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Resetting Your Body's Clock From Jet Lag Boils Down To The Basics

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Ditmire: Dr. Gene Block is no stranger to jet lag.

Dr. Gene Block: I’m chancellor of UCLA which involves much work on campus, but a lot of work off campus as well, which involves frequent trips from the West Coast to the East Coast, because we are involved in a lot of national organizations in Washington, D.C. But also because we have alumni around the world and research relationships around the world so fairly frequent trips to Asia, especially but also to Europe, South America, Middle East.

Ditmire: Dr. Block is also a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, who knows that circadian disruption is for real. 

Dr. Block: It’s an elegant system. It has not only a central clock located in the brain, in hypothalamus, but many clocks throughout tissues organs throughout the body. And this system normally, in an unchanging environment, works, all these different parts. But when you change time zones, all of sudden there is disruption.

Ditmire: In other words, your brain knows it's in a new place, but your body does not.

Dr. Block: You feel terrible. You really are compromised in a sense. So we cognitively compromise, in the fact that there is some physiological risk, as well as the system tries to reestablish its equilibrium.

Ditmire: To reset that clock experts suggest exposing yourself to light.

Dr. Block: There were some applications on cell phones that do tell you when you're supposed to get light. And that can be helpful.

Ditmire: And food.

Dr. Block: If you’re crossing time zones, and even though you’re not as hungry, eating on the new meal time can help reset the oscillations in your liver.

Ditmire: And of course sleep.

Dr. Block: There is increasing evidence that is unhealthy that people really do need to have a stable sleep cycle with an adequate number of hours of sleep.

Ditmire: Which is what works best for Dr. Block.

Dr. Block: I am mindful that I reserve enough time when I travel is to not have the schedule impact on time available to sleep. And then again, making sure it’s a dark room and quiet space. And I think that's one of the most important things. One you can really pay attention to. 

Ditmire: Tell me where is your favorite place that you don’t mind upsetting your circadian rhythm…

Dr. Block: I guess Hawaii. I guess it's most everybody's favorite. It is such a wonderful place and always wonderful weather, so I always find that tolerable even if I feel a little malaise associated with time zone travel.   

Dr. Gene Block is the chancellor of UCLA.