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Jet lag

Jet lag proves harmful, disruptive to health and performance

Thursday, September 13, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: jet lag, health news, Natural News


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(NewsTarget) The body never becomes accustomed to frequent and drastic changes in time zones, and people who frequently fly between three or more time zones are almost certain to experience a number of significant health problems, according to a study conducted by researchers at the United Kingdom's Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences and published in The Lancet.

Jet lag results from the body's inability to quickly readjust its circadian rhythms (a number of physiological processes related to time of day). According to the study, jet lag causes poor and interrupted sleep, irritability and mood changes, digestive problems, hampered mental functioning, menstrual disruptions, a drop in athletic performance and even short-term psychiatric disturbances.

The body never gets used to drastic changes in time, meaning that flight crews who regularly make such journeys are at particularly heightened risk for health problems. Researchers also found that older travelers were more susceptible to the effects of jet lag.

The severity of jet lag's effects, as well as its duration, increases with the number of time zones crossed. According to the researchers, the effects caused by eastbound flights last for a number of days equal to about two-thirds the number of time zones crossed. The effects of a westbound flight last for a number of days equal to roughly half the number of time zones crossed.

The researchers recommended a number of techniques for lessening the impact of jet lag. Deliberately avoiding or seeking exposure to sunlight can help the body readjust to a new time zone more quickly, as can maintaining alertness during daylight hours by means of exercise.

The researchers do not recommend self-medicating with the hormone melatonin, because not enough is known about its effects on the body. Melatonin is secreted during sleep and is thought to be related in some way to jet lag. Alternative health proponents, however, often recommend melatonin, kava kava, valerian root, hops and other supplements to relax the mind and encourage healthy sleep when needed.

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