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Jet Lag ‘Cures’ Aplenty, but None That Work for All

Rita Gunther McGrath, a Columbia Business School professor, is one of those business travelers who do not care about delays, cancellations or navigating a new location. What does concern her is the seeming inability to conquer jet lag, and the accompanying symptoms that leave her groggy, unfocused and feeling, she says, “like a dishrag.”

哥伦比亚大学商学院(Columbia Business School)教授丽塔·冈瑟·麦格拉思(Rita Gunther McGrath)是那种不会担心航班延误、取消或改变降落地点的商旅客人。她担心的是时差反应,那会让她昏昏沉沉,无法集中注意力,用她自己话说,感觉就“像一块洗碗的抹布”。

“Jet lag has always been an issue for me,” says Ms. McGrath, who has been a business traveler for more than two decades and has dealt with itineraries that take her from New York to New Zealand to Helsinki to Hong Kong all within a matter of days.


She has scoured the Internet for “jet lag cures,” and has tried preventing or dealing with the misery by avoiding alcohol, limiting light exposure or blasting her body with sunlight and “doing just about anything and everything that experts tell you to do,” Ms. McGrath said.


“Jet lag is not conducive to the corporate environment,” she said. “There has to be some kind of help that actually works for those of us that travel a lot, but I sure can’t find it.”


Although science is closer to understanding the basic biological mechanisms that make many travelers feel so miserable when crossing time zones, research has revealed that, at least for now, there is no one-size fits-all recommendation for preventing or dealing with the angst of jet lag.


Recommendations to beat jet lag include adjusting sleep schedules, short-term use of medications to sleep or stay awake, melatonin supplements and light exposure timing, among others, said Col. Ian Wedmore, an emergency medicine specialist for the Army.

军队急救医学专家伊恩·韦德莫尔上校(Ian Wedmore)说,缓解时差反应的建议包括调整睡眠安排,短期服用帮助入睡或保持清醒的药物,服用褪黑素,以及控制光照时间等。

These work for many people, “but not all,” said Dr. Wedmore, who practices at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash.

在华盛顿州塔科马的马迪根军队医学中心(Madigan Army Medical Center)工作的韦德莫尔说,这些方法对很多人奏效,“但不是对所有人。”

That has led some travelers to resort to ineffective jet lag fixes like “shining a light behind the knee, aromatherapy and pressure point therapy,” said Jay Olson, founder of JetLagRooster.com, a free app and website that helps travelers minimize jet lag.

JetLagRooster.com是一个帮助旅行者减轻时差反应的免费应用程序和网站,它的创始人杰伊·奥尔森(Jay Olson)说,一些旅行者因此求助于一些无效的时差反应疗法,比如“光照膝盖后部,香薰疗法和穴位按压疗法”。

Since its founding in 2013, the site has developed recommendations for about 240,000 travelers after they plug in data like their normal sleep-wake times and destinations.


“We get a lot of great feedback, but remember, any time you come up with a solution, it’s for a majority of people,” said Mr. Olson, a Ph.D. candidate at McGill University, who developed the algorithm after experiencing jet lag on a trip to Greece. “There will be some people for whom this just doesn’t work.”

“我们得到很多很棒的反馈,但是记住,不管你想出什么解决办法,它都只是适合大多数人,”奥尔森说。他是麦基尔大学(McGill University)的博士研究生。他去希腊旅行出现时差反应后开发了这种算法。“这种方法可能对有些人无效。”

One hope for treatment lies in creating a “personalized” plan, based on an individual’s genetic blueprint, said Paolo Sassone-Corsi, a scientist at the University of California, Irvine, who studies internal “body clocks,” or circadian rhythms — the 24-hour cycle of light and dark that help regulate when people wake up, sleep and eat, among other things.

保罗·萨森-科西(Paolo Sassone-Corsi)是加利福尼亚大学欧文分校(University of California, Irvine)研究生物钟的科学家。生物钟是24小时光与暗的周期,能帮助调节苏醒、入眠和进食等活动。他说,一种可能的疗法是根据个人基因蓝图创制“个性化”方案。

Scientists now know that about 15 percent of a human’s genes are governed by these biological clocks. Any disruption to them — whether it’s a flight across time zones that leaves travelers in bright light when their bodies crave sleep, or darkness when their bodies are wide-awake, shift work or even stress — can lead to jet lag or, in extreme cases, potentially lead to the development of serious health problems like obesity and cancer, he said.


“What’s new is that we now recognize that we have clocks in every single cell of our bodies and from a physiologic point of view, some people are simply going to be more affected by jet lag because of their genetic or metabolic profile,” he said.


“Basically, it’s that profile that makes us individuals. But it can also be the reason why someone experiences few problems with jet lag while someone else will say ‘Dude, I’m a wreck.’”


One piece of advice for those who travel far, but to the same spots, is to stay in the same hotel. Familiarity will help cut stress, and perhaps minimize jet lag.


Experiments on mice performed in Dr. Sassone-Corsi’s laboratory show that a stressful environment will decrease the ability to adjust to a new time zone. Quickly shifting meal times and exercise periods to your new locale will help, too, he said.


Doctors do know that heading west is generally easier on the body than traveling east, because it requires a person’s internal clock to “set later, not earlier,” said Dr. R. Robert Auger, a sleep specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

R·罗伯特·奥格(R. Robert Auger)是明尼苏达州罗切斯特梅奥诊所(Mayo Clinic)的睡眠专科医生。他说,医生们确实知道,一般来说,比起往东飞,身体更能适应往西飞,因为往西飞是要求生物钟“往后调,而不是往前调”。

But the more time zones crossed, the tougher the jet lag.


The rule of thumb to get your body clocks back in sync is about one day per time zone change, making it “very difficult for real road warriors to get acclimated,” Dr. Auger said.


Ms. McGrath, who once tried taking only westbound flights on a round-the-world itinerary, can relate. Although her jet lag symptoms were somewhat eased by this trick, she concedes that flying west all the time is “not practical for most people.”


Especially if you’re Caroline Gogolak, co-founder of the activewear company Carbon38, whose headquarters are in Los Angeles. She lives in New York.

比如卡罗琳·戈戈拉克(Caroline Gogolak),她是运动装公司Carbon38的联合创始人,公司总部在洛杉矶,她住在纽约。

Flying west to Los Angeles is “no problem,” she said. But the return eastbound flight to New York can be a nightmare, she added.


After one trip she was so groggy and disoriented, she gave the cabdriver the wrong address for her home. “It was not one of my finer travel moments,” she said.


A common aid is melatonin, which has been studied extensively and for many travelers can help symptoms by getting the body in sync with local time more quickly, said Dr. Wedmore, the emergency medicine specialist.


Although it’s not a miracle cure, “some studies do show it can help on both eastward and westward flights, and it does seem to help a lot of people with jet lag, including me,” he said.


But it hasn’t done much for Ms. McGrath. So, for now, she’s trying to find the positives.


“What we all need to remember is that we are incredibly privileged to be able to cross time zones so rapidly,” she said. “Plus, when I get home from a business trip and say something stupid, I just blame the jet lag. That’s good for about three days.”




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