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A Cure For Jet Lag May Be On Its Way

A Cure For Jet Lag May Be On Its Way

As much as we try to avoid it, jet lag can be an unavoidable reality of modern travel. It’s to blame for the countless sleepless nights you slug through after arriving in a new city, or why the middle of the night somehow feels like the perfect time for lunch. It’s the worst, but luckily there might soon be a solution – and it’s going to be huge news for frequent travellers.

First, an explainer: jet lag occurs when your sleeping patterns aren’t matched with your circadian rhythm, a.k.a. your body’s internal clock. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle of physiological activity, and is controlled by hormones that determine whether you’re awake or asleep at any given time. Disruptions to this cycle are why jet lag or a bad night’s sleep can alter your appetite and sleep patterns for days after.

Now, scientists at the Salk Institute in California have identified a key player in the circadian rhythm – a protein called REV-ERBα – that can actually control the strength of your cycle, effectively making it easier to adjust to new sleeping patterns and eating habits. Senior author of the study Ronald Evans puts it like this: “Whether it is Beethoven’s 9th Symphony on your stereo or the symphony of genes in our bodies, both require volume to be heard.” That amplification is key here, with the team working on a number of ways to alter metabolism through the use of these gene oscillations.


So why is this significant? Well in the past, researchers have only identified proteins and genes that influence the timing and length of the circadian cycle. This new protein, on the other hand, has molecular conductors that can allow the volume or activity of thousands of genes to be dialled up or down. This means that if we can weaken the circadian cycle, hormone levels can be altered, so we’re less likely to disrupt our body’s internal clock. Science!

Similarly, a couple of months ago we heard news out of Stanford University that claimed researchers had found that being exposed to short flashes of light while sleeping can work to reset the circadian system. The study found that intermittent light could effectively fool your brain into thinking you’re awake, and can even train the brain to adjust quicker to time changes. Interesting!

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While there’s still a few tweaks to be made to this current gene theory, you can keep your (drowsy) eyes here on AWOL for any more updates.

(h/t CN Traveller)

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