How to Use Your Body Clock to Beat Jet Lag, Stop Late-Night Snacking, and More
What's your body clock, anyway?
Yes, there are some remedies for the worst part of travel.
Camping can reset your body clock
Knowing when you feel overtired isn’t exactly rocket science. You probably feel sluggish, weak, unproductive. Your pesky undereye circles may be more pronounced and your cravings stronger than ever.
Your daily routine can make a difference
This routine would work for most folks with typical sleep-wake schedules.
6 A.M. Go for a run. Assuming you’re healthy overall (especially cardio-wise), your low body temp makes the morning good for endurance sports like jogging.
8 A.M. Prep for a pitch. “Studies suggest this is when you have the best immediate recall,” says Smolensky.
2 P.M. Take a quick nap. Your alertness dips now. Just keep your power nap short—20 minutes tops.
5 P.M. Meet a pal for tennis. Your hand-eye coordination is at its highest in the early evening.
6:30 P.M. Eat dinner. Dine at least four hours before bed for better digestion and to lower your chance of heartburn.
9 P.M. Relax in a hot bath. It triggers a rise and fall in body temp that helps you nod off faster; shoot for one hour before bed.
How to beat jet lag
We’ve rounded up seven tricks that diminish jet lag so you can travel better.
Midnight munching can disrupt your body clock
Late-night snacking may come back to haunt you. Food signals to the body that it’s time to be awake—making it tougher for you to nod off and get a full night’s sleep, says Andrew W. Varga, MD, assistant professor of sleep medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. At the same time, your circadian rhythms affect how you metabolize food: “Eating late at night leads to a bigger blood sugar spike,” says Dr. Varga, “and fats are more likely to be stored as fat in the body, causing weight gain.”
Forget early birds and night owls
Breus argues that most of us fit into one of four chronotypes.
If you’re a lion… You’re an early riser who’s prone to a midafternoon slump and feels wiped out by early evening. The trick to extending your day? Work out in the p.m. for an energy boost, says Breus.
If you’re a bear… Your focus is highest between 10 a.m. and noon. You should tackle big projects in the morning and save your socializing for early evening, when your mood peaks.
If you’re a wolf… Try to schedule meetings when you’re most alert, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. If you need to be up early, Breus suggests taking a walk outside first thing in the morning.
If you’re a dolphin… You’re familiar with the wee hours. But no matter how little sleep you get the night before, try to exercise in the morning to kick up your energy level. And remember to nix electronics after 10:30 p.m.
Your immunity peaks in the morning
Make a note: When you get your flu shot this fall, go early in the day. In a U.K. study published last year, researchers looked at 276 senior citizens and found that those who got the vaccine between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. had a higher antibody response to two out of three flu strains one month later than those who got their shot between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
“Immune cell numbers and sensitivity to pathogens fluctuate over the course of the day,” says Adam Silver, PhD, assistant professor of biology at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. “It’s believed that our immune system evolved to be at its peak when we are most likely to encounter pathogens, so it makes sense we’d see a heightened immune response in the morning, at the beginning of our active period.”
Plus, your arms will thank you: Smolensky’s research has shown that people who get vaccinations early in the day are less likely to experience redness, soreness, or hardness at the injection site.
Could you have a circadian rhythm disorder?
Insufficient sleep is linked to a host of health problems, from depression to cardiovascular disease. Make sure you're falling asleep quickly so you can get a good night's rest. Watch this video for six simple tricks to avoid insomnia.
Why shift work can be risky
“Your circadian rhythms affect how your body functions on a cellular level,” explains Dr. Avidan. “When they’re disrupted, levels of hormones that impact your risk for heart disease, obesity, even your immune system are all affected.” But if your workday begins after sunset, there are a few ways you can help your body clock stay on track. Dr. Avidan recommends getting as much light exposure as you can while at work. After you clock out, do your best to limit your light exposure; once you get home, try using blackout curtains to help you sleep.