Bill Ferguson
Registered Osteopath, Cranial Osteopath, Acupuncture and Sports Injuries
Tenterden Osteopathic Clinic
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Special Topics

Jet Lag
Flying across time zones

In January I gave a few suggestions how to avoid injury when travelling, particularly when lifting your luggage, this month I have two suggestions on how to avoid the unpleasant dissociation and nausea that we call jet lag.

Jet Lag is Optional

Its sometimes easy to forget that as a species we are still operating at the level of hunter gatherer when it comes to our body rhythms and survival strategies. One obvious example is jet lag.

Let's go back to basic survival programming. We need to eat in order to survive. We need to be awake to eat. We need to be alert so that we can obtain food. This is basic stuff, highest priority. Usually it is the circadian clock that tells us when these activities are required.

What happens when we fly across time zones? Generally, we feed according to the norms of the zone we are in, or sometimes according to the zone we just left or rarely, according to the zone we are going to. How does our Hunter-Gatherer Mark 1 software interpret what is happening? I think it gets very confused. There is a clear message that some sort of migration is going on but also there is clearly a glut of food, the normal spacing of food type and meal time alters, the daylight intensity is no longer in phase with expectations, the body interprets the event as a binge and switches into survival mode. The patterning that we usually rely on gets suspended for up to a week or until the combination of meals and daylight begins to make a convincing argument that things are back to normal.

I used to think that suddenly changing time zones presents us with a challenge that we are genetically unprepared for. But now I am not quite so sure.

Here are two ways of hacking your genetic software: the first relies on overriding the circadian cycle, the second relies on self hypnosis.

Technique 1

For this to work you need to fast for 16 hours or more. This should take in the duration of the flight. This means no food! Water is OK. When you get to your destination (home or travel destination) either eat or sleep depending on how much of the 16 hours remains. The first meal you have should start you back into your normal cycle.

How does this work

Recent research at Harvard Medical school using mice has found a second mechanism that takes over when food is scarce. This allows animals to override their biological clock to improve their chances of finding food. The researchers suggest that all mammals, including humans, have this ability.

Technique 2

This relies on convincing yourself that you are already in the time zone that you are heading towards.

As soon as you get into journey mode eat and drink according to the time at your destination. If for example you are flying from London to Boston (-5 hours time difference) on the 08.40 flight and you leave home at 04.30 UK time, change your watch to Boston time. Tell yourself it is 23.30 and you will not have breakfast until your normal time (perhaps 07.00), whatever they give you on the flight at 07.00 Boston time, eat only what you might have for breakfast (even if it is called lunch on the menu).

On the return journey do the same thing, this may involve having your 6pm gin and tonic at 1pm Boston time, that doesn't matter, if you are consistent and congruent with mealtimes and destination times and normal sleeping times you will not have a problem with jet lag.

Personally I prefer technique 2 but I have not tried it for a time difference in excess of 7 hours. I am told that for USA-Japan flights where the time difference is 11 hours, technique 1 is best.

   
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Bill Ferguson
Tenterden Osteopathic Clinic
2 St Benets Court
Tenterden, Kent
Tel: 01580 762754

Email: mail@billferguson.co.uk

 

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Last Updated: 22 June, 2015