What is Jet Lag?
Jet lag, also known as jet lag disorder, is a sleep disorder that affects a person after traveling across various time zones, which makes the person experience daytime sleepiness and have difficulty sleeping at night. Naturally, your body has a circadian rhythm, which is a biological clock that signals when your body should stay awake and when your body should sleep.
Jet lag interruptions occur because your body clock is still synced with the time zone you are from and not synced with the time zone you are traveling from. The more time zones that you have crossed, the more likely you are to experience jet lag symptoms.
Jet lag can cause your body to tire easily during the day, feel unwell, experience digestive problems, and have trouble focusing. But take it easy, because jet lag is only temporary even though it can significantly reduce the comfort of your vacation or business trip.
Causes of Jet Lag
1. Disturbances In Circadian Rhythms
Jet lag can occur at any time when you cross two or more different time zones, thus adversely affecting your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is your biological clock with a 24-hour cycle or morning and night cycle that regulates the functional systems of the human body. Changes in your circadian rhythm will affect your sleep time when you are traveling to somewhere else.
2. Sunlight Exposure
Sunlight can affect your biological clock, as sunlight plays a role in the regulation of the hormone melatonin, a hormone that helps synchronises cells throughout the body. There are certain cells in the retinal tissue that transmit light signals to the brain (hypothalamus).
At night when the light signal dims, the hypothalamus informs the pineal gland to release melatonin. Meanwhile, what happens during the day is the opposite.
3. Cabin Pressure and Atmosphere on Aircraft
Reported by the Mayo Clinic, several studies have shown that changes in air pressure in the cabin and altitude of the aircraft while flying contribute to some symptoms of jet lag, regardless of the long journey across time zones. In addition, low humidity levels on the plane can also cause jet lag.
If you become dehydrated and do not drink enough water during your flight, you are at risk of mild dehydration. Dehydration is believed to cause jet lag symptoms.
When to See a Doctor for Jet Lag
During consultation with your doctor, he or she will ask a number of questions such as:
- Medical history.
- Make sure you are not dehydrated.
- Hours of sleep when returning to where you come from.
- Food and drink consumed.
- Total flight time when you travel.
If you have symptoms of jet lag, your doctor will likely prescribe medications or recommend certain types of treatment to combat it.
Symptoms of Jet Lag
Jet lag symptoms can vary from person to person. You may experience only one symptom, but others may experience multiple symptoms. Here are the symptoms of jet lag you need to know:
- Feeling unwell.
- Daytime tiredness
- Significant mood swings.
- Trouble concentrating
- Digestive problems, such as constipation or diarrhea.
- Sleep disorders, such as insomnia, waking up early, or excessive sleepiness.
Tell your doctor about all the symptoms you feel. It will be easier for your doctor to diagnose and determine the right treatment for you.
Treatment for Jet Lag
Jet lag usually occurs temporarily and does not require check-ups. Symptoms will gradually improve over the course of a few days, but they could last longer. However, if you travel a lot and experience frequent jet lag, your doctor may prescribe medication or recommend light therapy.
Your doctor may prescribe sleeping pills, such as nonbenzodiazepines and benzodiazepines. These medications can help you sleep during the flight and for the following nights. Side effects are rare, but be aware of effects such as nausea, vomiting, confusion, and sleepiness in the morning. Although these drugs can improve sleep quality, they do not reduce symptoms of jet lag during the day.
2. Light Therapy
Your circadian rhythm is affected by sun exposure. When you travel across time zones, your body has to adjust to the visited place’s early-morning schedule, allowing you to fall asleep and wake up on time. Light therapy is used to simulate sunlight for a certain period of time.
Treatment Cost for Jet Lag
There are two types of light therapy treatments for jet lag; exposure to direct sunlight or using UV light. The cost for light therapy treatment varies greatly, depending on your choice of the hospital and doctor.
To find out the estimated treatment cost for jet lag at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Jet Lag
You can take some basic steps to prevent jet lag, such as:
- Arrive early so you can adjust yourself.
- Get plenty of rest before starting your trip. Lack of sleep can worsen jet lag symptoms.
- Regulate sun exposure, as sun exposure greatly affects the performance of circadian rhythms.
- Try sleeping on the plane. Use earplugs, headphones, and eye patches to help block out noise and exposure to light.
- Adjust your sleep schedule with your schedule before leaving. For example, if you are traveling east, try to sleep an hour earlier every night for a few days before departure.
- Set your watch to the new time zone before you leave. After arriving at your destination, try not to sleep until late at night. Also, try to time your meals according to the local time.
- Be sure you stay well-hydrated during the trip, especially during and after the flight. This is done to reduce the risk of mild dehydration, which can worsen the symptoms of jet lag.
Home Remedies for Jet Lag
Your doctor will likely advise you to take medications based on your symptoms. Apart from medications, there are some home remedies for treating jet lag such as:
- Regulate exposure to sunlight. This helps return your sleeping hours back to normal. This is the most powerful and natural way to improve your circadian rhythm.
- Consume caffeinated beverages such as coffee, espresso and soft drinks, as these can reduce daytime sleepiness. However, be sure to drink wisely. Also remember not to drink caffeinated drinks at night to avoid insomnia.