Jet Lag is the fatigue and other physical effects felt after a long flight across different time zones. Your body has its own internal clock, or circadian rhythms, that signals your body when to stay awake and when to sleep. Traveling across multiple time zones causes your circadian rhythm to fall out of sync with the day-night cycle of the time-zone you land in. Jet lag is temporary but it can have a negative impact on your travels. It may begin after traveling across two or more time zones and the more time zones crossed, the more likely you are to experience jet lag. The severity and duration of jet lag is influenced by distance travelled as well as which direction you have travelled (traveling eastward usually causes more intense jet lag). It takes roughly one day per time zone travelled to recover from jet lag.
Whether traveling for a vacation, for business or any other reason jet lag can get in the way of your travel plans, causing daytime fatigue, a lack of focus and gastrointestinal problems. Some people are able to adjust more quickly than others to rapid shifts in time zones. Pilots, flight attendants and business travellers are most likely to have jet lag due to their lifestyle.
Along with the affect that air travel has on a person’s circadian rhythm several other factors work to worsen jet lag’s symptoms, including the loss of sleep due to a travel schedule, the hours spent sitting on an airplane, stress, or the use of substances such as caffeine or alcohol.
Symptoms and Self Testing
If you have travelled by air across time zones and find yourself feeling tired during the daytime or feel mild nausea within a few days of traveling then you may have jet lag.
Symptoms of jet lag can vary from person to person. You may experience only one symptom or you may have many. Jet lag symptoms may include:
• Trouble falling asleep
• Daytime fatigue or disorientation
• Difficulty concentrating
• Mild sickness
• Stomach problems, constipation or diarrhoea
• Disruptions in menstruation
• Mood Swings
With a few adjustments to your sleep schedule you should be able to recover from jet lag on your own. But if you travel often and suffer from jet lag, or if you feel you may suffer from another sleep disorder talking with one of our certified sleep care specialists can help get you back on track and feeling rested.
Treating Jet Lag
Jet lag is generally temporary and usually doesn’t need treatment. However, there are remedies and behavioural adjustments that can help you overcome jet lag after you travel:
Light therapy can help ease that transition. It involves exposing your eyes to an artificial bright light or lamp that simulates sunlight for a specific and regular amount of time during the time when you’re meant to be awake. This is especially useful if you are frequently indoors or travel to a location without much natural sunlight. Schedule short sessions in the morning and early afternoon with the light.
Melatonin supplements can help your body adjust to jet lag by adjusting your circadian rhythms. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland and considered a signal for when your body is supposed to sleep. Your body treats melatonin as a darkness signal, and generally has the opposite effect of bright light. Research suggests that a dose as low as 0.5 mg is just as effective as higher doses.
Your doctor can prescribe for you a sleeping pill to help you get rest at the proper times when you first reach your destination or to help avoid sleep deprivation during the flight.
Lifestyle & Home Remedies:
Adapt to the destination schedule in advance:
Planning ahead refers to adjusting yourself to the sleep schedule relatively close to that of your destination even before your trip.
Exposure to sunlight to reset can help regulate a person’s internal clock. It’s the most powerful natural tool for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. After you reach your destination, make sure to open a window or go outside during the daytime to expose yourself to sunlight. This will help you adjust to the new time zone.
Caffeine and alcohol consumption
Caffeine and alcohol use can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. It is recommended that you avoid these substances while you are on the airplane.
Drink plenty of water, especially during the flight, to counteract the effects of the dry atmosphere inside the plane. Take your own extra water aboard the airplane if allowed.
Some studies have shown that moderate exercise helps adjustment to the new time schedule. Outdoor exercise has the dual advantage of including exposure to sunlight.