Jet lag is a temporary sleep condition that occurs when you cross multiple time zones. Although it is short-lived, jet lag can be disruptive to your daily routine.
In this article, we help you understand what causes jet lag and show you different strategies that may help minimize its impact.
What Is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is a sleep disorder that occurs when you travel across two or more time zones within a short period of time. It may cause daytime fatigue, difficulty staying awake, and a general feeling of being unwell.
Is jet lag worse going east or west?
Jet lag symptoms are more severe and last longer the more time zones you cross and in particular when you travel from west to east. Jet lag doesn’t occur on north-south flights, since you’re not changing time zones.
How long does jet lag last?
Your body needs time to recover and adjust to the new environment, typically one day per time zone. In other words, if you cross five time zones, your jet lag symptoms are likely to last for five days.
In the following sections, we explain why jet lag occurs and what are its most common symptoms.
Why Do You Get Jet Lag?
There are several factors that may cause you to experience jet lag:
Circadian rhythm is off
Jet lag is the disruption of the natural circadian rhythm, the pattern that your body follows based on a 24-hour day and that dictates when to sleep and when to wake up. When you travel, your body's internal clock remains synced to the original time zone and needs some time to adapt to the new one.
Influence of sunlight
Certain outside factors, such as sunlight, can affect your circadian rhythm. When light reaches your eyes, the cells signal to your brain to stop producing melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep.
Airline cabin pressure and atmosphere
Changes in cabin pressure and high altitudes associated with air travel, in addition to dehydration due to low humidity levels, may cause common jet lag symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and dizziness.
Keep reading to find out more about jet lag symptoms and what you can do to alleviate them.
What Are the Symptoms of Jet Lag?
When you are jet-lagged, you may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Daytime fatigue
- Poor sleep quality
- Early waking or excessive sleepiness
- Loss of appetite
- Digestive problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- Impaired judgment and decision making
- Memory problems
- Mood swings
- Malaise (a general feeling of being unwell).
People experience jet lag in different ways and to varying degrees. While some individuals suffer from severe symptoms, others don’t have any problems adapting to a new time zone.
What are the risk factors?
Certain risk factors may contribute to more severe and longer lasting jet lag symptoms, for example:
- Traveling across three or more time zones
- Flying from west to east
- Frequent traveling
- Your age (older adults may take more time to recover from jet lag, while children often don’t have any jet lag symptoms)
- Your fitness level
- Preexisting conditions, such as sleep deprivation, stress, and poor sleep habits
- Flight conditions like immobility and cramped seating, airline food, and high altitudes
- Overconsumption of alcohol during long flights.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce jet lag symptoms. Let’s take a closer look.
How Do You Get Rid of Jet Lag?
Even though there’s no cure for jet lag, it is possible to treat its symptoms with some simple strategies. These practical steps will help you improve sleep quality and increase your energy levels after a long flight.
IV therapy can effectively reverse the effects of jet lag. Because the nutrients enter directly into the bloodstream, you’ll feel better in a matter of hours, instead of having to wait for days for your body to adjust.
Reset IV creates customized solutions that contain all the fluids and vitamins you need to recover after crossing several time zones.
Our Jet Lag Package contains:
- Normal saline to counteract the dehydrating effects of dry cabin air
- Multivitamin and B-complex vitamins combined with electrolytes to reduce stress and combat fatigue
- Anti-inflammatory medication to decrease swelling and pain
- Optional add-ons.
The key to getting over jet lag is to get your body’s circadian rhythm aligned with the sunrise and sunset times at your destination.
Exposing yourself to sunlight can help you stay awake and reduce the release of melatonin hormones that make you sleepy. You should keep in mind, however, that timing is crucial and light exposure at the wrong time could shift your body’s clock in the wrong direction.
If your access to natural light is limited, consider using a light therapy lamp. These lamps, also known as lightboxes, simulate sunlight for a specific amount of time when you're supposed to be awake, thus helping your body reset its internal clock.
If you’re suffering from jet lag, your doctor may prescribe sleeping pills. These medications will help you rest when you reach your destination and avoid sleep deprivation as you adjust to the new time zone.
The most commonly prescribed sleeping pills for jet lag include:
- Short-acting sedative-hypnotics
- Zolpidem (Ambien, ZolpiMist)
- Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
- Temazepam (Restoril)
- Flurazepam (Dalmane)
- Melatonin receptor agonists
- Ramelteon (Rozerem)
- Tasimelteon (Hetlioz)
There are also several types of over-the-counter sleeping pills, such as:
- Diphenhydramine (Sominex and Nytol)
- Doxylamine (Unisom)
Sleeping pills aid both wakefulness and sleep and may ease your transition to a new time zone. Side effects may include morning sleepiness, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, sleepwalking, and confusion.
Drinking plenty of water, juice, and herbal teas will help your body stay energized and hydrated and lead to a faster recovery. Make sure to avoid alcohol as it may cause dehydration, disrupt your sleeping schedule, and trigger nausea and general discomfort.
Consuming caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and energy drinks at the right time can help improve alertness and increase your energy level while traveling. However, if taken too close to bedtime, these drinks may interfere with your ability to fall asleep and cause dehydration which can make jet lag symptoms even worse.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps regulate the circadian rhythm and makes you feel sleepy. Taking melatonin supplements around 30 minutes before bedtime can help your body reset its internal clock and recover from jet lag faster.
Melatonin is available as an over-the-counter dietary supplement or prescription medication. Some people find that as little as 0.5 mg of melatonin at bedtime is sufficient, while others may need to take up to 3 mg for the first few nights in a new destination.
Melatonin supplements are safe if taken short term, however, long-term effects are unknown. Always talk to your doctor before taking melatonin, as it may not be suitable for everyone.
Physical activity is an effective way to restore your body’s circadian rhythm and adjust to a new time zone. Outdoor exercise such as walking or light jogging will provide the added benefit of sunlight exposure upon arrival at your destination. Although exercise itself can’t cure jet lag, it will help you get better sleep and boost your energy levels.