Now arriving: a cure for jet lag
Scientists believe a quick dose of oxygen might be what's needed.
You've probably experienced it before: The anticipation of an impending vacation somewhere far away, then the long flight across several time zones to reach your destination. By the time you arrive, a brick wall of exhaustion sets in that leaves you in a funk for days. That is jet lag, and nobody likes it.
Scientists are still unsure why our circadian clock – the 24-hour clock that roughly governs our physical and mental faculties – is so negatively impacted by the disorientation of time. New research is beginning to show its long-term effects on the brain. This makes it all the more important to figure out a way to combat it. Fortunately, researchers in Israel are doing just that.
In a paper published in the journal Cell Metabolism, a team from Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, found that mice exposed to a 6-hour jump ahead during daylight hours could adapt their eating, sleeping and running habits to the new time faster when exposed to an adjustment of just 3% in oxygen levels.
Such a small adjustment to exact such drastic change surprised the researchers.
"It was extremely exciting to see that even small changes in oxygen levels were sufficient to efficiently reset the circadian clock," said lead study author Gad Asher.
The next step is to test humans, and if the science is confirmed it could help inform how airlines moderate cabin air pressure during flights.
Changing the air pressure could potentially lead to more air sickness. But the researchers said they think passengers on long-haul flights would accept a trade-off if it helped them to recover quicker from the time difference.
Said Asher, "I believe passengers might be more enthusiastic to inhale oxygen-enriched air to alleviate jet lag in contrast to low oxygen."
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