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The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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Time Zone Tug-of-War: Students, experts find respective ways to cope with jet lag

Students+who+travel+to+different+parts+of+the+world+often+find+that+jet+lag+can+make+the+return+to+home+%E2%80%94+and+school+work+%E2%80%94+hard.+Some+students+have+come+up+with+their+own+antidotes+for+the+problem%2C+while+new+scientific+studies+have+suggested+cures+like+increasing+light+exposure+and+changing+food+schedules.
Sygne Stole
Students who travel to different parts of the world often find that jet lag can make the return to home — and school work — hard. Some students have come up with their own antidotes for the problem, while new scientific studies have suggested cures like increasing light exposure and changing food schedules.

Sophomore Vedika Dangi opens her eyes to darkness. Reaching for her phone, her screen’s sudden brightness stings her eyes. 

It’s 3 a.m. 

Despite her best efforts, jet lag has disrupted her plans, pulling her into sleep at 8 p.m. when she had aimed to push through until 10.

Students like Vedika, who travel to different parts of the world, often find that jet lag can make the return to home — and school work — hard. Some students have come up with their own antidotes for the problem, while new scientific studies have suggested cures like increasing light exposure and changing food schedules.

Junior Mihir Epel experienced negative effects from jet lag when he returned from Spain at the end of spring break.

“It made my assignment and test taking worse,” he said. “It made me a lot more distracted because I was very tired and sleep deprived.”

Sophomore Maggie Yagan had a similar experience on the first day back from spring break when she just returned from Japan.

“For the Monday that school started, there’s a 14-hour time difference. I’ll be sitting in chemistry at 11 and it’ll feel like it’s 1 in the morning. It’s been an adjustment,” she said.

Some students have distinct cures for jet lag, whether acclimating when they first arrive in the place they are visiting or readjusting when they get home. 

When senior Tomasz Wikowski arrived in Poland during spring break, he worked hard to combat jet lag by staying awake through the daytime hours. 

“What I usually do to help me adapt quicker to the time zone when I get to the different countries is to try to stay up during the day there, which is like the evening hours in Chicago,” he said. “So I’m really tired, and I try to stay up as long as I can until it’s night in Poland, and then because I’m so tired, I sleep through the night and then my body adjusts quicker.”

Mihir, on the other hand, tried to adjust by staying awake during the trip home.

“I stay up during the flight so that I sleep when I get back home,” Mihir said. “So that I stay awake until a normal sleeping time and then I go to sleep at that normal sleeping time since I’m very tired because I stayed up during the flight.”

Experts, too, have an array of ways to combat jet lag.

Jamie Zeitzer, a Stanford University professor who has spent 25 years studying jet lag, said in an interview that the conditions on flights intensify jet lag symptoms.

“When you’re on a plane, make sure that you stay hydrated. Planes have low atmospheric water content,” he said. “So people get dehydrated very rapidly. Dehydration is going to make all of the symptoms of jet lag worse.”

Some experts suggest changing a person’s eating cycle to the new time zone helps people adjust to the time difference.

Dr. Zeitzer, though, suggested increasing daylight exposure as perhaps a more effective way to get a person’s body clock to adjust.

“The food can help, but you need light to move the central clock,” he said. “You know, food will basically make it easier to get the light that you need, and it might help a little in terms of shifting that clock.”

Mihir said the notion sounded promising. 

“It’s an interesting idea because it delves into our neurological processes and makes sense from a psychological perspective,” he said. “While I have never tried it directly, I know that things like keeping blinds open will make you get up around sunrise, while keeping them closed will make you sleep in.”

Dr. Zeitzer also advised minimizing screen time before bed for better rest.

“It is crucial to be aware of how normal habits that might not interfere with sleep at home can do so when your sleep is more vulnerable due to jet lag,” he said. “Paying attention to things such as alcohol and caffeine consumption, room environment, napping and stress are very important to reduce the impact of jet lag.”

Despite such challenges, students still find the effort worth the joy earned from traveling.

“It’s 100% worth it,” Vedika said. “I would do this again. I think it’s like the experience of traveling and just like having fun. And that’s 100% worth it.”

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About the Contributors
Edward Park
Edward Park, Assistant Editor
Edward Park is a member of the Class of 2025 and serves as an assistant editor. He joined the journalism staff in the 2022-23 school year as a sophomore. Outside of journalism, Edward enjoys watching sports and cooking for his family.
Sygne Stole
Sygne Stole, Artist
Sygne Stole is a member of the Class of 2025 and an artist for the Midway.

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    SelinaApr 1, 2024 at 9:39 am

    The eating schedule adjustment totally works! Awesome article 🙂

    Reply