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Jet Lag

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What Does Jet Lag Mean?

IVSAT 2024

To understand what exactly jet lag means, the meaning of the circadian rhythm of the body needs to be understood. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that the body follows naturally. This internal timekeeper regulates your body's temperature, hormones, and other basic activities.

The hypothalamus, which is the main centre for integrating rhythmic input and developing sleep patterns, is in charge of controlling the circadian cycle. And the interruption of sleep or activity habits, as well as the capacity to be alert and work successfully, is known as jet lag. This is owing to the body's internal timing mechanisms being out of sync with the external time signals of the final location, particularly the light-dark or day-night cycle and local clock time, as a result of quick travel between time zones. The physical strain of long travels is frequently exacerbated by jetlagging. The misalignment of your body's internal clock with the local time at your destination is known as jet lag. When travelling across three or more time zones, this behaviour of jet lagging is common. Now with an understanding of what jet lag means, let us explore jetlagging causes, symptoms, jet lag medicine to deal and prevention tips.  

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Causes of Jet Lag

When one travels swiftly across two or more time zones, they are more likely to get jet lag. The more time zones one travels across, the more likely they are to feel the symptoms and will probably last longer and be more strong. Jet lag throws off the body's clock for a variety of reasons.

  1. When the Timelines aren't in Sync - The body clock may no longer be in sync with the time in the new location one is travelling to. One may leave Atlanta at 6 p.m. local time and arrive in London at 7 a.m. local time, for example. The body, on the other hand, believes it is 1 a.m. And therefore they will need to stay up for another 12 to 14 hours to help the body acclimate to the new time zone, just as one is likely to reach peak exhaustion.

  2. Coffee and Booze - To cope up with unsynchronised schedules people often tend to consume alcohol or coffee to get by. On a plane, passengers are more likely to consume beverages that they would not typically consume in those quantities or at those times and more likely the quantity is higher than usual in both cases of coffee and alcohol. Caffeinated liquids such as coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages may prevent one from sleeping enough throughout the journey. Caffeine can dehydrate a person even more.

  3. Sleep Schedule - Sleeping on the plane could help your body adjust to the new time zone, but there are various reasons that make sleeping while travelling difficult like the difference in temperature, noise, and level of comfort are some among them. On the other hand, if one might oversleep on the plane, throwing the body clock off because the barometric pressure on planes is lower than the air on the ground, this can happen.

  4. Sunlight Exposure - Too much screen time when travelling or excess sunlight in the flying cabin can potentially alter the body clock and this is because light regulates the amount of melatonin produced by the body. Melatonin is a hormone that helps the body prepare for sleep and incidentally when the lights are dimmed at night, it is released in the brain. And the body slows down melatonin production throughout the day or when the light is bright, which helps stay alert.

  5. Tiredness After Travel - Regardless of whether one is travelling across time zones or not, changes in cabin pressure and high altitudes can cause some symptoms of jet lag. When flying, some people may have altitude sickness and that just worsens the symptoms of jetlagging.

  6. Dehydration is a common ailment and some symptoms of jet lag may be exacerbated by dehydration. One may become slightly dehydrated if one does not drink enough water during the flight. In addition, humidity levels in planes are low, which might lead to increased water loss.

Jet Lag Symptoms

When your body's natural rhythms are considerably disrupted by travel, you get jet lag. When you try to force your body's natural rhythm to meet the new time zone, you may develop jet lag symptoms. These symptoms normally appear within 12 hours of moving into a new environment and can linger for many days. Jet lag causes modest symptoms in the majority of persons. One could be suffering and must be in a physically draining situation if they are having more severe symptoms like cold sweating, vomiting, or a fever. And in such a case one must consult a doctor if these symptoms persist for more than 24 hours. The following are the most prevalent signs and symptoms of jet lag:

  • Weariness and Exhaustion

  • Drowsiness 

  • Irritabilities

  • A Little Disoriented State of Mind and That Leads to the Perplexity of Thoughts.

  • Drowsiness

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (ibs) and Diarrhoea Are Two Common Gastrointestinal Problems Due to Jet Lag.

  • Excessive Snoozing

  • Insomnia 

  • A Viral Infection

  • Sinus or Cold.

  • A Case of Altitude Sickness

Risk Factors Contributing to Jet Lag

There are some risk factors that can cause symptoms to become more severe or linger longer.

  1. Travelling East - Traveling from west to east, has been noted more evidently leads passengers to "lose" time, which can be a more difficult adjustment.

  2. Age - Older folks may take longer to recover from jet lag.

  3. Pilots, flight attendants, and frequent business travellers who move between time zones frequently may find it difficult to adjust especially when oscillating between 3 or more different time zones.

  4. Pre Existing Conditions - Prior to travel, sleep deprivation, stress, and poor sleep habits can all aggravate jet lag symptoms.

  5. Flight Conditions - Jet lag symptoms can be influenced by the monotony of flight, immobility and uncomfortable seats, airline cuisine, altitude, and cabin pressure.

  6. Overconsumption of liquor and other alcoholic drinks.

Treatment of Jet Lag

There are multiple jet lag remedies and what may suit one may not suit you so scheduling an appointment with a doctor to get better treatment and heal oneself instead of harming is better. Some ways of treating jet fatigue are as follows:

  • Therapeutic light- It is one of the most effective jet lag cures. Circadian rhythms can be reset with the use of lighted boxes, lights, and visors. The artificial light imitates sunlight and helps the body wake up. One can use this treatment once they have arrived at their new location to assist one to stay awake during periods of tiredness so the body can adjust.

  • Sleeping drugs, whether prescription or over-the-counter (OTC), can help one adjust their body clock to the time zone you're visiting. If possible, one must avoid using them, but if the doctor has recommended sleep medication, one can take it for up to two or three nights if necessary. Avoiding taking it for longer than necessary, is important as these drugs have the potential to become addictive.

  • Taking time to see the shining sun- The sun's light signals to your body that it's time to wake up. When one arrives at their destination if possible one must get outside in the sunlight during prime daylight hours. This can help restore the biological clock and alleviate jet lag symptoms.

  • Melatonin is a hormone that regulates body clocks and causes jet lag. When the sun sets, the eyes detect darkness and signal the hypothalamus to start generating melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone. The eyes, on the other hand, inform the hypothalamus to stop producing melatonin when they see sunshine. The hypothalamus, on the other hand, does not modify its timetable quickly; it takes many days. Melatonin is a hormone produced by your body in the hours leading up to bedtime. So when recovering from jet lag and when the body is resisting sleep, one might take over-the-counter (OTC) melatonin pills. Melatonin pills are a fast-acting hormone, so it is recommended to not take them more than 30 minutes before bedtime.

  • Before travelling, getting enough rest is vital and important to not begin the adventure sleep-deprived.

  • A light dinner should be eaten a few hours before going to bed.

  • For a few hours before going to bed, stay away from computer, TV, and phone screens.

  • A few hours before bedtime, dim the lights.

  • To help sleep better, trying chamomile tea or lavender essential oils has proven to be effective.

  • Bathe in a hot tub - Before going to bed, take a relaxing hot bath or shower. This can assist your body in winding down and falling asleep more quickly.

  • Consume food at regular intervals- To assist your body in following the new cues, eat at the proper time for your new time zone. When you do go to bed, the meals you eat can have an impact on the quality of your sleep.

Prevention Tips for Jet Lag Fatigue

  • Maintain Your Fitness - Stay in good physical shape if you're in good shape. Continue to exercise, eat well, and get plenty of rest long before you go. After you land, your physical stamina and conditioning will help you cope better. If you aren't physically active or have a terrible diet, start getting in shape and eating healthy a few weeks before your trip.

  • Strategically Choose Flight Times - Choose a flight that arrives in the early evening. Staying up till your new time zone's bedtime isn't as difficult this way.

  • Make More Days in Your Schedule - Take a tip from athletes and arrive a few days early at your location so you can adjust to the time zone before any major event or meeting.

  • On the Plane, Move About - Exercise your legs from time to time while seated on your flight. Move them back and forth and up and down. Bring your knees to your chest. Stand up and take a seat. Get up and move about every hour or two. Avoid using sleeping drugs and napping for more than an hour at a time.

  • Break up Your Journey - If possible, break up long journeys that cover eight, ten, or even twelve time zones by staying in a city halfway to your destination. For example, if you're flying from New York to Bombay, India, plan a layover in Dublin or Paris for a few days. (It's 5 p.m. in Dublin, 6 p.m. in Paris, and 10:30 p.m. in Bombay at midday in New York.)

  • Diet for Jet Lag - When travelling, stay away from salty and sugary foods. Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables to stay hydrated. Also, don't eat too much. Poor sleep, exhaustion, bloating, and an upset stomach are some of the symptoms of jet lag that can be alleviated with a well-balanced diet.

  • If you're flying into a city where it's nighttime, try to stay up for a few hours before landing. This is when using screen time and light to help rewire your sleep routine is a wonderful idea. To adjust to the new time zone, go to bed when you arrive and wake up in the morning.

  • Wear Clothes and Shoes That are Comfy - On a long journey, how you feel takes precedence over how you look. Dress comfortably and wear comfy shoes. Items that pinch, restrict or chafe should be avoided. Consider the weather in your target time zone when choosing your travelling wardrobe. Dress appropriately for your destination.

  • Examine Your Lodging Options - If you're staying in a hotel, make sure the beds and toilet facilities are up to par, and that the cooling and heating systems are in good working condition when you arrive. If the room is unsatisfactory, request a different one.


If you fly a lot and have trouble with jet lag, contact a sleep specialist, who is a physician or psychologist who specialises in sleep medicine. Sleep specialists can help you shift your body's circadian rhythm toward your new time zone in a variety of ways, such as using light therapy, melatonin, or prescription medicine that can aid with jet lag symptoms. Your body may take several days to acclimate to the new time zone. Making immediate changes to your eating, working, and sleeping patterns can help speed up the process. You may have signs of jet lag as you acclimate. Jet lag will most likely dissipate within a few days after your arrival. Allow yourself enough time to acclimatise to your new schedule, and you'll still be able to enjoy your vacation.

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FAQs on Jet Lag

Q.1) What Does Jet Lag Feel Like?

Answer.) Airlines have rules in place to counteract pilot tiredness brought on by jet lag. Because it was uncommon to travel far and fast enough to cause desynchronosis before the debut of passenger jet aircraft, the term "jet lag" was coined. When sleep-wake rhythms are disrupted, jet lag can occur. Drowsy, fatigued, irritated, lethargic, and slightly confused feelings may occur. It can be caused by moving across time zones or working shifts.

Q.2) Is Melatonin Beneficial for Jet Lag?

Answer.) Melatonin has been extensively researched as a jet lag remedy and sleep aid, and it is now a widely recognised component of effective jet lag treatment. Melatonin appears to aid sleep during times when you wouldn't ordinarily be sleeping, making it useful for persons suffering from jet lag. On the first day of travel, at the time you go to sleep at your destination, and for a few days, if needed, a dose of melatonin in the range of 0.3 mg-5 mg may be given. Melatonin appears to be most effective when travelling east or crossing five or more time zones. Melatonin is only recommended for adults. When using melatonin, avoid drinking alcohol. If you're thinking about taking melatonin, talk to your doctor first. 

Q.3) Is Jet Lag Harmful in the Long Run?

Answer.) Jet lag is usually only a temporary issue that goes away after the body's circadian rhythm adjusts to the new time zone. Jet lag can become a persistent condition for persons who fly great distances frequently, such as pilots, flight attendants, and business travellers. A persistently out-of-sync circadian rhythm can lead to sleep disorders and insomnia. Chronic circadian rhythm disruption may increase the risk of illnesses like diabetes and depression, as well as some types of cancer because a healthy internal clock is vital for general bodily health. 

Q.4) What is the Most Effective Jet Lag Medicine?

Answer.) It is claimed that adapting sleep habits as quickly as possible to the location helps decrease the symptoms of jet lag. The most well-known prescription sleeping aids used by regular travellers are so-called "hypnotic" medications like Ambien (zolpidem), Lunesta (Eszopiclone), and Sonata (zaleplon). Before intake of even such drugs, you must consult a doctor as it may be risky if you suffer from other diseases and have an allergic reaction that will show anti effects.

Q.5) Is there a difference in the Severity of Jet Lag Symptoms?

Answer.) Yes, indeed. Those travelling across three or more time zones are likely to experience noticeable jet lag symptoms. In general, the severity of symptoms is proportional to the number of time zones traversed and the trip route. People's vulnerability and the contributing risk factors to jet lag symptoms, as well as the intensity of the symptoms, differs.

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