Scientists have shed more light on how the disruption of the body's normal rhythms leads to sleep pattern disturbances, potentially paving the way for improved sleep disorder treatment.
Research conducted at the University of Washington shows two groups of neurons found in a structure located at the base of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus are responsible for the effect of jet lag and fatigue caused by alternating shifts.
While one group of neutrons is associated with deep sleep that arises from physical fatigue, the other controls a different phase of sleep known as rapid eye movement or REM.
Normally, these two groups are linked, but this connection can be disrupted through travelling across time zones or changing shifts.
Previous work has already shown that physical activity can help to reset the body's rhythms, but Horacio de la Iglesia, a University of Washington associate professor of biology, believes this latest study's findings could help to improve treatment.
"We can go back to the treatments that are believed to be effective and see where they might be acting in the circuitry of these neuron centers, then refine them to be more effective," he commented.
Symptoms of jet lag include loss of appetite, nausea and digestive problems.