Calling All Hamsters: Hold That Flight

Paris Here We Come

Simulating the effects of jet lag by disrupting hamsters’ sleep patterns, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, showed that “jet lag” made the hamsters dumber. (And as far as I know hamsters aren’t renowned for their smarts.)

Already linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, odd sleep patterns like those of frequent long haul travelers would now seem to be bad for the brain, too.

Study coauthor Erin Gibson likened the hamsters’ sleep regime to “a flight from New York to Paris every three days.” Her study found a 50% decrease in neurogenesis in the hippocampus, and diminished ability to adapt to a new environment. The learning and memory problems persisted for more than four weeks after a return to a normal sleep schedule.

There’s no clear answer yet about why this happens, but it’s useful to know — even if we can’t avoid long distance travel, we can still try to make sure that we get regular, sufficient sleep… (So says the father of a four-month old, a two-year old, a six-year old and a teenage daughter.)

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