Jet Lag Can Make You Stupid

That fuzzy feeling you get when you cross several timezones? That’s you getting dumber.

Scientists did a study where they screwed with hamsters’ rhythms by pushing forward their waking and sleeping schedule six hours every three days for almost a month. “It would be like a flight from New York to Paris every three days,” study co-author Erin Gibson told Science News.

The result was that neuron growth rate was nearly halved. Also, the hamsters had a harder time than the control group learning which chamber contained the better running wheel. And even after being returned to a normal sleep schedule, 28 days later the hamsters still had problems with learning and memory.

To fight the effects of jet lag, Consumer Reports Health recommends taking melatonin pills at bed time and to avoid caffeine and booze until your body adjusts.

Jet lag makes hamsters dumb [ScienceNews]
Repeated jet lag inhibits adult neurogenesis and produces long-term cognitive deficits in female hamsters [abstractsonline]


Edit Your Comment

  1. c!tizen says:

    I’m not sure, but the TSA is to blame.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      I know I’d have a hard time focusing if some stranger kept groping me every three days.

      – – –

      On a more serious note, this is a very extreme example, being a 6-hour difference every three days. Most jet-lag isn’t quite that bad.

      Also, the phrase ‘Jet-Lag Makes You Dumber’ seems a little misleading. Wouldn’t slow neuron growth just mean you’re getting smarter at a slower pace, rather than dumber?

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        My guess is that you have constant neuron growth? And slower growth equals dumber.

        (I am not a neuro-surgeon)

      • Leksi Wit says:

        I cannot say if there is a neuron growth to IQ correlation, but the hamsters did have problems learning after being exposed to the extreme jet lag, even 28 days later. So, technically, they did get “dumber”. From the article in Science News:

        Jet lag decreases the numbers of new neurons being born in the hippocampus by about 50 percent, the team found. Mental function suffered, too: The jet-lagged hamsters were worse at learning which of two chambers contained a desirable running wheel. Even after 28 days of a back-to-normal schedule, the formerly jet-lagged hamsters still showed learning and memory problems. The mismatch between the internal body clock and the external environment “is having a long-term effect on learning and memory,” Gibson said.

  2. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Not just jet lag, but also lack of sleep or shift work.

    • hotdogsunrise says:

      I’ve never had to do it, but I’ve never been able to understand how people work swing shifts and be able to act like a normal human being. That has to mess with you hardcore.

      • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

        My mother used to do that, because she was a Dispatcher for a local airline. But they gave you a 6-days-on, 6-days-off rotation, and you either worked the Day or Night shift. (12 hour shifts; 6 till 6.)

        That was basically it, unless they needed to call you in for an ‘All Hands On Deck’ kind of emergency. Which, thankfully for her, only occured once. (Airplane engine mysteriously started to smoke and crackle of its own volition.)

      • sonneillon says:

        If your schedule is constant you get used to the sleep patterns. Same thing with graveyard. Takes about a week of feeling less than human. What they did was way more extreme than that. Every 3 days they screwed with them never letting them adjust.

  3. humphrmi says:

    I’d like to know what their definition of Jet Lag is. For me, it’s the adjustment to different timezones, and the change in sleep schedules’ effect on my body. Which, after years of travel, I’ve actually found several tricks to eliminate. So if I eliminate those Jet Lag effects, am I still doomed to be stupid if I still do a lot of “trans-meridian travel”?

  4. joecoolest says:

    So Ben, you must fly a lot… >;o)

  5. Murph1908 says:

    “avoid caffeine and booze until your body adjusts.”

    Well, considering that I live on caffene and booze (and buffets) when I fly from the east coast to Vegas, this doesn’t bode well for me.

    Good thing I only do it once a year, and not every 3 days.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    So, abstractsonline calls it “Repeated jet lag inhibits adult neurogenesis and produces long-term cognitive deficits in female hamsters”

    Then ScienceNews has to dumb it down for us to “Jet lag makes hamsters dumb.”

    Stellar. Durrrr

  7. Talisker says:

    There must be a lot of jet lag between Wasilla, Alaska and the rest of the country.

  8. powdered beefmeat says:

    i fly a little (est. 50 flights a year), instead of taking drugs such as melatonin – my doctor suggested that as soon as I get to my destination I should hit the gym to reset that “clock”. sure enough he was right. as far as jet lag making you dumb? well hell, when was the last time a hamster wrote a thesis?

  9. aloria says:

    Hamsters have sleep schedules? Mine seems to get up whenever he damn well feels like it, usually in response to the sound of my opening the cookie jar to give my dogs a milkbone (he loves milkbones.)

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Milkbone? For a hampster? Hell, it must take him a week to eat one of those!

      • Invader Zim says:

        My thoughts too. One milk bone =s three weeks of food. I wonder just how big your hamster is?

        • aloria says:

          He is a Roborovski hamster. He only chews on them a little and then leaves it in the corner of his cage, but he goes absolutely apeshit if he doesn’t get a piece of one when my dogs do. I’ve also seen him eat crickets. He is a weird little guy.

      • aloria says:

        They are nearly as big as he is! It’s cute to watch him try to cart it around.

  10. pop top says:

    Aww, that’s not very nice. Hamsters are dumb enoguh as it is…

  11. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    Yeah, being tired in general causes you to make poor decisions.

    I tried melatonin for a while. I had a bizarre side effect where, about once every two weeks, I would sleep for about an hour, wake up, and not be able to go back to sleep. I quit taking it after the second or third time this happened, as being slightly groggy from getting 5-6 hours of sleep is much better than having to get through the day on (basically) no sleep.

  12. Laura Northrup says:

    1. I can’t believe we had the perfect picture in the flickr pool for a story about jet-lagged hamsters.

    2. As a person with a severely whacked-out sleep schedule, I can say that this is entirely true.

  13. BBP says:

    Well, that’s that then… I guess I’ll have to leave the hamsters at home next time we fly through international time zones. I don’t want these guys to get any dumber than they already are.

  14. ElBobulo says:

    But what about gerbils?