No More Jet Lag

Jet Lag © Alberto Vaccaro, CC BY 2.0

Just like any other teenager, I love sleeping in on weekends. On weekends, I usually go to bed at around 12:30 AM and wake up at 11:00 AM. On weeknights, I usually go to bed at 10:30 PM and wake up at 7:30 AM. In the past couple weeks, I realized that on Sunday and Monday nights it is hard for me to fall asleep because my body was used to falling asleep 2 hours later (from the weekend), and it was also hard for me to get up as I was used to getting up much later. This was almost like a minor jet lag for me, and this cycle disrupted my circadian rhythms.

Circadian rhythms are the biological 24-hour clock found within all living things. In humans, they control the metabolism, what time the body produces certain hormones such as melatonin, and when the body feels the need to fall asleep and wake up. Circadian rhythms can be disrupted due to a change in sleep patterns and overexposure to light when a person is usually asleep. Jet lag is a very common disruption to the circadian rhythm. It is not good for the cycle to be disrupted too often, as this can increase risk of sleep disorders.

I realized after doing this research that I need to stop going to bed so late on weekends so that my circadian rhythms are not disrupted on a weekly basis. I do not want an increased risk of sleep disorder when I am older. I wish that there was a way to change the time I went to bed without disrupting my circadian rhythms…

Japanese scientists have done just this. Researchers at Nagoya University have synthesised molecules that have the ability to shorten the circadian period. The molecules affect the protein called CRY, one of the “master regulator” proteins of our biological clock. These molecules could allow for the circadian rhythms to be somewhat controllable.

In the future, a pill may be produced containing the molecules that can shorten the circadian period. This presents the possibility for customizing circadian rhythms, which means the end of jet lag with the ingestion of a pill. More research is needed on this subject to create a pill containing these synthetic molecules, and to ensure that it would be safe.

The future for controlling sleep disorders and managing jet lag and night-shift work is looking bright. For now, the solution to my problem is to maintain a similar sleep cycle on weeknights and weekends, and hopefully this will allow for me to catch some extra ZZZs.

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