Jet lag has long been the business traveler's nightmare, but a new scientific study has boosted hopes of a cure to the often debilitating condition.
Research by a group of scientists from Kyoto University in Japan, published in the Science magazine on Thursday, found that the internal body clock might be able to be reset, overcoming the effects of jet lag.
Tiredness, insomnia and other symptoms of jet lag occur when the body's "circadian rhythm" – or body clock - is out of sync with nature's light and dark hours. The temporary sleep disorder commonly affects those flying across multiple time zones, as their body clock is often hours ahead - or behind - their end location.
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Michael Hastings, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge and author of a Science article accompanying the research, described the condition as "a blessing to circadian biologists".
"The disruption of mental and physical well-being immediately highlights the importance of our internal 'body clock,'" he wrote. "It is also a curse because jet lag has so far eluded attempts at a cure."
According to the Kyoto University scientists, led by Yoshiaki Yamaguchi, it takes around one day for the body to readjust to every 1-hour change in environmental time.
However, mice that were genetically modified by the team recovered from jet lag much quicker than usual, readjusting their behavior almost immediately to 8-hour time-shifts, or changes to the light cycle.
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"This is equivalent to flying between Los Angeles and London without the accompanying 'red-eye'," Hastings wrote.
These mice were lacking receptors for the hormone arginine vasopressin (AVP), which Yamaguchi's team found contributed to jet lag, by signaling to the "master clock" of the brain, known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN.
"Our results identify vasopressin signaling as a possible therapeutic target for the management of circadian rhythm (body clock) misalignment," Yamaguchi said in the paper.
The benefits of such a treatment could be far reaching, according to Hastings, and may address a "more insidious threat" than jet lag.
"Epidemiology shows that rotational shift work is a killer, increasing risks of cancer, and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases," he wrote. "If the 24/7 society is here to stay, helping shift-workers adjust more rapidly to their schedules by working with, rather than against, their SCN must be a good thing."