We are all aware that travelling across time zones can disrupt our sleeping patterns, causing us to feel tired, or in contrast wide awake, at the wrong times. This is something that almost every single traveller has experienced and something we are still trying to find a cure or remedy for!
However, it is not just our sleep that is effect by travel; it can also affect our organs thanks to our disrupted body clock.
Jet lag and our body clock
Our body clock is a 24-hour cycle, internal clock that has evolved over millions of years to match the day’s circle of light and dark, day and night. It is called circadian rhythm.
Did you know that during the night when you are asleep, your body temperature drops, and stays low until about 2 or 3 hours before you wake up? Depending on when you wake up, this core body temperature can determine how awake or asleep sleep you feel in the day.
When you enter a new time zone, your internal clock will not understand the change and will continue to dip, as if you were still in the previous zone. If you are awake at this point, or wake up before it, you will feel groggy. If you experience daylight at this time, your body temperature will conflict with this, making your body think it needs to be awake due to the light, but your temperature is dipping into what would be classed as your ‘deepest sleep.’ This is when you feel the most extreme jet lag symptoms.
What is gut lag?
Gut lag is described as feeling either very hungry, or not hungry at all, at the wrong times, much like jet lag with sleep. It can be very uncomfortable and lead you to eat meals at completely the wrong time, or worse, snack your way through a long flight. This will make it harder to adjust to new meal times at the new destination.
What are the symptoms of gut lag?
Other than the feelings of hunger (or lack thereof) at the wrong times, many also get constipation or diarrhoea from travelling long distances.
These are not ideal to have on the plane or if you are travelling further when you arrive.
What can you do to prevent gut lag?
There are a number of things that will help fight against gut lag and help to keep your body in rhythm. These are:
Eat a meal before you fly – by eating a large meal before you fly you will be less hungry during the journey.
Eat little on the journey – By eating on the journey you could get indigestion from eating at the wrong times.
Shift to the local eating pattern – experts recommend that you should adopt the eating and sleeping schedules of your new time zone as soon as you land. This will help ease your body into the new schedule.
Stay hydrated – By drinking lots of fluids you will help to avoid the gut lag symptoms such as constipation.
Try and exercise – You may be feeling extremely tired after travel, but exercise helps to regulate your bowl function, plus it will give you energy and help you to feel awake. If you do not feel like going to the gym, you could take a swim or a brisk walk. Perfect to see your new surroundings!
Unfortunately, there is no on-size-fits-all approach to gut lag, or jet lag, so you will need to give these tips and go, listen to your body and experiment. Good luck and happy travels!
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