Jet Lag : Causes , Symptoms and Prevention.
Jet lag can cause trouble sleeping, daytime tiredness, digestive issues, difficulty concentrating and mood changes, which can make it challenging to enjoy activities on your vacation or work well on your business trip. Here you’ll learn more about jet lag, including what jet lag means, jet lag
remedies and how to avoid jet lag.
What is jet lag?
Jet lag is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder. Each person has an internal 24-hour clock that tells them when to be awake or feel sleepy. This is your circadian rhythm, and it’s affected by sunlight. Your body relies on sunlight to know how much melatonin, a sleep-producing hormone, to make. The body releases more melatonin in the evening and less during
the day. Traveling across two time zones or more can disrupt your melatonin production and circadian rhythms, which can affect your ability to sleep and stay alert.
Some studies show that cabin air pressure changes and high altitudes when flying may also cause symptoms of jet lag, even when you don’t travel across time zones. What’s more, low humidity levels on airplanes can contribute to dehydration, which may make symptoms of jet lag worse if you don’t take in enough water.
Jet lag symptoms
Signs of jet lag can include:
- Sleep issues such as insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep), waking up too early or intense exhaustion
- Fatigue during the day
- Digestive problems, including diarrhea and constipation
- Trouble with concentration and physical and mental performance
- Mood shifts
- A general sense of feeling unwell
How long does jet lag last?
Jet lag is temporary. How long it lasts depends on how many time zones you crossed and which direction you traveled. In general, it takes one day per time zone for your body clock to adjust to the local schedule. This means that if you flew across five times zones, it could take five days to feel normal again without jet-lag symptoms. Also, flying west tends to be more difficult to adjust to than traveling east.
Other factors can also affect how long jet lag lasts, including your age. Jet lag can affect anyone of any age, but seniors often experience more severe symptoms and can have a more difficult time recovering. Still, some
people adjust to new time zones relatively easily compared to others for no clear reason.
Avoiding jet lag
Taking actions before, during and after travel can help you avoid jet lag or reduce its symptoms. Try these tips:
Before your trip:
- Go to bed a few hours earlier (if traveling east) or later (if going west) in the days leading up to travel. This can shift your body’s internal clock.
- Exercise, eat nutritious foods and get enough sleep leading up to your trip. Feeling sluggish and tired before travel can worsen jet lag.
- Plan ahead. If you need to make important decisions at your destination, plan to arrive a few days early to give yourself time to get used to the new time zone.
- Set your watch to your destination’s local time as soon as you board the plane.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and large meals, which can affect your sleep.
- Get up and walk around regularly on long flights.
- Sleep on the plane, especially if it’s already nighttime at your destination.
- Consider breaking up a long trip with a stop in the middle, if possible.
After you arrive:
- Stick to the local schedule. Try not to sleep until nighttime in the new time zone, and eat meals according to local time, too. If you’re very sleepy the first day, take no longer than a 20–30 minute nap so you can still sleep at night.
- Spend time in the sun to reset your circadian
- Drink plenty of water.
- Stay away from alcohol and caffeine, especially in the three to four hours before bedtime.
How to get over jet lag
In most cases, jet lag doesn’t require treatment. But if you’re a frequent traveler who is often plagued by jet lag symptoms and other
remedies haven’t helped, talk with your doctor. They may recommend pills for jet lag that can improve sleep duration and quality. Some research also shows that taking melatonin for jet lag may be helpful. In supplement form, melatonin may help you sleep during times you normally don’t. Discuss melatonin, along with how much and when to take it, with your doctor.
By: Jenilee Matz, MPH with walgreens.com