Can regular meal times help combat jet lag?
Jet lag can be problematic for jet-setters and long-haul cabin crew alike, especially when crossing several time zones to reach their destination.
While sleep strategies can alleviate jet lag, a new study has found that regulating meal times may be just as important in adapting quickly to a new time zone.
Researchers from the University of Surrey studied 60 long-haul crew members. The participants were split into two groups, and were either given a plan to eat regular meals on their days off or no plan for regular meals. Accordingly, it was found following a simple meal plan the day on the first and second day off on the crew's return would reduce jet lag and increase alertness.
“Jet-lag is a common problem for long-haul cabin crew, particularly during days off, as many prefer to adapt to local time on layovers as staying on the home time zone interferes with leisure and eating activities,” Dr. Cristina Ruscitto. “However, adapting to the home time zone on days off is particularly important for fitting in with home life and ultimately for well-being.”
In the study report, it is implicated that eating out of phase with the light-dark cycle can cause the circadian system to go out of sync and exacerbate jet lag. Currently, recommendations to counteract jet lag include prescribed medications or light therapy. Combining exposure to sunlight with exercise may also assist in shaking off the groggy feelings.
“It will be interesting to conduct further research to see whether the positive effects shown through a regular eating plan persists for a longer follow up period and whether the effect is down simply to regular meals or whether timing and what you eat has an effect,” concluded Dr. Ruscitto.
The study was published in journal Psychology and Health.