Harry Smith of The Early Show sat down with Dr. Jennifer Ashton to discuss the causes of jet lag and how to prevent it. Here are the most important take-aways:
How and why does jet lag occur?
Jet lag is a result of our circadian rhythms, or our body's internal clock, being thrown out of whack. Circadian rhythms are programmed to the environment in which you live and they are set by factors such as sunlight. If you take your body out of the environment your circadian rhythm is set to, your body becomes confused and tired.
Does the direction you travel influence jet lag?
Yes, jet lag seems to be worst for those travelling in an eastbound direction. The number of time zones you cross amplifies the effect as well. For instance, if you fly east from New York to Dubai, which is eight time zones, it can take your body five days to adjust to that change in time. If you flew westbound from Dubai to New York, it would only take your body about four days to adjust.
What can you do before your trip to help your body beat jet lag?
Set your clocks and watches to the new time zone before you depart. Avoid large meals, alcohol and caffeinated beverages, because those things in and of themselves affect sleep patterns. The key thing is to expose yourself to as much natural sunlight as possible once you arrive in your destination, because its sunlight that will sync your circadian rhythm to your new environment.