[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
I had a roommate who couldn’t sleep unless it was pitch dark, so she wore a face mask to bed. But she’d gotten it from an airline, so one of the eye patches had a little sticker on it that said, “Wake me for meals.” Now a new study from Harvard Medical school suggests that she needn’t have bothered with the sticker. Because scientists there have found that the brain has a special “meal clock” that keeps animals from snoozing when there’s food to be had. The results appear in the May 23 issue of Science.
As you probably know, the body has a master clock that tells us when to sleep and wake. That timepiece takes cues from the sun to keep us in synch with the rest of the world. Working with mice, the Harvard scientists located a second clock, one that responds to food rather than sunlight. So if there’s a cheese shortage when the mouse makes his midnight run, he can reset his alarm to see if the snack bar is better stocked at noon. The finding is good news for travelers, who may be able to reset their own body clocks, thereby adjusting more quickly to the local time zone and minimizing jet lag, by simply not eating anything on the plane. Which is probably sound advice no matter how long your flight