I’ve been back in the Swiss time zone for one week and only this morning was I able to drag myself out of bed before 9 am. I know that moving across time zones can be brutal on the body’s circadian rhythms, but I’ve never had an issue with jet lag before.
I tried to break my jet lag streak with warm milk, melatonin, and even a prescription sleep aid I had been saving for a real emergency. Exasperated and bleary-eyed, I finally turned to medical research for help. Turns out, curing jet lag has nothing to do with sleep.
A 2008 Harvard study found that the body’s “food-related clock” overrides its “light-based” circadian clock as the body’s primary timekeeper–meaning that adjusting one’s eating schedule will do far more to combat jet lag than popping an Ambien.
According to the study’s lead researcher Clifford Saper, one can begin adjusting the “feeding clock” days before switching time zones to make the most seamless shift.
“If, for example, you are travelling from the U.S. to Japan, you are forced to adjust to an 11-hour time difference. Because the body’s biological clock can only shift a small amount each day, it takes the average person about a week to adjust to the new time zone,” Saper told BBC News.
“A period of fasting with no food at all for about 16 hours is enough to engage this new clock. So, in this case, simply avoiding any food on the plane, and then eating as soon as you land, should help you to adjust and avoid some of the uncomfortable feelings of jet lag,” Saper added.
So, how should I have used this information for my last time change?
A couple of days before I flew from D.C. to Switzerland–a six-hour time difference–I should have fasted from about 2 or 3pm (8 or 9pm in Switzerland) and began eating as soon as I awoke to begin adjusting my “feeding clock” for when I landed.
I hope you are feeling well-rested today…but for now, a few links:
- Sixteen Foods That Help You Sleep (Reader’s Digest)
- What Do Your Dreams Mean? (TIME)
- Twenty-seven Enviable Celebrity Bedrooms (Elle Decor)