Scientifically, it’s known as circadian dischronism, but most of us know it as jet lag. We all know it makes you feel ‘off your game’ and disrupts sleeping patterns, but here is a closer look at what causes it.
Circadian rhythms are a collection of various hormones released at specific times during a 24-hour cycle. The main biological clock that regulates these rhythms is in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus in the midbrain. Its function is to ensure each hormone is released at the proper time. These hormones control alertness, sleepiness, mood, pain threshold, energy level, body temperature, sex drive, and more.
For example, if you normally go to bed at 11 pm, your brain releases melatonin around 10:30 pm and your body temperature drops in preparation for sleep. At around 4 am your body reaches its lowest temperature. Then, to prepare for your day, your body releases cortisol, a stress hormone, around 6 am, and adrenaline a short time later.
When you travel by plane and fly faster than the rotation of the earth – particularly flying west against the direction of its rotation, your body is forced into a transient state where you experience mental and physical cellular chaos as your body rhythms reluctantly break the old daily patterns and struggle to shift to new ones.This shift causes a disruption in the synchronization of the time-keepers and body rhythms that orchestrate the function of billions of cells that govern primary bodily functions including:
- Cognitive function
- Heart rate
- Respiration rate
- Blood pressure
- Liver and kidney function
- Release of digestive enzymes
- Normal sleep patterns
- Detoxification during sleep
Scientists describe this as “a transient state of dyschronism”. It’s the period of time during which the body re-calibrates its biorhythms in an attempt to adapt to a different time and place.
Here are the typical re-synchronization periods (in days) after a 2-hour time zone change when flying east:
|Performance (psychomotor)||3 days|
|Reaction time (vigilance)||1-2 days|
|Heart rate||2 days|
|Corticosteroids (urinary)||4 days|
|Noradrenaline (urinary)||1 day|
|Adrenaline (urinary)||2 days|
|Bowel movements||3 days|
|Body temperature||3 days|
|Sleeping patterns||1 day|
Anyone who uses NuCalm when traveling knows it does an exceptional job of alleviating the stress of jet lag and quickly restores order to your body rhythms and timing mechanisms. A 45-minute NuCalm session is proven to restore homeostasis of the autonomic nervous system and quickly resets your biological clocks.