Jet Lag – Meaning, Symptoms And How To Get Over It
Posted By Ryan on Apr 18, 2016
Jet Lag Meaning –
The number of international travelers has exploded in recent years. This is mainly due to the rise of discount airlines offering budget travel, forcing established airlines to compete for more passengers. Along with the increase in passengers is the risk of jet lag. Whereas before, jet lag was considered a part of the price you pay as a jet-setter; nowadays, it is an expectation for many international travelers. A major difference between jet-setters of decades ago, and current international travelers is that many of today’s passengers don’t have the luxury of resting a day or two after a flight. International travelers are expected to do whatever they set out to do the moment they land. This can make jet lag more prevalent for today’s global travelers.
What Is Jet Lag
Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that occurs when a person crosses multiple time zones, and their circadian rhythm has not adjusted to the current time. It is a temporary condition which lasts until the body can adjust to local time. The general cause of jet lag is a disconnect between the body’s circadian rhythm and the new time zone. The circadian rhythm is a natural clock which synchronizes the body with the environment. These functions include waking up and staying awake, as well as getting sleepy when it’s time for bed.
How Long Does Jet Lag Last?
When a person flies to a different time zone the body has to adjust to its new atmosphere. The farther away, and the length between multiple time zones, the longer the adjustment required by the body. Typically, it takes a day to adjust for every time zone difference. Additionally, suffering from jet lag is worse for those who travel going east.
Symptoms Of Jet Lag
The symptoms of jet lag are the result of the body forced into a different schedule than it’s been used to. These include daytime fatigue and extreme tiredness, loss of appetite, feeling off, or mood changes, sleepiness, insomnia, general sluggishness and stomach problems. These symptoms are indicators that the body has not adjusted to the change of environment. The body is tired and fatigued because it is awake past its regular bedtime. Stomach problems may occur because eating has moved several hours forcing the body into fasting. These changes in bodily functions, along with the disorientation due to lack of sleep or sleep disturbance results in mood changes, tiredness and feelings of being unwell. As the body adjusts, the symptoms also go away. However, this may take some time to happen.
How To Beat Jet Lag
The easiest solution to jet lag is to adjust to the local time as quickly as possible. Considering that it may take a day to adjust for every time zone moved, this can take more than a day or two. Jet lag does not only occur while the person is on a trip. It may also occur when they get back home too.
A person can also prevent jet lag from occurring depending if they are not going to stay too long and will return immediately home. If they’re on a business trip for only a day or two, they are better off not adjusting their clock and act normally as if they were still at home. They can continue working on their own schedule. In this manner, they can return home and reduce the risk of becoming jet lagged once home. Another way to prevent jet lag is to simulate the new time zone even before going on a trip. This means adjusting the eating and sleeping time prior to the flight, and not to eat or drink any alcoholic beverages on the flight. It is also suggested to sleep as much as possible on the flight. With the body clock used to the new time zone, it would no longer need to adjust or would only need a shorter time to adjust upon arrival at the destination. Although it does not really prevent jet lag, arriving early to your destination may help you to adjust easier. Acclimatizing to the destination is normally done by athletes before an international meet. They arrive at their destination up to a week in advance to adjust to the time zone and climate, and to fully recover from jet lag.
How To Get Over Jet Lag
For the regular traveler, there are ways to recover from jet lag. The following are tips that can help or reduce jetlag.
- Soak up the sun. One of the most important external triggers for the body is sunshine. It signals the body that its daytime, or the time of day. Walking around the place or city under the sun is a good way to acclimatize and adjust to the new environment.
- Be active. Exercise, including jogging, lifting weights, biking, helps to push the body out of lethargy and general sluggishness. It also stimulates the production of endorphins which help in general well being.
- Drink plenty of water on the flight. Long flights are known to cause dehydration. This condition can also contribute to lowered physical capacity. Drink plenty of liquids during the flight.
- Eat light meals. This may be hard to do when visiting places famous for their food. However, initially eating light meals for a day or two would help calm down any upset stomach.
- Accept your time zone. Although this is obvious, most travelers would rather rest and continue with their home schedule rather than live and enjoy their destination according to local time. Accept the new time zone and embrace the culture and its customs. A prime example would be Spain, where they have a siesta after lunch, then merienda cena at six o’clock in the evening, before having dinner at ten o’clock in the evening.
- A hot bath before going to bed. A hot bath before bedtime helps to relax the body, and signals that it is ready for rest.
- Light Therapy. Some people experience a lack of natural light. A portable light box can help a person get their fill of much-needed exposure to sunlight. This can also help the body to adjust to the new time zone.
- Quality sleep. Sleep is a precious commodity for those who lack it. For those who have jet lag, they would have a hard time trying to get some sleep due to the noise or light. Use blinders or a sleeping mask to block out the light.
- Consider medication. Some travelers use sleep aids to get some sleep on the flight. This can help them stay alert and easily adjust to the local time upon touchdown.
- Melatonin supplements. The supplement is a synthetic version of a hormone which regulates the wake-sleep cycle. Melatonin production goes up at night and decreases during the day. The production is determined by the amount of light a person gets, as well as the body clock. Melatonin is generally sold over the counter, but you may want to talk to your doctor before trying a supplement.
There are also some alternative methods that may help you recover from jet lag. Here are some tips below:
- Earthing. This is a practice where a person communes with nature by walking barefoot on the grass. It has a relaxing effect on the person, and at the same time, it helps the body to synchronize with nature’s clock.
- Hot springs (Onsen). A bath in a natural hot spring (onsen) is a unique experience in Japan. This is usually an outdoor bath, and very relaxing. Various benefits are attributed to these thermal spring baths including better-looking skin, easing muscle pains, increased circulation, relieves fatigue and improves sleep.
- Sound healing. Listening to the sound of nature, reiki, meditation, or Tibetan Buddhist bowls may help to relieve stress and tension. It has been shown to assist people to have better quality sleep.
- Forest bathing. Akin to earthing, instead of walking barefoot on grass, the person is immersed in a natural forested environment and absorbs nature’s energy. It follows an ancient Japanese meditation tradition called Shinrin-yuko forest therapy and applies the premise of a forest’s meditative healing quality. Meditating within the forest confines draws the forest’s good energy into the body.
- Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST). This is a sensory deprivation technique where the body floats in isolation, and the person detaches from the world around him. The person floats in body-temperature salt-water inside a soundproof and light-proof chamber. The lack of external stimulus helps the body to recover and heal while in a meditative state.
Occurrences of jet lag and potential remedies for it will continue to grow. As long as world travel continues to grow, people will look for relief.