Many of us have to travel as part of our job, and the rest of us travel for holidays, but all of us would rather not suffer from jet lag. It takes up to a week for a body to adjust to the new time zone (if it is enough hours different to induce jet lag) since our body can only adjust a bit each day. By that time many of us our flying back home – more jet lag.
Published in the prestigious Science journal researchers (Fuller, Lu and Saper,2008) from Harvard University findings in animals suggest that the simple act of fasting (no calories consumed) 16 hours before your flight may reduce jet lag. The reason the scientist think this might work is because normally the body’s clock is set (and adjusted) by exposure to light however, food can also be used to set the clock.
When you have normal amounts of food intake our circadian rhythms are governed by the light-dark cycle. But if food access is restricted to when we normally sleep there will be a shift in our circadian rhythms so we are alert during our new feeding times (your past night time). Hence, the researchers found that fasting can override your normal light-dark controlled clock as a survival feature to keep us alert to seek and hunt out food.
Now this research has so far only been tested in animals and not in humans, but what do you have to lose by trying this brain hack? Additionally, not all the details have been worked out of what should you do depending on how many time zones you are jumping. But here is my practical advice (with all appropriate warnings about self experimenting) set up your schedule so you fast for a prolonged period prior to your flight and eat in your new location during daylight time, which should correspond to your normal sleep time (darkness) back home.
Try it out on your next jump to Asia or Europe and drop me a message of how it worked out. I know I will be trying it out on my next long flight.
Additional coverage: Reuters