Jet Lag: Symptoms, causes and how do you deal with jet lag?

Jet lag often contributes to the physical strain of long flights. Jet lag refers to the misalignment of your body’s internal clock with the local time at your destination. This phenomenon often occurs when flying over three or more time zones.

Jet lag can disrupt your sleep and performance, as well as cause other annoying symptoms that last for days or even weeks after a flight. Whether you are traveling for business, sports or pleasure, jet lag can take a toll on your trip.

For travelers, knowledge of jet lag, including its symptoms, causes, and ways to reduce it, can make long-haul journeys more enjoyable and less disruptive to sleep and overall health.

 

What is jet lag?

 

Jet leg usually occurs when a person is traveling east or west through three or more time zones. For example, if you fly from Los Angeles to New York and arrive at 8 p.m., your body may still function as if it were in L.A. at 5 p.m.

This jet lag can, among other things, cause you to stay up later than you would like, sleep at odd hours or feel more tired than usual and therefore not be able to perform.

Most people find that jet lag is worse when traveling east than when traveling west. Jet lag differs based on the direction of travel, as it is generally easier to slow down the internal clock than move it forward. Jet lag does not occur on north-south flights that do not cross multiple time zones.

 

What are jet lag symptoms?

 

Sleep Problems: It may be difficult to fall asleep when you want to, or you may wake up earlier than planned. Jet lag can also cause sleep to become fragmented.

 

Daytime Sleepiness: Jet lag often makes you feel sleepy or tired during the day.

 

Impaired thinking: You may have problems with attention or memory or just feel like your thinking is being slowed down.

 

Reduced physical function: Your body may feel tired and peak physical performance may be affected, which is especially noticeable in traveling athletes.

 

Emotional Problems: Some people with jet lag feel irritable, and there is some evidence that jet lag can worsen mental health problems, such as mood disorders.

 

General malaise: Jet lag can make you feel malaise, which is a general feeling of discomfort, illness or discomfort.

 

How do you combat jet lag?

 

Exposure to light

Light has the most powerful influence on the circadian rhythm, and strategic exposure to light can help adjust your internal clock to prevent or reduce jet lag.

The effect on circadian rhythm depends on the level and timing of light exposure. Sunlight has the highest illumination level and the strongest circadian effects. Different types of artificial light can also affect circadian timing to a lesser extent.

Random exposure to light does not solve jet lag, because timing is critical. At times, exposure to light can advance or slow down your internal clock.

Correctly timed periods of both daylight and darkness can help keep your circadian rhythm in sync with local time. When access to natural light is limited, light therapy lamps, also called light boxes, can provide bright light exposure with greater circadian influence.

 

Adjust the internal clock in advance

Some methods of avoiding jet lag are based on adjusting your sleep schedule in the days leading up to your trip so that when you arrive at your destination, there is less discrepancy between your circadian rhythm and local time.

In addition to changing your bedtime, this approach often involves carefully timed exposure to melatonin and light to proactively change your circadian rhythm.

While this approach may be helpful in some cases, it may not be practical depending on your daily schedule and professional, family, and social commitments.

 

Source: sleepfoundation.org

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