What is jet lag?
Jet lag is a short-term sleep disorder that affects people who have flown a long distance in a short period of time. It affects people of all ages and is due to your body clock being out of sync as your body tries to adapt to a new schedule.
People often report worse jet lag symptoms flying further east than when they fly west.
What are the symptoms of jet lag?
The symptoms of jet lag can vary from person to person, and the severity of the symptoms also depends on the number of time zones crossed. The further you are from the UK time zone, the more likely you are to experience worse symptoms. Crossing three time zones or more is likely to result in more severe jet lag.
The most common symptom of jet lag is a disturbance to your sleep pattern. This jet lag insomnia can result in difficulties falling asleep or a greater likelihood of waking up very early.
Symptoms of jet lag can also include:
- Lack of appetite
- Problems concentrating
- Confusion / disorientation
- Indigestion / constipation / diarrhoea
Symptoms can last for up to six days in people who have flown across 9 or more time zones (the time difference between UK and Australia, for example), particularly if they have travelled in an easterly direction rather than westerly.
What causes jetlag?
Your body clock is responsible for making sure you fall asleep and wake up at the right times, and it also controls your appetite and digestion as well as other bodily functions.
When you travel a long distance, crossing time zones, it puts your body out of rhythm. It takes time to adjust to the different light and dark schedule. Jetlag is what you experience whilst your body is out of rhythm.
How to get rid of jet lag
The best way to get over jet lag is to get into a new routine for your current location, rather than the routine you were on previously. Don’t go by the UK time now, but instead make sure you are going off the local time. This means going to bed at the time you should in your current location and eating meals at the appropriate meal times for the place you’re in.
Avoid taking naps, even if you’re tired, and make sure you get out and about during the day so you get plenty of natural light. This will help your natural rhythms adapt to a different routine.
You can also take melatonin tablets such as Circadin to replace the melatonin hormone that your body produces. When you have jet lag, your body isn’t producing melatonin at the correct time to help you sleep through the night. The tablets remedy this to help you get to sleep.
How to sleep with jet lag
Getting over jet lag is easier if you try to adapt your routine to fit with the place you’re currently in rather than sticking to going to bed at the same time you used to.
The best way to sleep with jet lag is to go to bed at an appropriate time for the time zone you are in currently and get plenty of natural light during the day. Taking Melatonin tablets (such as Circadin) before going to bed can help you sleep better even with jet lag.
What is the best way to avoid jet lag?
Jet lag prevention is tricky as the natural cycles within your body will take some time to adjust to a new time zone, especially if you have travelled a long distance.
One thing you can do before you fly is to start adapting the time you go to bed. If you’re travelling east, go to bed an hour earlier than usual and if you’re travelling west you should go to bed an hour later. This is a good way to beat jet lag.
You should also make sure you get enough sleep before you fly as travelling when tired will only make your jet lag feel worse.
During the flight you should make sure you drink plenty of water, avoid caffeine and alcohol, and move about regularly. It may also help to take short naps and eat light meals.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does jet lag last?
This varies from person to person and also depends how far you have travelled. The symptoms of jet lag can last for up to six days if you have travelled across 9 time zones or more.