Jet lag can easily occur when we travel far away destinations and across several time zones. Jet lag is the body’s signal that our circadian rhythm has been disrupted, as we are all equipped with an inner genetic clock that tells us when we should sleep or stay awake. Jet lag is the term for the discomfort we experience when the body’s rhythm has to adapt to a new time zone.
Does jet lag affect people differently?
Just how strongly jet lag affects us differs from person to person. “B” people usually get less jet lag, because their circadian rhythm is slightly longer than 24 hours. That is why it is easier for “B” people to extend the day, which is exactly what happens when we travel westward. Many people find that the older they get, the more they suffer from jet lag as well. People over the age of 50 find it more difficult to avoid jet lag.
How long does jet lag last?
When you cross more than 4 time zones on your trip, this increases the likelihood of jet lag. A rule of thumb says that jet lag lasts 1 day for each time zone you have crossed. In the worst case scenario jet lag can last up to 2-3 weeks before your circadian rhythm re-synchronises to the local time. This is more the case if you are travelling from New Zealand to the UK for example.
What are the symptoms of jet lag?
Jet lag can result in a few lousy symptoms. Shifts in your circadian rhythm can make you less productive on business trips, and you might even find yourself making mistakes. Jet lag can also mean that, as a tourist, you get less pleasure from the first few days of your holiday.
Symptoms of jet lag are often a poor night’s sleep, crippling fatigue, insomnia, irritation, indigestion, uneasiness, and nausea. Jet lag can even make you feel as if you have a blood alcohol level of 0.5%-0.6%. But it isn't a blood alcohol level that can be traced or measured.
5 ways to avoid jet lag
You can minimise jet lag by following the 5 small adjustments:
- Set your watch to the local time zone of your destination, as soon as you board the plane. This will help you adapt to the new circadian rhythm as soon as possible. Learn also how to sleep on a plane better
- Make sure you get plenty of fluids. A lack of fluids can lead to symptoms of jet lag. Avoid alcohol and caffeine for 3-4 hours before sleeping. They contribute to dehydration and their stimulating effect can make it harder to fall asleep
- Bring earplugs and an eye mask to prevent sound and light from disturbing your need for sleep
- Stay out in daylight as much as possible when you first arrive. This helps to regulate your inner clock
- Follow the local circadian rhythm in terms of meal times and bed times. Stay awake even when you feel tired, and do not go to bed before 9.00 pm local time
- If you're going on a particularly long journey, it's a good idea to even prepare for the new circadian rhythm a couple of days before you travel by going to bed later or earlier.
Does the travel direction affect causes of jet lag?
There are various kinds of jet lag. The severity of the symptoms can depend on the direction in which you are travelling. When you travel north or south, you will rarely experience jet lag. However, if you travel eastward or westward, there are special precautions you can take to avoid jet lag.
Travelling eastward results in most jet lag
Travelling eastward involves a greater chance of jet lag, regardless of whether you are on a return or outward journey. When we travel eastward, we lose hours and this hastens the moment when it is time to sleep. This is why it's a good idea to sleep and stay awake until normal bedtime in your new destination.
Mild jet lag when travelling westward
Travelling westward usually results in a milder form of jet lag. This is because the body finds it easier to extend its circadian rhythm when we travel in the same direction as sunlight. In this situation, the trick is to not sleep on the plane and to not go to bed at the destination until the locals go to bed. This will extend your day. You may be very tired during the final hours of the day, but next morning your circadian rhythm will already be more or less normal.
Do you have any tips on how your avoid jet lag? If so, please share in the comment box below.
- National Sleep Foundation: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/jet-lag-and-sleep
- Sleep Education: http://www.sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/jet-lag
- American Sleep Association: https://www.sleepassociation.org/patients-general-public/jet-lag-2/