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November 19, 2010

Are stress hormones affected by jet lag?

Jet Lag & Stress Hormones

Travelling abruptly across time zones often induces jet lag that can make us feel groggy and grumpy. How might jet lag affect day-to-day levels of stress hormones in comparison to days without travel changes? Drs. Leah Doane and Kristen Jacobson from the University of Chicago in collaboration with international scientists ventured to answer this question by exploring stress hormone levels and eastward versus westward time zone travel changes in over 750 American middle-aged men. Participants were asked to provide saliva samples to measure the stress hormone cortisol on two non-travel days and on one occasion after travelling across three or fewer times zones the previous day. What they found was that those travelling eastward had higher rises in cortisol the morning after travelling, while those traveling westward had slightly lower cortisol levels the morning after travelling. This result is consistent with previous research showing that it is harder to adapt to new time changes when travelling eastward, perhaps because time moves forward rather than backward. Subtle changes in the daily rhythm of stress hormones can endanger health and well-being for people travelling a lot, which highlights the need to find strategies that facilitate acclimatization to new time zones. One trick might be to tough out your tiredness on your first day in a new destination so you get right on the new time.

Title: Associations between jet lag and cortisol diurnal rhythms after domestic travel.

Authors: Doane, Kremen, Eaves, Eisen, Hauger, Hellhammer, Levine, Lupien, Lyons, Mendoza, Prom-Wormley, Xian, York, Franz, Jacobson.

Journal: Health Psychology (2010) vol. 29 (2) pp. 117-123

Source: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0017865

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