It's like the good book said: "Let there be light."
Only this time, the book isn't the Bible; it's an article in Scientific American that's suggesting the solution to jet lag lies with how much light passengers should absorb before flying. According to the piece, it all boils down to light and its effect on a person's circadian rhythm — the human body's biological clock. Think of it as the "tick-tock" of an analog clock, only instead of minutes and hours, the human body's rhythm is in tune with the ambient light cycle, notes Scientific American.
Jet lag is the condition that causes the body to fall out of rhythm after travelling (generally by flying) across multiple time zones. It usually results in sluggishness and exhaustion at a time where locals are up and energized — or the opposite, when people are falling fast asleep and the body can't catch any shut-eye. It's a condition that doesn't discriminate, with celebrities like David Guetta and athletes growing weary about the exhaustion that comes with travel.
But as researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago have discovered, a little preparation can make days of difference.
In a paper published by Helen Burgess, an associate professor at Rush University, Burgess and her co-workers found the amount of light a person receives and when they received it would result in a "phase shift". Shifts can either be an advance or a delay, with advances causing people to wake up earlier, thanks to light earlier in the morning, and delays doing just the opposite, thanks to exposure to light later in the day.
The study found that with a three-day session of exposing a body to light earlier in the morning, travellers' circadian rhythms would shift by about two hours. The pay-off? Participants' bodies adjusted to the new time zone by as much as two days faster. As a rule of thumb, the body typically needs about a day to adjust for every hour of difference in time. The rule's given birth to a number of websites designed to help flyers calculate how much time they'll need to adjust, like British Airways' jet lag calculator.
Hotels are also taking the woes of jet lag to heart, with some offering packages specifically suited to help travellers fall asleep easier. Things like the flotation bed at the InterContinental London Park Lane hotel or a sleep concierge at The Benjamin Hotel in New York may seem over the top, but there are some who can attest to their success in ridding themselves of jet lag, according to Hotelchatter.com
For more advice on how to deal with jet lag, check out the slideshow below. Slideshow test follows below for mobile readers
How To Deal With Jet Lag
East Beats West
As Steven W. Lockley, a member of NASA's fatigue management team, told the New York Times, the direction you fly makes a difference on whether you'll want sunlight earlier in the day or less sunlight. This is due to the way time zones are spread across the globe. It's easier to add hours or daylight exposure if flying east because you'll be adding hours to the clock. Flying west means to set the clock back and it's harder to take away daylight unless you're already something of a night owl.
Drink Up, But Don't Get Drunk
Think jet lag is bad? Try being exhausted and drunk. Staying hydrated will help keep the mind functional, whereas alcohol interferes with sleep, according to Vivek Jain, medical director of the George Washington University Hospital Centre for Sleep Disorders in an interview with Fairfax Media.
Diet Dos and Don'ts
Lean protein (turkey, chicken breast and fish) tends to keep bellies full over a long period of time and will help passengers stay awake when they arrive at their destination, thanks to the constant energy released, writes Janet Kinosian. Conversely, avoid fatty foods as they'll put you to sleep. After all, it's called the "meat sleeps" for a reason.
Move Your Body
Try moving your body every two hours while on the plane. A walk up and down the aisle will help with blood circulation within the body. Exercise, whether done it's before, during or after the flight will keep the body energized during the day and asleep at night, notes Amy Korn-Reavis, a registered sleep technologist.
Planning Is King
The only thing worse than arriving half-dead with jet lag is being half-dead and having to deal with hotel accommodations. By anticipating how many days you'll need to recover from jet lag, you can plan accordingly; adjusting to whether you'll want to wake up later and staying up longer or going to bed earlier and waking up sooner to soak in more sunlight.