This article explains jet lag symptoms and provide jet lag recovery tips recommended by the experts.
Jet lag occurs when you travel across multiple time zones and have trouble adjusting to the new schedule. After traveling a long distance by air, your circadian rhythms may still be aligned with the previous time zone. Your body may expect to sleep when it is daytime in the new time zone or be awake when you are supposed to sleep.
Jet lag from traveling across time zones can be difficult to cope with. You may feel fatigue as you are expected to be awake and alert for your daytime activities. The symptoms are likely to be worse and longer lasting the further you have traveled, especially if you travel eastward.
Complaints related to jet lag include:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Feeling tired or disoriented
- Being unable to function normally during the daytime
- Mild sickness
- Stomach problems
- Menstrual symptoms in females
Jet Lag Can Be Worsened Under These Conditions：
- Sleep loss due to travel
- Spending a long time sitting in an uncomfortable position, such as in an airplane
- Caffeine and alcohol use
- Air pressure or poor air quality
How To Perform Self Test?
If you answered yes to each of these questions, then you may have jet lag.
- Have you traveled by air across at least two time zones?
- Do you have trouble sleeping or are you very sleepy during the day?
- Do you have difficulty functioning normally, a feeling of mild sickness or stomach problems within one or two days after travel?
Jet Lag Recovery Tips
A visit to a board certified sleep medicine physician is not necessary unless you travel often and continue to struggle, or suspect you have another sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea.
You should be able to make adjustments to your sleep schedule and overcome jet lag on your own. There are remedies and behavioral adjustments that can help you overcome jet lag after you travel:
1. Plan ahead. By slowly changing the time that you go to sleep and when you wake up in the weeks before your trip, you should have an easier time adjusting to the jet lag. When the time for the trip comes, your sleep schedule should be relatively close to that of your destination.
2. Sunlight. Sunlight is a powerful tool to reset your internal clock. After you reach your destination, make sure to open a window or go outside during the daytime to expose yourself to sunlight. This will help you adjust to the new time zone.
3. Bright light therapy. This involves exposure to a special artificial light at certain times to help reinforce your body clock and ease the transition to a new time zone. This is especially useful if you are frequently indoors or travel to a location without much natural sunlight. Schedule short sessions in the morning and early afternoon with the light. You can use a special light box, desk lamp, visor or dawn simulator for light therapy.
4. Melatonin. Light adjustment and melatonin
One study has indicated that wearing sunglasses during part of a long-haul flight may help the body adjust to the new time zone by altering their light patterns.
Researchers investigating the role of melatonin and other hormones in the function of the body clock have suggested that one day, drug therapies may be available for people who experience difficulties due to shift work or jet lag.
Melatonin supplements can help your body adjust to jet lag by adjusting your circadian rhythms. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland and considered a signal for when you body is supposed to sleep. Research suggests that a dose as low as 0.5 mg is just as effective as higher doses.
5. Sleeping pills. Your doctor can prescribe for you a hypnotic sleeping pill to help you get rest at the proper times when you first reach your destination or to help avoid sleep deprivation during the flight. Sleeping pills may help you sleep better as you adjust to the new time zone, but are not necessary and should be used on a short-term basis.
6. Minimize caffeine and alcohol consumption. Caffeine and alcohol use can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. It is recommended that you avoid these substances while you are on the airplane.
7. Exercise. Some studies have shown that moderate exercise helps adjustment to the new time schedule. Outdoor exercise has the dual advantage of including exposure to sunlight. People who travel regularly for work should make sure they get regular exercise.