Summary: A new study conducted by scientists from Northwestern University and the Santa Fe Institute reveals that consuming a substantial early morning meal in the new time zone can aid in overcoming jet lag. The body has multiple internal clocks that can drift out of sync with each other when adapting to a different time zone, leading to exhaustion, sleep challenges, and other issues associated with jet lag. Scientists developed a theoretical model to study the interactions between these internal clocks under the effects of aging and disruptions like jet lag. They found that common symptoms of aging, such as weaker signals between circadian clocks and lower sensitivity to light, make the system more vulnerable to disruptions and slower to recover. However, the study also discovered that 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.
Jet lag occurs when there is a difference between the body’s internal clock, known as the circadian system, and the surrounding environment. The body has multiple internal clocks, which rely on different cues to calibrate. The brain’s central clock, for example, depends on sunlight, while peripheral clocks in organs calibrate at mealtime. Conflicting cues can confuse these internal clocks and cause desynchrony.
Previous studies have primarily focused on individual cues or a single clock, leaving gaps in understanding the synchronization of multiple clocks. The study by Huang and her colleagues took a different approach by developing a mathematical model that accounts for the complex interplay between these systems. Their model revealed that age-related factors, such as weaker signals between circadian clocks and decreased sensitivity to light, make the system more susceptible to disruptions and slower to recover.
However, the study also offers a solution to overcome jet lag and improve sleep quality during travel. Consuming a substantial early morning meal in the new time zone can aid in adjusting the internal clocks. Shifting meal schedules or having a meal at night is discouraged, as it can lead to misalignment between internal clocks.
This research provides valuable insights into the interactions between the body’s internal clocks and the effects of aging and disruptions like jet lag. Further investigation is planned to identify factors that result in more resilient internal clocks, which could lead to prevention strategies for jet lag and maintaining a healthy circadian system as we age.
Source: Department of Physics and Astronomy, Northwestern University and the Santa Fe Institute