Visiting another country on the other side of the ocean can be exciting. Unfortunately, long trips also mean having to overcome jet lag. Jet lag messes up your body clock. Scientifically you would say your body’s circadian rhythm becomes disrupted. You can’t sleep when you’re suppose to, you sleep when you shouldn’t, you feel tired and may even become dizzy. Unfortunately, there isn’t any pill you can take to prevent jet lag from happening. Well, not yet anyway. Japanese researchers may be on their way to providing a solution.
Frequent travellers would welcome a jet lag pill with open arms. However, experiments have only been done on mice and not humans. 1 study is not enough to allow humans to begin using jet lag pills. More needs to be done.
According to the Japanese researchers, the solution to overcoming jet lag lies in the hormone vasopressin. In other studies, vasopressin has been linked to feelings of love and generosity.Hitoshi Okamura of Kyoto University is the coauthor of this Japanese study. Together with his team, they found that in mice, the part of the brain known as suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) was loaded with receptors of vasopressin. It is this part of the brain that runs a person’s body clock.
Part of the experiment, they genetically engineered mice with less brain receptors for the vasopressin hormone. After which they disrupted the mice’s day and night schedule, like what would happen if someone were to travel overseas. They found that these mice that have been genetically altered didn’t suffer from jet lag. They adjusted very well to the new cycle.
Taking a set of normal mice this time, they recreated that same experiment. The normal mice were given an experimental compound to lessen the hormone’s activity in the brain. It took these mice 3 days to adjust to the new schedule. Although the adjustment didn’t happen as quickly as the first set of engineered mice, it is still good news.
Some people have jet lag worse than others. It all depends on several factors like how many time zones were crossed, the direction you are travelling in and also the length of your visit. The more time zones you cross, the worst your jet lag will be. Also, short trips make it more difficult to adjust. In general, every hour of difference requires on day of adjustment.
It would be nice to have a jet lag pill to overcome the problem. Even though the test mice didn’t show any negative side effects, there is still more to learn before a jet lag pill hits the market.
In the meantime, you can take certain steps to overcome the effects of jet lag when you next take a long trip overseas. Make sure you drink plenty of water while flying. Don’t let yourself become dehydrated. Stay away from alcohol and caffeine. These beverages have dehydration effects. Plus, they will just cause you sleeping problems.