Traveling abroad can be exhilarating. But sometimes it’s easy to discount the crippling jet leg that can set in after traversing multiple time zones—leaving you exhausted, disoriented and possibly causing you to miss out on your vacation.

Jet lag is “something that can ruin a vacation or plague athletes and musicians or have a businessman or woman not perform at their peak,” explains Charmane Eastman, a professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and the founding director of the Biological Rhythms Research Laboratory at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

The number of passengers flying internationally in 2017 reached an all-time annual high, with 107.7 million people—up 3.5% from the previous high reached in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That means, more people are likely suffering from jet lag.

But whether you’re flying cross country or halfway across the globe, there are ways to protect yourself. Here, experts reveal the science behind that all-too pesky jet lag—and the secrets to outsmarting it.

The science behind jet lag

Jet lag occurs when the brain cells that regulate our circadian rhythms—which serve as our bodies’ master clock telling us when to wake up, eat or sleep—are out of sync with the time zone we are in, says Jamie Zeitzer, an assistant professor at Stanford University’s Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine.

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