Is Jet Lag for real?!!

Yes,jet lag is real! But what is Jet lag?

Overview

Jet lag refers to temporary sleep issues faced by people who travel constantly and quickly over multiple time zones.In medical terms,it is a type of circadian rhythm sleep disorder.

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What are circadian rhythms?

Our body has an internal ‘clock’ which signals it when to sleep and when to wake up.These rhythmic patterns also have a grip on various other body processes such as hormones,thermoregulation etc.

Jet lag is a phenomenon that is caused due to the internal clock being fixated at the original time zone of your being,failing to acclimatize to time zone of travel.

I admit this seems like a sci-fi movie concept but quite interesting ,right?!

How does it happen?

The circadian rhythm can be influenced by a lot of external factors.Our body would eventually adjust to this rapid change but rather slowly.Until and unless that happens,the troublesome symptoms keep annoying us.

Flight travel can make jet lags even worse as the body movement occurs faster than the brain’s ability to process the change.

Is it common?

Oh yes,it is fairly common! Usually occuring within a day or two of travel,the symptoms experienced can vary in degree and duration between individuals.

What are the symptoms of jet lag?

  • Insomnia-inability to fall asleep

  • Morning drowsiness and fatigue

  • Lack of concentration

  • Disturbed mind

  • Irritability

  • Headaches

  • Mood changes

  • Stomach upset and nausea with or without vomiting,and so on.

Risk Factors

The probability of you getting a jet lag has been associated with multiple risk factors:

  1. Number of time zones crossed : The more you cross,the more chance there is.

  2. Frequent flyer: more the risk converse to what you may expect!

  3. Age: Elderly people take more time for recovery

  4. Flight travels: There are multiple factors involved,some of which are:

  • Long periods of sitting

  • Decreased air pressure and lack of oxygen in cabin

Interestingly,it is proven that jet lag is experienced more on flying eastwards!The hypothesis is that the human body can adapt more quickly to staying up late rather than going to bed earlier. Now read it again and see for yourself!

What can be a close alternative diagnosis?

If your sleep disturbances are persisting,a close differential diagnosis may be a sleep disorder which might warrant a sleep study.


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Any treatment?

Most of the symptoms are self-resolving.However there are some things which you can take care of:

  1. Bask in the Sun: Light is an important external factor which helps your body to realise the need for action and response.Artificial light sources can be a less effective alternative.

  2. Stay hydrated: Drink,drink,drink!

  3. Avoid new foods: More beneficial for your tummy and mood swings.

  4. Acclimatise yourself to the new schedule: Sleep-wake schedule adaptation at the destination as fast as possible.

  5. Melatonin(the sleep hormone) supplements under medical supervision hasn’t been found to be very effective but can be of some utility in the elderly.

How can I brace myself against this jet lag before a long travel?

Many aspects if taken care of can help you prevent the degree and effect of jet lag on your body.

  • Start preparing for schedule changes well before your expected date of travel

  • Regulate bright light exposure.

  • Hydration as a priority

  • Move your body while on plane such as turning your head,taking deep breaths,swinging arms,etc

  • Try to get a sleep on the plane if it is expected to be night time at your destination

  • Be alert to minor changes occuring around you.

Now,time for some interesting facts!

  • If you’re traveling east to west, go to bed later and wake up later for several days before departure. If you’re traveling from west to east, go to bed earlier and wake up earlier to help your body adjust to new sleep patterns!

  • Exposure to light in the evening helps you adjust to a later than usual time zone (traveling westward), while exposure to morning light can help you adapt to an earlier time zone faster (traveling eastward)!

Jokes apart, though jet lag is mostly a temporary phenomenon,if you continue to struggle with it inspite of being a frequent traveller,it is prudent to see a doctor and a sleep specialist to straighten out matters before they affect the quality of your trips!

Have you experienced Jet Lags? Kindly share your experience!!

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