What Is Jet Lag
Jet lag isn’t simple exhaustion, it’s an actual recognised medical disorder. Also known as desynchronosis or jet lag disorder, jet lag is the feelings of drowsiness, irritability, and disorientation you feel after travelling across time zones.
People experience jet lag because their circadian rhythms are thrown off. Circadian rhythms, also called your body clock, regulate your sleeping patterns. It tells your body when it’s time to wake up, time to eat, and time to go to bed. Your circadian rhythm is dictated by an internal timer, but it can also be affected by other factors such as sound, light, and other stuff.
When you travel across time zones, your internal clock gets out of synch with your external environment. For example, if you travel from Asia or Australia to the UK or Europe, you could leave at night, spend almost 24 hours en route, and arrive not at night but in the morning.
Travelling is exhausting enough as it is, but imagine your body signalling to you that it’s time to sleep, but the sun has just come up where you landed. That’s the kind of stress you can expect with jet lag.
Symptoms Of Jet Lag
The symptoms of jet lag vary from person to person and may be worse depending on certain risk factors like age and overall health. The most common symptoms are:
- Headaches and dizziness
- Insomnia, exhaustion, fatigue, and lethargy
- Anxiety, irritability, depression, uneasiness
- Disorientation, difficulty concentrating
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhea or constipation
East To West Versus West To East
Travelling from west to east (e.g. from the USA to India) is usually going to be more difficult than travelling from east to west (e.g. from Asia to the USA). This is because you’re travelling “back in time”, reducing the hours in a day, and giving your bodies less time to recover from jet lag.
When you travel from east to west, on the other hand, you add hours to your day. This allows you to catch up to a regular circadian rhythm more easily.
You don’t get jet lag from travelling from north to south or south to north; you need to cross different time zones for the rhythm disruption to occur. Jet lag also doesn’t happen if you cross just a few time zones (e.g. going from one side of Australia to another).
How Long Does It Take To Get Over Jet Lag?
There are many factors that affect how many days it will take for you to recover from jet lag.
Age is perhaps one of the biggest factors; the older you get, the worse your jet lag symptoms will probably feel. Your health is also a huge factor, but a healthy diet and regular exercise don’t guarantee that you won’t experience jet lag.
But even beyond that, we all respond to jet lag differently on an individual basis. Some estimates put it at one day of recovery for every one or two time zones.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you’ll be extremely groggy for more than a week; you won’t be fully recovered after a couple of days, but you’ll feel better with each passing day.
How To Get Over Jet Lag Fast: Tips To Speed Up Your Recovery
Before You Travel
- What helps beat jet lag is if you try to adapt your body clock even before you leave. If travelling east, sleep a little bit earlier. If travelling west, sleep a little later than usual.
- Choose flights that arrive in the early evening so you can rest when you get home. Better yet, try to get to your destination earlier than needed. This will give you a few days to adjust.
- A natural and easy way to prevent jet lag is to stay hydrated. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which could dehydrate you and further disrupt your sleeping patterns.
- If you’re going east, try to get some sleep on the plane. If you’re going west, try your best to stay awake.
- Eat according to your destination. Heavy food like carbs will help you sleep while lean proteins will give you energy without bogging you down.
- If you’re still having trouble falling asleep at the right time, consider using melatonin. It’s not exactly a sleeping pill, but it will help you naturally adjust to your new time zone. You can also take a hot bath to prepare yourself for bed.
- If your flight arrives in the morning, resist the temptation to go back to bed. Stay out in the sunlight and keep moving, it will get you in the right mindset to stay awake.
Jet lag is never a fun experience, but it doesn’t have to ruin your whole trip. Keep these tips in mind the next time you travel, and you can say bye-bye exhaustion and hello to a fun trip!