What Are the Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options for Jet Lag?

Every day millions of people travel by planes to far off places away from their homes. Majority of them cross several time zones and reach places several hours far ahead or way behind of what they are accustomed to. The biological clock of the travelers takes time to adjust to a completely new time zone. This problem of adjustment is known as Jet Lag.

Jet Lag can be defined as a physiological condition that disrupts the sleep of an individual due to frequent travel across different time zones thereby leading to an imbalance to the traveler’s circadian rhythm. The sleep and wake cycle of frequent flyers are regulated by circadian rhythm. It also influences other biological factors such as the temperature of the human body, regulation of hormones and times for eating.

When traveling a long distance, your biological clock takes time to adjust to new time zone. Your body wants to wake up when its morning in your back home and likes to sleep when its night time at your original location time. Jet lag manifests when your internal clock doesn’t match up with current location time zone.

One important point which you must understand is that Jet lag only occurs when you are traveling in eastward or westward zones. It does not occur when you are traveling northward or southward.

Symptoms of Jet Lag

Symptoms of jet lag often vary due to factors such as the direction of travel and the number of time zones crossed. If you cross several time zones, the symptoms will become severe between your current and your past location. Your symptoms in your new destination will differ depending on the direction of your travel. In eastward travel, you will lose time whereas, in westward travel, you may gain time.Age of the traveler also plays a crucial role in the severity of jet lag symptoms and the time it takes for a  person to overcome it. Elderly persons face more difficulty in adjusting to time differences as compared to younger ones.

Symptoms of JetLag

Some of the common symptoms of Jet lag are a headache, irritability, fatigue, disturbed sleep, insomnia, irregular bowel movements, difficulty in concentration, reduced energy levels, stress, anxiety and confusion. Further, pressurized cabins of planes reduce the amount of oxygen leading to discomfort, dehydration and headaches.

Treatment of Jetlag

Jet lag is a temporary condition that can be quickly remedied. It can lead to a circadian rhythm disruption for up to twelve hours. When traveling eastward, it can take at least about one day of recovery for each time zone; for westward travel, it requires half the amount of time.

Some important steps in dealing with Jetlag

Adjust your schedule beforehand:

Before starting your travel, try to adapt to the sleep patterns of the new destination at least a day or two in advance. If you are going to the east, hit the bed at least half an hour earlier until you get accustomed with the time zone of the future location. Similarly, if you are traveling to the west, just follow the opposite and stay up a little later.

Arrive early

If you are traveling for an important business meeting or a conference, arrive at your future location early in order to give more time to yourself to adjust to a new schedule.

Expose yourself to natural light

Your biological clock gets affected by exposure to sunlight.Getting sunlight for a few days can help you to adjust your body clock must faster. While traveling east, expose yourself to sunlight early in the morning, but avoid afternoon and evening lights. Similarly, while traveling west, avoid morning light and try exposing yourself to late afternoon or evening light. Artificial light is also beneficial in the shift work sleep disorder. Discuss with your doctor first before getting the right amount of exposure for jet lag.

Avoid the use of caffeine and alcohol

Caffeine increases alertness whereas alcohol leads to frequent awakenings and poor quality sleep. It is advisable to avoid the use of both these items in order to get into a new sleep routine.

Take Melatonin supplements

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone which induces sleep and regulates our sleep-wake schedule. Use of melatonin supplements 3 hours before retiring to bed can assist a person to fall asleep quickly. However, it is advisable to get in touch with a sleep specialist before the use of melatonin supplements.

Drink plenty of water

In order to avoid a headache and dehydration, it is advisable to keep yourself hydrated with lots of water.

Use sleeping aids

In order to get asleep on the plane, you can take the best sleep aids for ex-blindfolds, earplugs and a neck pillow for a comfortable slumber.

Use of medications

It is advisable to seek the advice of your doctor for quality medications that can promote wakeful while traveling eastward or induce sleep while going in the west location.

For the majority of the travelers, jet lag is a temporary phase which gets remedied within a few days. If your trip is only for a few days, it is recommended to maintain your regular schedule so that you don’t have to readjust your sleep routine once you arrive back at your destination.

Frequent fliers, flight attendants, pilots, airline crew and air hostesses can take the help of a sleep expert in order to adjust their biological clock. Sleep specialists offer better advice and prescription online sleeping pills in the UK for people who are struggling in adjusting to a different time zone.