Why jet lag is worse traveling east than traveling west

A few days ago Marco Castelli she was thinking If there is a scientific reason why your jetlag is worse when traveling east than when traveling west. Castelli is certainly not alone. For decades, that ‘feeling’ has been the ABC of all who regularly travel transatlantic. And, over the years, this has been scientifically proven. The question is why.

But first, what are we talking about when we talk about jetlag? he jet lag (time lag or circadian dysrhythmia disorder) is “a temporary sleep disorder that can affect someone who moves quickly across multiple time zones.” It’s basically our bodies trying to adapt to a different time zone as quickly as possible – and having a terrible time along the way.

As explained by the Mayo Clinic, jetlag “can cause daytime fatigue, restlessness, difficulty staying alert, and stomach problems.” It’s a nuisance, wow. After all, if we go on vacation, go to work or, in general, we will spend very little time in the place we are traveling to.

If you often wake up between two and three in the morning, you're not alone.  And science knows why

Why is that? Due to circadian rhythms. In general, we each have an ‘internal clock’ (a set of biological processes that keep us active throughout the day and ready for sleep in the afternoon and at night) that marks our sleep and wake cycles.

The problem is that circadian rhythms (using physical cues from the environment like light) are designed to ‘synchronize’ us with the time zone we live in. What happens when we cross time zones at high speed is that we become desynchronized. The study explains in detail the synchronization processes and how a large number of neuronal oscillators intervene in them in which the hypothalamus plays an important role.

And what does it affect if we travel to one place or another? Tired of hearing this idea over and over again, in 2016, a group of researchers at the University of Maryland’s Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics The investigation began Inequalities exist in jetlag recovery.

By modeling recovery curves, researchers confirmed that inequality was real. It is, in general, easier for us to lengthen the cycle associated with the circadian rhythm (going to bed at three in the morning) than to shorten it (going to bed at six in the afternoon).

In this sense, Juan Antonio Madrid, professor of physiology and director of the Chronobiology Laboratory of the University of Murcia, As explained in El EspaƱol That “toward the East, the natural inclination of our clocks slows down, which is why it costs us more to advance our schedule and shorten our days than to lengthen our trips.”

Can we do anything to avoid it? For decades, we’ve known that our circadian rhythms They can quickly readjust when we are exposed to light Strategically that is, if we give our brain the right stimulation. Although attempts have been made to design simpler systems And while there are planes that promise to do it all, the downside is that it’s usually difficult to calculate which light exposure pattern is best.

Therefore, passengers are the majority They choose to look for more affordable strategies. Scheduling the place we’re going to a few days in advance, following a strict sleep regimen after arriving at the destination helps us synchronize more quickly, or using melatonin, which the body naturally uses to induce sleep.

Picture | Joyce Romero

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