Study Suggests Fasting Staves Off Jetlag

May 27, 2008 09:00 AM
by Anne Szustek
Abstaining from food for 16 hours resets circadian rhythms and could help travelers adjust to their new time zones.

30-Second Summary

The circadian rhythm—the internal clock that tells the body when it’s time to wake up, eat and tuck in to bed—is regulated by melatonin. Nicknamed the “dark hormone,” melatonin is typically secreted by the pituitary gland during the late afternoon, triggered by waning light.

When travelers cross multiple time zones, however, melatonin production becomes out of sync with surroundings, causing people to get sleepy at off hours. This is the root cause of jetlag.

A study headed by Harvard Medical School Dr. Clifford Saper, published in journal Science, proposes that a fast of some 16 hours is sufficient to reset the body’s clock, melatonin levels notwithstanding.

Saper and his research team used lab mice altered to lack the sleep-regulating gene. They then inserted the gene, BMAL1, into a viral shell to deliver the gene to two regions of the brain: the first responsible for sleeping based on light exposure; the second for both sleeping and eating, regardless of light. The results showed that the second clock could supersede the other.

Fasting is the latest of an array of jetlag “cures.” Some, such as prescribed meals, could prove inconvenient when sticking to a tight schedule, writes Web site The Travel Insider.

Drinking plenty of water is one way to stay on top of sleep when on vacation, however. Plus, says The Travel Insider, “It will cause you to go to the bathroom more regularly, and the forced exercise will reduce your risk of deep vein thrombosis.”

Headline Link: ‘Skip the Pretzels: Starving may Fend Off Jetlag’

Background: Melatonin—the ‘dark’ hormone

Related Topic: Other jetlag ‘cures’

Reference: FindingDulcinea’s Web Guide to Sleep


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