The thrill of jetting to a new country for work is often marred by that feeling of stumbling into a business meeting with an aching head, dry mouth, bleary eyes and an urge to have a shower and go to bed. But bed is probably the last place you should go if you do not want to be wandering the streets at 1am in search of breakfast as you battle jet lag.
A new study from the United Kingdom, released last month, shows that when we shift our sleep time it disrupts the daily rhythms of our genes. University of Surrey researchers published their findings showing jet lag causes “profound disruption” to more than 1,000 genes, including many that are normally drawn upon to maintain, repair and protect the body.
About 6 per cent of the human body’s genes are directly linked to its internal clock, otherwise known as the circadian rhythm, and they switch on at certain times of the day or night.
Scientists at the university’s sleep research centre placed 22 volunteers in a 28-hour day without a natural light and dark cycle. During the process, they collected the participants’ blood and found that 97 per cent of these “clock” genes are sent out of sync when sleep patterns are interrupted.
Effectively, business travellers who regularly jet around the globe are having their immune systems suppressed on a regular basis.
This might help to explain why those with jet lag feel so miserable, with ailments ranging from nausea and anxiety to stomach complaints and memory problems.
But experts say jet lag can be eased by preparing for journeys ahead of time. Chris Idzikowski, a leading UK sleep expert, worked with British Airways to develop a jet lag adviser on britishairways.com. After answering a few simple questions, the programme calculates the best times to seek and avoid light on day one at your destination.
For acupuncture fans, the app Jet-Lag Rescue uses the traditional Chinese medical theory of the Meridian Clock, which follows the movement of the body's qing (vital energy) from organ to organ along a specific time cycle. When you enter your flight times and locations, the app calculates the two appropriate acupressure points to reset your internal clock.
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