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Biotech Science

Fasting May Fix Jet Lag 131

stoolpigeon writes "Reuters reports on a Harvard Medical School study on sleep patterns and how they relate to food. Researchers already knew that the sleep patterns of mice would change to match the opportunity to feed, but they did not know the mechanism that enabled the change. To find out, they looked for the part of the brain that was involved. They bred mice without a certain master gene that regulates the body's clock, and then targeted various parts of the brain with the gene, delivered in the shell of a virus. The results may, among other things, provide a new method for preparing to deal with jet lag: 'A period of fasting with no food at all for about 16 hours is enough to engage this [alternate body] clock,' the lead researcher said. The study appears in the journal Science."
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Fasting May Fix Jet Lag

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  • by Umuri ( 897961 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @08:14AM (#23543333)
    Ya know I kinda figured this was common knowledge by now. Or at least common sense to anyone who went through college.

    To make it through the required all-nighters or any other binge of staying awake, you eat more food to provide more energy to your body.

    Conversely, when you mess up your sleep schedule because of it, it's easy to just skip the meals that day so you goto sleep earlier because you have no energy.

    So is the big discovery here that it works this way, or that it's precisely 16 hours and it affects part x of the brain?

  • Interesting (Score:2, Interesting)

    by krovisser ( 1056294 ) * on Monday May 26, 2008 @08:22AM (#23543375)
    What a coincidence, I'm "suffering" from jet lag right now. I just got back (to the US) from Europe 2 days ago and am having the worst jet lag ever. This is weird because it's usually when I'm going in the other direction I suffer the worst. Anyway, if I eat I tend to want to "nap" right afterwards and then I end up sleeping in the middle of the day for 8 hours. Not eating seems to keep me awake, with my stomach threatening to eat itself.
  • by snsh ( 968808 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @08:28AM (#23543403)
    I went to this 'Vipassana' meditation camp a couple years ago. It's a program where you go to this silent retreat for 10 days and just sit all day and meditate. One of the things that freaks first-timers out is that they feed you breakfast and lunch, but no dinner. You don't eat at all after 12 noon.

    Sure, you're sitting all day and not expending much energy. But one thing you discover is how much better you sleep on an empty stomach.
  • Just in college? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2008 @08:43AM (#23543479)
    It isn't just a college thing - think about all the people (and the current poll) who are 'late' risers... I wonder what the correlation is between late risers and eating shortly after rising...

    I mean, if you dont eat breakfast, then you start at lunch, then dinner then snacks... eventually you'll stop waking up around breakfast time (according to this article).

    Irregular eating patterns also make you fat, I've heard - I wonder what the correlation between late risers and obesity is?
  • Old news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:16AM (#23543721)
    ...this was the recommended method back in 1980 when I traveled the Atlantic on a monthly basis.

    1. Eat a regular meal (usually lunch or supper)
    2. Fly and fast
    3. Eat a meal at the next regular meal time. (Usually 10 to 12 hours later).
    4. One day later in the new time zone (GMT+1), all is reset.

    Worked like a charm and was based on research available at the time so I don't see what is so new about the advice.
  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:18AM (#23544219)
    I just dropped a couple Dramamine before the flight and slept most of the way when I deployed.
    Think airline seats suck? Try webbing sling seats in a C141 (yes, I'm old) or other airlifter.
    Eating first kept me from waking up due to hunger.
  • by eniveld ( 1296009 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:32AM (#23544349)
    Judging from the replies, I think a lot of people are missing what they're saying in the referenced study: You start fast way *before* you get on the plane. Anyway, the reasoning behind why this works, is that your body thinks: "Hey, there's no food around. I better wake up Mr. Brain there to go find something to eat. And while you're at it, if you have to start hunting saber tooth tigers at night rather than day, then I'll reset your body clock so you sleep and wake at a different time."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2008 @11:16AM (#23544781)
    Flying from Tokyo to Germany, which I do on a regular basis, is a far worse situation. But even flying from the U.S. to Tokyo causes enough problems for me. I do it for business, and am on tight schedules, meaning that getting really, really sleepy in the middle of a meeting at 16:00 is a big problem. Not to mention waking up at 3:00AM and not being able to get back to sleep. It causes a lot of productivity problems.

    I've tried a lot of things to see how they work. Such as drinking a lot as soon as in flight service starts, and try to sleep 1 hour later. I also tried staying up the whole time, hoping that I could sleep well once I get to my destination. I also tried adjusting my watch to the destination time and sleep accordingly during the flight, I tried melatonin, I tried.. a hell of a lot of things, but none worked that well. (Actually, drinking a lot and then sleeping did the best, but still was far from perfect.) Fasting is a new one, I'll need to try it next. I always fly business class or first class, so I really can't blame the seats....
  • by karmatic ( 776420 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @11:23AM (#23544849)
    Sure, you're sitting all day and not expending much energy. But one thing you discover is how much better you sleep on an empty stomach.

    One man's meditation camp is another man's torture. I eat 4000-6000 calories per day, and cannot sleep while hungry. I'll typically have a nice large meal (a bunch of pasta, some veggies, fruit, some protein) around 2AM, and fall right asleep. If I don't eat, I can't sleep.

    And no, I'm not overweight - my BMI (or whatever the insurance companies use) is so low that I've been turned down repeatedly for insurance for being underweight. Nothing like being 6'10" and 175 pounds.
  • by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @11:34AM (#23544933) Homepage

    Think airline seats suck? Try webbing sling seats in a C141 (yes, I'm old) or other airlifter.
    Heh. Yeesh. Thanks for reminding me. For those who have never had the joy, behold []. Imagine sitting like this, knees interlocked with the guy in front of you, for 18 hours, with your luggage on your lap! Nowadays those kids have it easy riding the C-17 []. I made sure to tell them that all the way to Kabul on my final deployment.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 26, 2008 @11:48AM (#23545073)

    The reason is that airline customers care about price above all else. I recall a study (no, I don't have a cite, sorry) where people would ignore significant differences in amenities for as little as a $5 difference in price.

    People have become hyper-sensitive to price because airlines charge vastly different prices for the same service. You don't have to do much air travel before you have the experience of sitting next to a guy who paid half as much as you did.

  • by TheRedSeven ( 1234758 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @12:13PM (#23545293) Homepage
    This price competition is because of services like Priceline [] and [] that only allow you to compare based on price and time, and don't include any of the other amenities that carriers may/may not offer.
    If there are any enterprising developers out there, there may be a market for this...
  • Melatonin? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vorpal22 ( 114901 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:03PM (#23547817) Homepage Journal
    Heading east from Hawaii to go back home to Toronto (+6), I just took 6 mg of melatonin at 6 PM HT / 12 AM EDT when I got on the the flight. By 7 PM HT / 1 AM EDT, I was sound asleep, and I woke up around 2 AM HT / 8 AM EDT, fully back on my regular Toronto routine with no detriments.

    I don't know if this would work well with more dramatic time shifts, like Asia - North America, but melatonin in general has been a sanity saver for me. There are days where I take a four hour nap and fear that I'll never sleep at night. Pop a melatonin an hour before I want to go to bed, and I sleep a completely normal night's sleep.

    No uncomfortable fasting required.
  • by fitten ( 521191 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @04:44PM (#23548169)
    Not just this, but your body does things on a schedule (basically, you eat, it takes time to digest and time to get back to being hungry again... that's fairly consistent). If you've ever owned pets, dogs particularly, you know that they know when feeding time is even though they can't read clocks! The trick to overcoming jetlag is to do things to shift your body's schedule to match your new surroundings. I've done this many times by staying awake (don't sleep on the plane) so that I can go to sleep at my 'normal' time in the new place from just being so tired. You also do this by eating your meals according to the local clock, even if you aren't necessarily hungry, just eat a little to start tricking your body into the new time zone.

    Using these tricks (and others) I can usually be integrated into my new time zone within 48 hours. It's worked going to Europe and to Australia. Once, I had a rough time in Moscow but that was because it was winter and the (lack of) sun in the sky in the mornings and afternoons meant I couldn't get used to the daylight schedule as easy.
  • On the other hand... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AmigaMMC ( 1103025 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @06:36PM (#23549187)
    Another way of fighting jetlag is to fly a lot. It's been years since I suffered jetlag, I just got back from Japan, didn't feel it either way, I go to Europe a lot and I went to college in Hawaii and would fly to Italy for holidays. Oh yeah, I eat a lot so maybe that's it! Airlines need to start feeding people more and more often on their flights.

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