Jet lag occurs when a person travels across several time zones and their internal body clock or circadian rhythms don’t match the new time zone. If you are traveling for vacation, jet lag can be an inconvenience making it difficult to enjoy the first several days of your vacation until your body adjusts. If you are traveling for business, or to compete in an athletic event the consequences of jet lag can be far more than a minor inconvenience greatly affecting your ability to concentrate or perform.
Symptoms of jet lag include
Poor quality of sleep with multiple interruptions. You may have difficulty starting sleep at the usual time of night after eastward flights, or you may wake up earlier than normal after westward flights.
Poor performance in physical or mental tasks during the new daytime.
Feelings of fatigue, headache, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, or depression.
Stomach upset with decreased enjoyment of food.
There are things you can do to prepare yourself for traveling across several time zones and minimize the negative effects on your body.
Exercise, eat a healthy diet, and get plenty of rest.
A few days before you leave, start going to bed an hour or two later than usual for westward flights, or earlier than usual for eastward flights. This will allow your body’s internal clock to begin making the shift before you arrive.
If possible, break up a long trip with short stops in the middle.
Avoid large meals, alcohol, and caffeine.
Drink plenty of water.
On long flights, get up and walk around periodically.
Sleep on the plane if you can.
After You Arrive
Don’t make any important decisions on the first day.
Eat meals at the appropriate local time.
Spend time in the sun.
Drink plenty of water and avoid excess alcohol or caffeine.
If you are sleepy during the day take a short nap (20-30 minutes) so you can still sleep at night.
You may also benefit from supplements or medications to help you adjust to the new time zone.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. It helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body's internal 24-hour clock that plays a critical role in when we fall asleep and when we wake up. When it is dark, your body produces more melatonin. You can supplement your body’s production of melatonin by taking an oral supplement before going to sleep. Melatonin is readily available without a prescription where vitamins and supplements are sold.
You may also benefit from a prescription medication to aide in sleep as you adjust to your new time zone. As part of your pre-travel consultation we can determine your risk for jet lag, and provide sleep medications if needed.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017) Jet Lag retrieved from https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/the-pre-travel-consultation/jet-lag
Melatonin retrieved from https://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/melatonin