The advent of the jet engine was a revolution for the mass transit of human beings around the planet. However, it created an unforeseen biological calamity: jet planes offered the ability to speed through time zones faster than our twenty-four-hour internal clocks could ever keep up with or adjust to.
Those jets caused a biological time lag: jet lag. As a result, we feel tired and sleepy during the day in a distant time zone because our internal clock still thinks it is nighttime. It hasn’t yet caught up. If that were not bad enough, at night, we are frequently unable to initiate or maintain sleep because our internal clock now believes it to be daytime.
Couple of years ago i was in LA for quite a long time, on my return back to the UK which is 8 hours ahead hit me hard!
I left LA at 4pm on a Friday and arrived in England at midday the following day, despite my watch saying it was midday, it was actually 5am LA time, I should still be fast asleep!
This means the rest of the day I am going to be dragging myself through deep lethargy.
The worst, however, was yet to come. By 10pm UK time, I am in bed, tired and wanting to fall asleep. Due to being so tired I fell asleep but around 1am I would be wide awake without being able to fall back asleep!
This my friends, is called Jet Lag! We feel tired and sleepy during the day in the new time zone because our body clock and associated biology still “think” it is nighttime. At night, you are frequently unable to sleep solidly because your biological rhythm still believes it to be daytime.
Fortunately, our brain and body will not stay in this mismatched limbo forever, all though it felt like it at the time! LOL
For every day we are in a different time zone, our suprachiasmatic nucleus can only re-adjust by about one hour. It therefore takes us about eight days to readjust to UK time after having been LA, since the UK is eight hours ahead.
One thing that people tend to use when travelling and are hit with jet lag is melatonin (check last post where I tell you all about melatonin).
Here’s how it works: Let's say at around seven to eight p.m. UK time you would take a melatonin pill, triggering an artificial rise in circulating melatonin that mimics the natural melatonin spike currently occurring in most of the people in UK. As a consequence, your brain is fooled into believing it’s nighttime, and with that chemically induced trick comes the signaled timing of the sleep race.
It will still be a struggle to generate the event of sleep itself at this irregular time, but the timing signal does significantly increase the likelihood of sleep in this jet-lagged context.