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Jet Lag


Overview :

Living organisms are accustomed to periods of night and day alternating at set intervals. Most of the human body's regulating hormones follow this cycle, known as circadian rhythm. The word circadian comes from the Latin, circa, meaning about, and dies, meaning day. These cycles are not exactly 24 hours long, hence the "circa." Each chemical has its own cycle of highs and lows, interacting with and influencing the other cycles. Body temperature, sleepiness, thyroid function, growth hormone, metabolic processes, adrenal hormones, and the sleep hormone melatonin all cycle with daylight. There is a direct connection between the retina (where light hits the back of the eye) and the part of the brain that controls all these hormones. Artificial light has some effect, but sunlight has much more.

When people are without clocks in a compartment that is completely closed to sunlight, most of them fall into a circadian cycle of about 25 hours. Normally, all the regulating chemicals follow one another in order like threads in a weaving pattern. Every morning the sunlight resets the cycle, stimulating the leading chemicals and thus compensating for the difference between the 24-hour day and the 25-hour innate rhythm.

When traveling through a number of time zones, most people reset their rhythms within a few days, demonstrating the adaptability of the human species. Some people, however, have upset rhythms that last indefinitely.




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