airplaneThe holiday season brings lots of travel — visiting family and friends, taking vacations. If you have ever traveled and experienced jet lag, you know that you can feel that you are just not quite fully functioning (particularly when traveling east) when you arrive at your destination. A new study shows that this particular effect of jet lag may linger longer than we realize.

Researchers at The University of California at Berkley conducted an interesting experiment. They used an animal model in which they compared the performance and memory tasks of jet lagged hamsters against a control group. The researchers learned that jet lag affects the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning:

Whether you are traveling across the country, or picking up a holiday shift, here are some simple things to help fight jet lag (and keep your brain healthy):

. Time your flights. If you are only flying over two to three zones, avoid the “red eye” flights as much as possible. Remember, jet lag is worse if you traveling east.

. Get outside and get some sunlight! Light helps reset your circadian rhythm and reduces the effects of jet lag.

. Adjust with exercise. Exercise also helps reset your biological clock. I would not suggest running a marathon, but while you are outside getting sunlight, consider taking a brisk walk.

. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Both will negatively affect your sleep cycle, which will already be slightly off.

. Resist napping on the plane. You may need to fall asleep earlier than your body is used to at your new destination. Being a little more tired could be helpful.

. Melatonin might not be the best answer; the studies on its effectiveness are mixed. As I have “blogged” before melatonin often comes in an overdose amount — we’re talking anything over one milligram. It’s important to check with your doctor before taking this hormone.

. Consider a jet lag calculator app. These can help guide you through overcoming and preventing jet lag. Virgin Atlantic offers one that I enjoy from Mental Workout.

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