For the hundreds of Major League Baseball players, jet lag is an inescapable part of the sport. New research shows how disruptions to an athlete’s sleep cycle impairs his performance on the field—and how teams who have to travel east can be at a distinct disadvantage.
A study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has uncovered some interesting links between travel-induced circadian misalignment—what you and I call jet lag— and the performance of Major League Baseball teams. By analyzing nearly 5,000 baseball games in which players were jet lagged, Northwestern University sleep scientist Ravi Allada and his colleagues found that teams do worse when they travel east compared with when they travel west. The reason, the researchers say, has to do with our 24-hour circadian rhythm, and the difficulties of adjusting to a shortened day.