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Physicists Explain Why Jet Lag Is Worse When You’re Traveling East


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Everything about flying is exciting, except for the torturous jet lag that follows. If you’re a frequent traveler, you must have noticed that the jet lag is much (read: waaaaaay) worse when you fly east.

It’s an interesting observation, isn’t it? Since it shouldn’t matter what direction we take. Thank God for the physicists who have finally come up with a scientific explanation for this. They’ve developed a mathematical model which shows how our brain cells respond differently depending on the direction we’re traveling in.

Basically jet lag occurs when our Neuronal Oscillator Cells or simply the brain cells that regulate our circadian rhythm can’t adjust to the new time zone fast enough. As a result, metabolism, sleep pattern, and pretty much everything else gets affected.

Upon inquiry, you probably heard people say ‘hey, give yourself one day of recovery for every time zone crossed.’ So you took the advice – waited for a miracle – but soon realized that it took more than just a day to recover when you flied east. That’s because your brain cells don’t follow a perfect 24 hour schedule.

Studies show that these people follow a slightly longer biological cycle (about 24.5 hours) which means that it is easier for them to overcome jet lag while traveling west than east, as they extend the length of their day rather than shortening it. Upon further research, physicists applied this 24.5 hour rhythm to a mathematical model and concluded that the number of time zones isn’t the only factor that affects the recovery period but the direction plays an equally significant role.

So typically, you need a day for every time zone crossed but new research disproves this hypothesis when it comes to traveling east as the model shows that it’ll take more than four days to recover from a flight that crosses three time zones and a good eight days to recover from crossing six time zones. All in all, it explains why someone traveling from New York to Paris would rather be unpleasant to talk to.

But hey, don’t go around people just yet because none of this has been tested experimentally! This is all based on mathematical models and the interpretation of human brains adjustment to new time zones. For now, be patient and value the ideas people propose for getting rid of jet lag.

This research has been published in the journal Chaos.

Also Read: NASA Says Hole In Ozone Layer Is Closing and Will Be ‘Healed’ By 2050.

Tania Imran

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