What is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is a short-term sleep disorder that affects anyone traveling by air to different time zones. The speed of modern air travel confuses the body, which needs sleep in a consistent time zone. By moving rapidly from one time zone to another, regular sleep patterns become disrupted.
Symptoms Of Jet Lag
Symptoms of jet lag include:
- Daytime drowsiness
- A feeling of extreme fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
What Causes Jet Lag?
A Disruption to Your Circadian Rhythms
The natural sleep patterns that we are used to are thrown off when we travel by air across time zones. We lose time or gain time depending on where we are traveling. This disruption leaves the body and mind out of sync with the circadian rhythms that define our healthy sleep.
The Effect of Sunlight
Changing time zones also affect when you are exposed to daylight, especially when traveling internationally. Your body may feel tired even as the sun is shining or be wide awake at night.
Airline Cabin Pressure and Atmosphere
More than just the change in time zones, your body is further challenged by pressurized airline cabin air and variations in altitude, which can leave you even more exhausted when you reach your destination. Changes from warm weather locations to cold or visa-versa can also contribute to even more cognitive disruption.
Which Sleep Disorder Is Often Attributed To Jet Lag?
Jet lag is associated with circadian rhythm sleep disorder. This disorder is the disruption of your internal clock which governs when you sleep and when you are awake. Air travel can compromise your circadian rhythm to the point of fatigue and emotional and physical discomfort.
What Are Circadian Rhythms?
Circadian rhythms are the natural, consistent patterns of your body and mind over 24 hours. Our exposure to light and dark, daily patterns of behavior, including when we go to sleep, are all defined by this internal clock. Disruption of this internal clock, even temporarily, can leave you feeling sick and tired.
How To Overcome Jet Lag?
You may be able to manage jet lag better by following a few simple tips.
When you know the time differences between where you’re traveling, you can prepare by adjusting your sleep schedule a few days before you travel. Your body will feel less of a shock when you fly into a different time zone.
Melatonin supplements can help with jet lag. Taking the supplements can help you adjust to the new time zone by promoting sleep during the night hours, so you are refreshed during the day.
Coffee, tea, soft drinks, and cocktails can overstimulate or make you feel tired which further aggravates the symptoms of jet lag. Try to avoid these beverages when you travel.
How Jet Lag Is Diagnosed?
Most symptoms of jet lag are short-term and probably do not need a medical diagnosis. Symptoms will usually go away within a few days. If symptoms persist, then you may want to see your doctor. Sometimes other sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea may be the root cause of sleep deprivation rather than jet lag.
Why is Jet Lag Worse Going East?
Often air travel east can lead to worsened jet lag experiences. Eastern Standard Time may require you to go to bed earlier because of the time change compared to Pacific and Mountain time zones. Your body adapts better to staying up late rather than going to bed early, so a trip east can leave you more lethargic.
Preventing Jet Lag
- Use light therapy to help adjust your circadian rhythm
- Avoid caffeinated beverages a few hours before going to bed
- Take short naps to help your body adapt to the time change
- Adjust your sleep schedule to prepare for the time zone shift so it is less of a shock to your system
Jet Lag: Treatment
Following healthy habits can help you manage jet lag more effectively. Know that a shift in time zones will affect your sleep, so prepare accordingly by adjusting your sleep schedule. Here are a few other options for treating jet lag:
- Eat a good diet: Do not eat foods that are high in carbs and fat before you are ready to sleep as that will disrupt your sleep.
- Exercise: Exercising could counteract the negative effects jet lag has on your body’s circadian rhythm.
- Stay hydrated: It is recommended to drink water before, during, and after your flight. This will help fight dehydration. Additionally, avoid any alcohol or caffeine a few hours before you plan on sleeping as not only will that affect your sleep, but it could also cause dehydration as well.
Does Taking Melatonin Work For Jet Lag?
Melatonin can also help by helping stabilize sleep patterns. Insomnia is one of the most common symptoms of jet lag. An over-the-counter melatonin supplement naturally promotes sleep so you can adapt to the time zone change more quickly.
How Can You Reduce Jet Lag?
For those who travel frequently, jet lag is a common problem. Many travelers try to maintain sleep schedules that adapt to time zone changes as they travel. Avoiding stress helps prevent exhaustion. Many expert travelers also schedule their travel plans so that they have the time to recover effectively once they land.