The science of jet lag

In search of a cure

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Putting the clocks back

Nothing like a bit of jet lag to bring you crashing back to earth after a holiday. What is it, and can it be conquered? Kate explains how jet lag is caused by a disruption to our circadian rhythms, and armed with the science, sets out to find a cure.

The term ‘jet lag’ flew into the dictionary in 1966, courtesy of Horace Sutton. It describes the physiological strain that long distance air travel can put on your body. Internal rhythms, governed by regular molecular processes known as circadian clocks, keep our bodily functions in a consistent 24 hour pattern. Although these rhythms can keep time on their own, they are amenable to external inputs, such as light. When you fly across the world and plunge your body into a new time zone, the rhythms that have over time lined up with your daily life are thrown out of synch.

The result? Your whole body feels the strain as your clocks try to wind themselves back into the right time. But once you understand how changes in light levels can trigger the internal processes at the root of jet lag, you can try this simple trick to try to stave it off.

This film is part of our new series that will provide the blueprint for a scientifically perfect summer. From sweating to hay fever, insects to jet lag, Kate Mulcahy will help you hack summer to engineer the perfect season. Taking a different topic each Thursday, the videos will gradually build up an equation for summer perfection; a summer survival guide certified by science.

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