Travelling to a different time zone? Whether travelling for work or for fun, your body often undergoes an adjustment period in its new time zone. Fatigue (mental and physical), waking in the middle of the night alert and hungry, and low energy are all part of jet lag.
The circadian rhythm is the sleep-wake cycle, controlled by our brain (specifically the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus). Jet lag is felt when the internal cycle is mismatched with the external environmental cues (dark/light, meals, activity levels, etc.). Jet lag can also be associated when the regulation of hormones, neurotransmitters, or general nervous system function, is impaired. Exposure to light is thought to have the strongest influence on circadian rhythm.
The pineal gland in the brain produces melatonin (from its precursor, serotonin), in response to lack of light. Melatonin is extremely important to the sleep-wake cycle. It helps you fall asleep. Melatonin also plays a crucial role as an antioxidant and neuroprotectant. This makes it an essential neurohormone for healthy aging.
How can you ease (and speed) the transition to a new circadian rhythm and time zone?
- Light exposure – gazing at the sunlight in the mornings helps your pineal gland stop producing melatonin, fast-tracking the circadian rhythm reset. 2-5 minutes of sun-gazing is all you need.
- Melatonin – a very popular choice for helping with sleep difficulties in a new time zone. 1-3 mg at bedtime in your new time zone encourages your pineal gland to shift it’s serotonin to melatonin.
- Meal timing and content – In most sleep-wake cycles, there’s at least 12 hours of fasting at night. When you reach your new destination, attempt to fast through the night (even if you’re awake). Eating a protein-rich breakfast, and a carbohydrate-rich evening meal all help with synchronizing to the new time zone.
- Chaste Tree – or Vitex agnus-castus, is an herb commonly used to balance hormones and support progesterone, but has recently been researched in the area of jet lag. Taking chaste tree 2-3 times a day can help to re-regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
- Drink water – staying hydrated allows for the brain and body to adjust more efficiently. Drinking 2-3 litres of water daily (regardless of whether you’re at home or travelling), is a great way to support healthy circadian rhythms.
Hi, I’m Dr. Jenny Schmidt-White. My practice focuses on family health and wellness, healthy aging for men and women and optimizing fertility & hormone function. I work with you, within realistic and sustainable parameters, to find the root cause of dysfunction in your body and address it.