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Sleep Well in Seattle 2 – adjusting mealtimes

With colleagues from Baines Simmons and Clockwork Research travelling to the Flight Safety Foundation’s International Air Safety Summit (IASS) in Seattle 12-14 November, Senior Researcher Dr. Cristina Ruscitto is publishing a series of jet lag tips throughout this week with advice on how to mitigate the effects of jet lag when travelling.

If you missed the 1st blog in this series yesterday, with advice on exposure to natural light, you can find it here. Today, Cristina looks at the effects of mealtimes on reducing jet lag.


Adjusting mealtimes to reduce jet lag

When to eat

Whilst there is little evidence that what you eat makes a difference for jet lag, recent research suggests that when you eat can make a difference by reducing jet lag. This is because the body clock needs time cues to reset itself to the new outside world and mealtimes can provide an additional signal to the body clock that is time to be active rather than time to sleep. To this end aligning mealtimes to the new time zone can help promote circadian adaptation.

Evidence suggests that while the master clock located in the brain responds to light, peripheral clocks respond to mealtimes. Further, following rapid travel across time zones jet lag may be exacerbated by a mismatch between peripheral clocks (in different organs such as the liver, lungs, stomach and different tissues) and the master circadian clock as they re-adjust at different rates. For example, there may be a lag between the stomach clock and the brain clock. Indeed, research has shown that subjective symptoms of jet lag are not confined to sleep disturbance. Jet lag is also associated with disruption to appetite, feeling bloated and gastrointestinal problems. Not only do different jet lag symptoms adjust at different rates (Waterhouse at al., 2000; Ruscitto & Ogden, 2016) but there is now plenty of evidence that long-term exposure to jet lag (and shift work) is linked to metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity) which may due to eating out of phase with the body clock (Buxton et al., 2012).

Using the notion that mealtimes may be used to alleviate jet lag, a study showed that to readapt when you get home, it can help to follow a simple meal plan (eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at the appropriate time). This simple meal plan helped long-haul cabin crew reduce jet lag on recovery days in the home time zone (Ruscitto & Ogden, 2016). This study showed that mealtimes can be used as cues to help readjust to jet lag and that knowing when to eat is as important as knowing when to catch the light for reducing the impact of jet lag.

Follow us on Linkedin or Twitter to see Cristina’s jetlag advice tips this week. If you’re in Seattle next week for the IASS conference and would like to chat to us about Fatigue Risk Management, visit us at stand 28 where we’ll have an EnergyPod for you to recharge after your journey. Alternatively, you can get in touch with us at info@clockworkresearch.com.



Buxton, O. M., Cain, S. W., O’Connor, S. P., Porter, J. H., Duffy, J. F., Wang, W., Czeisler, C. A. & Shea, S. A. (2012). Adverse metabolic consequences in humans of prolonged sleep restriction combined with circadian disruption. Science Translational Medicine, 4(129).

 Ruscitto, C., & Ogden, J. (2016). The impact of an implementation intention to improve mealtimes and reduce jet lag in long-haul cabin crew. Psychology & Health, 32(1), 61-77.

Waterhouse, J., Edwards, B. Nevill, A., Aknson, G., Relly, T., Davies, P. & Godfrey, R. (2000). Do subjective symptoms predict our perception of jet lag? Ergonomics, 43(10), 1514-1527.