The science of jet lag... and how best to beat it
Jet Lag is a debility similar to a hangover. Jet Lag derives from the simple fact that jets travel so fast they leave your body rhythms behind.
Our biological clocks are synchronized to a 24-hour period. Our internal clocks drive our circadian rhythms, which anticipate dawn and dusk, and control everything from blood pressure to how hungry we are. When we fly to a different time zone, (or work night shifts), our internal clocks go out of sync.
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Around 30 to 50 percent of people sleep between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am. Another 40 percents are either slightly morning people or slightly evening people.
To understand why some people are early birds while others are night owls, we have to take into consideration the body's circadian system.
The body is an orchestra of organs, each providing an essential function. In this metaphor, the circadian rhythm is the conductor. The conductor makes every neurotransmitter, every hormone, and every chemical in the body cycle with the daily rhythm.
This makes us our sleep habits unique and tailored.
Being a morning (or evening) person is inborn, genetic, and very hard to change.
Irregular sleep schedules and broken sleep-wake times are not just an occasional traveling phenomenon, but a wider problem due to our social lives conflicting with our sleep patterns.
Our internal body clocks are better programmed to help us sleep and wake up, according to our unique body chemistry and energy levels.
Ignoring our internal clocks in favor of the alarm clock, and following our social obligations, sacrificing on sleep, is taking its toll on our health.
As our sleep patterns shift, leading to poor or no rest, there are a bunch of diseases that become more likely:
A lot of the symptoms associated with a hangover are a product of sleep deprivation.
Alcohol affects our ability to get into what is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the bulk of which occurs in the last two-thirds of the night. As a rule of thumb, it takes about an hour to metabolize one unit of alcohol, so if you have a 250ml glass of wine at 7 pm it will mostly be out of your system by 10.30pm.
It is important to leave at least a couple of hours between eating and sleeping.
There is a whole raft of so-called sleepy foods – anything containing tryptophan, serotonin, melatonin, magnesium, calcium, potassium – often eaten in the hope they will aid sleep.
If you do want to eat these foods, do it because it’s a nice ritual, not because you need it to sleep.
There isn’t a cure.
People who sleepwalk usually are advised to keep their room safe by locking windows and doors, and to maintain what’s called good sleep hygiene: keep to a regular sleep routine, turn mobile phones off, avoid stimulants, and so on. Sleepwalking can often occur as a result of poor or disrupted sleep.