists developed a series of algorithms that can analyze biometric data recorded by a smart device to recommend the optimal combination of light exposure and sleep for a person’s particular bio-rhythms.
One of the paper’s co-authors, Agung Julius, stated, “The circadian and sleep processes are also extremely closely linked to your mental state and how aware you are.” “If you attempt to accomplish anything at the incorrect time of day, your attentiveness will be less effective than if you do it when your circadian clock tells you to.”
There are always new discoveries in the chronobiology field, and I’ll keep this article up to date as new information becomes available.
Good sleep hygiene necessitates the use of an eye mask and earphones.
Sleeping Mask by Sleep Master
When changing time zones, it’s essential to block off light during the time you want your body to sleep, much like the sunrise-inspired alarm clock below. I sleep with a comfy sleep mask that was suggested to me by someone else and has traveled with me all over the globe. (It’s also on my list of things to bring for a trip.) If you have a tiny head like me and conventional sleep masks come off easily, the Sleep Master Sleep Mask with Velcro is ideal.
Same reasoning applies to ear plugs: creating a sleep environment that is calm and dark is critical for body clock regulation. Because my ears are incredibly tiny and these Moldex Spark Plugs compress down to the proper size, I use them during NASCAR races. They come in boxes of 200, so if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself handing out earplugs to everyone in your vicinity.
Improve your circadian rhythm with early light and exercise to help you overcome jet lag quicker.
Work exercise in the mornings when you first arrive in the new time zone to get your blood flowing and help you wake up even more. I used to be more awake at night and would workout then. Doing so just woke me up more and made it more difficult to sleep.
If possible, expose oneself to natural morning light, particularly during the first several days of jet lag. This is difficult for me since I want to remain under the covers all day, but even if it means opening the window and putting my head out the window as soon as I get up, it helps tell my body that it is daytime.
Alarm clock from Philips that looks like the sun
Using technology to assist improve morning circadian rhythm is one option. The Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Sunrise Simulation, shown below, is designed to seem like the sun rising over the world. It begins with a naturally bright color and progressively intensifies the light over the course of 30 minutes, just before your scheduled wake-up time. You may assist your body adjust to your current time zone quicker by mimicking the rising sun.
Exercise may help you overcome jet lag quicker by phase shifting the effects of bright light (see this recent study).
Minimize sugar and alcohol, adjust meal timings, limit coffee in the afternoons, and remain hydrated to help your body recover from jet lag.
Meal times, like restricting blue light and changing your sleep pattern, are crucial in reducing the effects of jet lag. Because the SCN regulates not just our sleep but also our appetite and many other bodily functions, eating at the incorrect times may send a signal to your body that you’re not where you think you are.
Airplane flights do their best to provide the “proper” meals for the time zone change ahead, such as breakfast before a dawn landing. As a result, they assist your body in eating according to the new time zone’s routine. However, once I arrive, I have a strong desire to eat during my departure time zone’s eating hours. While it’s not always easy in the beginning, I try to strictly adhere to the new time zone’s lunch hours.
Furthermore, according to a 2019 research, insulin is a key signal that helps convey the time of meals to the cellular clocks found throughout our bodies, also known as our body clock. While scientists have long known that eating at odd hours (as is common during shift work or jet lag) is a significant source of body clock disruption, they’ve now pinpointed how the body clock detects and reacts to meal timing, allowing us to regain some control and help relieve the issue. “Paying special attention to meal time and light exposure is likely the best approach to minimize the detrimental effects of shift-work and jet lag,” according to the research release.
Those who need to arrive in a new destination and get going as soon as they land for meetings, conferences, or the like may benefit from a slow shift ahead of time to the “new” meal times and types in order to self-regulate insulin before departure, similar to changing your computer screen to the new time zone.
Furthermore, excessive glucose levels may cause the circadian clocks within our cells to malfunction. According to experts, high glucose levels may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease over time, but study is also looking into whether it might disrupt the body clock and make shift work or jet lag worse in the near term.
Researchers discovered massive shifts in circadian rhythms and clock-related genes with high glucose levels in the blood immediately before to such occurrences in 2019. In addition, a research published in late January 2024 found that fixing faulty circadian clocks may assist to manage and control type 2 diabetes. The scientists concluded that medicine that regulates the body’s clock may benefit people with diabetes and other metabolic disorders. All the more reason to keep an eye on your sugar levels while you’re actively resetting your biological clock!
While alcohol makes airline trips more enjoyable for some of us, it dehydrates us and interferes with our bodies’ ability to regulate time zones.
On the plane, stick to water. Also, drink more water than normal while you’re at it. Dehydration, especially if induced by a lack of water (rather than, say, a drink at 35,000 feet), may exacerbate jet lag symptoms upon landing.
Then there’s the caffeine. Author Michael Pollan writes in a new book on the mind-altering effects of plant-based drugs, “
Caffeine isn’t the only thing causing our sleep problems; screens, alcohol (which is just as bad for REM sleep as caffeine is for deep sleep), medications, work schedules, noise and light pollution, and worry may all affect the length and quality of our sleep. But here’s the thing with caffeine: it’s not just a major cause of sleep deprivation; it’s also the primary weapon we employ to combat it. The majority of caffeine used today is utilized to compensate for the poor sleep that caffeine produces, indicating that caffeine is aiding in the concealment of the issue that caffeine causes.
Caffeine has a 12-hour “quarter life,” which means that 25% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee consumed at midday will still be present at midnight, affecting the depth and duration of your sleep.
To assist you adapt quicker and better for the journey, limit coffee to the morning in the target location and after you arrive.
Is Jet Lag or a Changed Sleep Schedule Worse for Allergies/Asthma?
Okay, this piece isn’t part of my jet lag advise or how to quickly adjust to a changed body clock. But it’s so interesting that I’m including it anyhow. Mast cells, which serve as immune system sentinels, are found in everyone of us. Mast cells are present all throughout the body and play a role in allergy, immunological, and inflammatory responses.
When they expand their numbers in a particular area in the body via proliferation, or when they ‘degranulate’ (dump various inflammatory mediators into the body) with little provocation, they may become dysfunctional and produce excessive responses to meals, odors, and environmental stimuli. The cells are linked to brain traumas, neurodegeneration, neuropsychiatric diseases, stress, and neuroinflammation when they become dysfunctional. (Source).
Asthma or allergic rhinitis, as well as mast cell activation disorders, have long had a circadian bias, with symptoms worsening for many patients between midnight and dawn, when plasma histamine levels are at their highest. (Source) Is this why, anecdotally, many individuals experience an increase in allergy symptoms when they are jet lagged?
Mast cells are also regulated by their own internal clock, according to new study. A combination of a particular set of “clock genes” and environmental variables such as food, light exposure (see suggestions below! ), hormones, and more control this clock.
A 2014 research looked at how circadian clocks influence daily rhythms in IgE/mast cell-mediated allergic responses in mice, while a 2018 paper called The Circadian Clock Drives Mast Cell Functions in Allergic Reactions goes even farther. The authors of that research came to the conclusion that the circadian clock influences a wide range of human illnesses and functions, including asthma and allergies. Mast cells are important, even though the molecular processes underlying this modulation – how precisely the cells accomplish it – are still being researched.
Mast cells are also controlled by the SCN, and their mediators (such as histamine, prostaglandin, and others) exhibit a circadian expression and release pattern in response to activation. Mast cells have a unique ability to influence other immune cells since they are found throughout the body, in every connective tissue and mucosal tissues. This implies that if things go wrong with mast cells, they may have an impact on the immune system.
“Disrupted mast cell clocks may affect the following adaptive immune responses and initiate or strengthen allergic symptoms,” the research finds. If we are severely jet-lagged, it affects not only our normal clock, but also our immunological clock, as well as this mast cell clock, which has a significant effect on allergic responses and asthma.
In a type I allergic response, the mast cell clock is activated. Because the core molecular clock consists of interlocked transcriptional and translational feedback loops, clocks in peripheral tissues utilize the same molecular components as those found in SCN. Source.
The significance of the biological clock in allergic disorders is becoming clearer, therefore targeting the mast cell clock as a chronotherapy target may be beneficial. For the time being, the exact processes and/or particular functions of the mast cell-intrinsic clockwork in response regulation are unknown. In any case, these findings hint to yet another element of the body’s clock that may assist someone suffering from jet lag: focusing on and tamping down allergic responses with the same awareness as time to reduce total body impacts.
How do you treat mast cell dysfunction if mast cells are the cause?
This is a complex issue that science is tackling from a variety of perspectives. However, for individuals who wish to look into this further, stabilizing mast cells may be an excellent place to start. The following is my own experience, and it is NOT intended to be medical advice. It’s just what I’ve discovered to be beneficial.
- In the new location, taking 500mg of quercetin powder twice a day, with lunch and again just before night, to stabilize mast cells. This is the non-GMO powder I use. What is the purpose of quercetin? It has a strong anti-allergy effect. Take a look at this research.
- Increasing vitamin C levels may aid in the stabilization of mast cells. Camu-camu is my source since it has such a high proportion of vitamin C. This is the brand I use. I take 1/2 tsp twice a day, with the second dosage taking place shortly before bedtime.
- After arriving in a new location, eating a low histamine diet for a few days. Low histamine diets come in a variety of forms, and there are many websites that address them. The Sighi lists are excellent, as may be seen here.
These are simple things, but they are much more complex for individuals who have a mast cell activation disease (mastocytosis or mast cell activation syndrome). For a much more in-depth look at mast cell activation disorders, the immune system, and traveling with allergies and sensitivities, go here.
Isn’t it possible to reset the “mast cell clock”? Is it of any use?
Treatment of mast cell activity, on the other hand, is not the same as “resetting the mast cell clock,” as the research itself suggests.
It seems that timing is important, and I’m interested to see what results from this method.
Giving mice steroids before bed to help reset the mast cell clock for allergic rhinitis (source), as well as using steroids at night for people, has been studied (source). Taking those stabilizers at night may assist me more than taking them during the day because of the “mast cell clock.” But for the time being, this is only conjecture, and it’s an intriguing area of research.
The significance of the biological clock in allergic disorders is becoming clearer, therefore targeting the mast cell clock as a chronotherapy target may be beneficial. […] The biological clock is rapidly becoming another lever in the area of customized medicine, which seeks to include the time element into treatment.
Hopefully, breakthroughs will be made soon for this possibly unique method of assisting us in better adjusting and feeling better while we do so.
Can Sleep Schedule Changes Cause Nausea and GI Problems?
I believe you already know the solution at this point in your reading. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes
I was perplexed as to why I was experiencing a plethora of stomach problems when I was most jet lagged. After meals, my stomach felt bloated, and I felt nauseous in the mornings. It turns out that there was a logical explanation for this, and it had to do with the digestive tract’s involvement in circadian rhythms.
In October 2019, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis discovered a kind of immune cell that helps maintain time in the gut. These cells, known as type 3 innate lymphoid cells (ILC3), maintain the stomach functioning properly. And, to add to the intrigue, remember those clock genes I mentioned at the start of this post? They’re very active in those ILC3s, to the point that immune compounds generated by those cells match the clock genes’ activity.
When researchers deleted an essential clock gene from mice in October, the animals were unable to generate enough ILCs as well as manage a bacterial infection in their stomach. These results, according to the researchers, assist to explain why circadian rhythm disturbances are related to gastrointestinal issues.
“What we’ve discovered here is that circadian rhythms directly influence the activity of immune cells in the gut,” says Marco Colonna, a senior author of the research. He thinks that this may explain some of the health problems associated with shift workers, as well as those who suffer from jet lag or chronic sleep deprivation, such as IBS and metabolic syndrome.
The gut must be prepared for daily routines, nutrition, bacteria, and more in order to function effectively, and this research indicates that ILC3s play a key role in helping the gut operate smoothly. The ILC3s in the study mice did not function properly when the researchers mimicked a shift worker’s schedule.
In addition, researchers at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon found in 2019 that the activity of immune cells is a significant contributor to intestinal health – and that their function is regulated directly by the brain’s circadian clock. The identical ILC3 cells were examined in this research as well. The researchers in Lisbon believed that their results may explain the connection between sleep patterns and gut inflammatory reactions, at least in part. As a result, a reduction in protective ILC3s may result in persistent inflammation and illness.
As a result, not only can jet lag impact the stomach, but it may also impair inflammation and the gut’s capacity to fight bacterial infection, which is critical if we’re going to a location where new bacteria, viruses, and germs are present. This is because when its time clock is off, it generates a less efficient protective immunological response.
ILC3s isolated from the inflamed gut of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) exhibited lower amounts of clock proteins than ILC3s isolated from the non-inflamed gut of the same patients, according to further human investigations by Teng’s group. The Cornell University researchers added, “It has been widely recognized that there are specific characteristics of immune responses and treatments that impose day and night differences (termed chrono-immunotherapy).” “As a result, our important discovery that ILC3s in the inflamed intestine of patients with IBD have altered circadian gene expression suggests that this is an important pathway in human health and disease, and may hold the key to developing novel strategies to boost ILC3 responses in the context of impaired intestinal homeostasis or microbial dysbiosis.”
To overcome this issue, scientists are currently looking at targeting clock genes in ILC3 cells. In the meanwhile, we non-scientists may adjust our circadian rhythm changes to maintain our immune systems and gastrointestinal health functioning properly.
Airlines are increasingly offering “ultra-long-haul travel,” such as Qantas Airways’ direct route from New York to Sydney in October 2019, which would take almost 20 hours. That is the world’s longest trip, and no airline has ever successfully completed it without making a stop.
You don’t have to wait for the data from the trip to learn more about the effects of jet lag. Use my jet lag technique to help you adjust to a new location with as little disturbance to your body clocks and cells as possible.
Additional Reading: How to Overcome Jet Lag and Get a Good Night’s Sleep
The Biological Clocks That Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing: The Rhythms Of Life: The Biological Clocks That Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing: Rhythms of Life is a fantastic and simple introduction to the world of daily and seasonal biological rhythms, written by circadian neurologist Russell G. Foster.
Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and the Reasons You’re Tired: Internal Time, by chronobiologist Till Roenneberg, explores the relationship and conflict between biological and social clocks, as well as how social jet lag affects virtually everyone.
Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep is a book written by David K. Randall on the science of sleep after he began sleepwalking. Randall delves into the studies on sleep and how it varies by gender, age, and all of the other variables that influence an activity that consumes a third of our lives in Dreamland.
Russell G. Foster and Steven W. Lockley discuss why we sleep and how much is adequate for a contemporary person in their book Sleep: A Very Short Introduction. The writers look at the connection between sleep, work, and the effect of an always-on culture, from sleep problems to quality of life.
“Jet lag is a temporary phenomenon arising from the human body and its inner clock being pitted against the time-leaping impacts of modern aviation,” writes Christopher J. Lee. The book is more of a statement about our fast-paced society than about the lag, but it’s still a worthwhile read.
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, PhD is not a book on how to beat jet lag, but it does go into the science of why and how our brains do what they do when we sleep, like some of the others on this list. It’s also a tremendous success. “Sleep enhances a variety of processes inside the brain,” adds Walker, “including our capacity to learn, remember, and make rational decisions.” It resets our emotions, replenishes our immune systems, fine-tunes our metabolism, and controls our hunger. Dreaming provides a virtual reality environment in which the brain combines previous and current information, allowing for creativity.” This is a fantastic choice for anybody who has difficulty sleeping. The link takes you to the 2017 version, which has been updated. If you’d want to hear more about Walker’s study, check out his August 2024 podcast with Peter Attia, which covers topics including sleep and the immune system, COVID-19 and sleep, hormones, and more.
The Effects of Natural Supplements on Circadian Gene Expression (blog post): This article on jet lag covers circadian rhythm genes and how they are important for health, but if you prefer a gene-based discussion over a habit-based one, check out Debbie Moon’s piece on vitamins that can change your body clock. She also adds additional genes that influence a separate regulatory loop to the major genes in the core circadian clock, such as CLOCK, BMAL1, CRY1/2, and PER1/2. This is an excellent article to read if you’re interested in biohacking and genetics.
Jet lag is a reality I can live with, especially now that I’ve figured out how to beat it faster.
In the end, jet lag isn’t that terrible. We are aware that this is a transient condition. It’s a senseless torment of teeny-tiny pieces of time that enables us to let go a little of life’s reins and sink into chaos.
The suggestions I’ve provided here have helped me overcome jet lag’s negative impacts on my life, but while I’m experiencing it, I try to enjoy it as well. As Pico Iyer put it in an article for the New York Times on the subject:
I’m on a foreign continent fourteen hours later, unable to recall the life, the house, I left this morning. It’s as if I’ve shifted to a different language – a different dimension — and none of the emotions that I had this morning can be transferred. It’s not that I don’t want to hear them; it’s just that they now appear to belong to someone I’m not.
It’s a wonderfully disorienting experience to emerge from a lengthy trip into the fog of a new location. Even if the effects of jet lag diminish but never completely disappear, there are much worse mental states to be in.
Rest well and get some rest, you’re going to need it. The time change is always a challenge for anyone who visits a new time zone, but the body does have an inherent ability to adapt to the new time zone. Before your flight, sleep for at least eight hours to allow your body to do the same. In addition, make sure to take melatonin and eat a light snack to help you adjust to your new time zone.. Read more about feeling jet lagged without flying and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for your body to adjust to a new time zone?
It takes about a week for your body to adjust to a new time zone.
What is the fastest way to adjust to jet lag?
The best way to adjust to jet lag is to sleep for a full 8 hours.
How do I fix my sleep schedule after changing time zones?