(CNN)Traveling to a different time zone can be very exciting. You are ready to explore and check items off your bucket list. Jet lag is probably the last thing you want to deal with.
A math model developed by a group of researchers at the University of Maryland explains why it takes you days
to establish a new
sleep-wake cycle when you travel east, but you may barely feel anything when going west.
Cross-time-zone travel causes disruptions in the brain's internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm. Cells in a brain region called suprachiasmatic nucleus maintain a healthy rhythm by oscillating in a synchronized manner. Known as a "pacemaker cell," these have a natural cycle slightly longer than 24 hours.
After rapid time zone shifts, these cells cannot instantly establish a rhythm appropriate to the new time zone, making it hard for people to immediately live by a new schedule.
The model also explains why different people suffer from jet lag of various severity. "Some people may have a natural circadian rhythm with a period of 24.5 hours, while others may have longer or shorter natural rhythms," said Girvan in a news release
. "Our model suggests the difference between a person's natural period and 24 hours controls how they experience jet lag."
Girvan stressed that the mathematical model they used is a greatly simplified one. "We want to see people push this further in terms of the model parameters and biological data," said Girvan, "and make the model even more biologically realistic."
How to recover faster from jet lag
The dynamics among cells, the strength of external signals and a person's inherent sensitivity to natural stimuli all affect how soon the body clock readjusts itself, according to Girvan. So it is important to keep these things in mind when preparing for your next adventure.
Girvan suggested that you know your body well, and know what kind of travel is the most disruptive for you so you can start preparing beforehand.
Before your trip, try to artificially change external light sources corresponding to the ones in the new time zone.
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When you arrive at your destination, resist the temptation of closing the curtains in your hotel room and diving right into bed when it is still bright outside. What you should do is to fully expose yourself to the local light-dark cycle. It might not be easy to do, but your recovery will be faster if you stay awake during daytime and sleep only when it gets dark.
Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/13/health/eastward-jet-lag-worse/index.html