The study found oxygen levels play a key part in how mice adapt to new time schedules.
That excruciating tiredness you feel after traveling through different time zones, or even shifting sleep patterns as a result of clocks going forward or back, could be a thing of the past after a team of researchers has found a way to target and manipulate the internal clocks of mice.
The team led by senior scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Gad Asher, wanted to create a better understanding of how the biological clock works. Located in the brain, the clock within us communicates with every cell in the body but up until now, scientists have known little about how this works.
The mice involved in the study were exposed to lower steady levels of oxygen and as a result their internal clocks adapted quickly to the adjustment. Mice have differing oxygen levels that reach their cells all throughout the day depending on how active they are and it was oxygen that the researchers think may be an important factor in how the biological clock is affected.
The mice were exposed to a jet lag situation where they were kept awake for six hours on a different schedule. When they were exposed to a lower level of oxygen – around 16 percent – they were better at adapting to a new sleeping, eating and activity schedule than those mice that were not exposed to lower oxygen levels and kept at 21 percent which is the percentage of oxygen we breathe at sea level.
Although successful in mice, it is yet unknown if this can also be applied to humans but the team are keen to carry out further tests to see if increasing the oxygen levels will have the same affect. If it works with humans, it could go towards finding ways to regulate and change oxygen levels on airplanes in order to limit the amount of jet lag experienced on long-haul flights.
Details of the study were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.