What causes jet lag and how to avoid It?

Learn how to beat jet lag with our tips

Jet lag is an unpleasant part of travelling. It’s something that many people look for answers on how to avoid it or miracle cures for getting over it fast. Understanding the science behind jet lag is the key to figuring out how to deal with and treat it. 

 

What is jet lag? 

Jet lag is the feeling of being tired and out of sync when you arrive in a new place after a long flight. It’s basically your body catching up to the fact that you’ve moved into a different time zone, therefore upsetting your internal clock. 

Your circadian rhythm is the internal clock which regulates the body’s essential functions. This is responsible for producing the hormone melatonin at nighttime, signalling to the body that it’s time to sleep. Being in a new time zone disrupts this rhythm as your brain is processing the fact that it’s suddenly light and dark at different times. This period of adjustment is felt like jet lag- when you are attempting to establish a new sleeping pattern. 

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What does jet lag feel like? 

Generally, jet lag will cause you to feel sleep-deprived and lacking in energy. You’ll probably experience: 

  • Finding it hard to fall asleep at bedtime
  • Being unable to wake up in the morning
  • Exhaustion 
  • Feeling generally tired
  • Feeling like sleeping during the day
  • Being unable to concentrate 
  • Forgetfulness

You might also notice other signs of discomfort like nausea, indigestion, dizziness and mood changes. 

 

Is travelling east or west better for jet lag? 

This is a commonly asked question that does, in fact, have a straight answer. Travelling west is easier on your internal clock than travelling east. This is because you lose time travelling east. For example, if you were to travel somewhere like New Zealand which is roughly 12 hours ahead of UK time, depending on the direction you travel in you could ‘lose’ a whole day. 

 

How to treat jet lag

There’s no definite way to prevent jet lag but some forward planning can go a long way in reducing it. Gradually adjusting your sleeping schedule to match the time zone you’ll be travelling to ahead of your plane journey can help your body to adjust once you arrive. 

If you are going to arrive at your destination in the morning, try to sleep on the plane- using an eye mask and earplugs might help you to rest. Try to avoid napping or sleeping during the day so that you’ll be able to fall asleep when it’s nighttime. 

  • If you are attending an event, arrive a couple of days beforehand to give yourself time to acclimate to the time zone
  • If you can, schedule a flight which will arrive at your destination in the evening so that you can get a full night’s sleep as soon as possible
  • Avoid alcohol and drinking caffeinated drinks 
  • Make sure you get plenty of natural light during the day 

If you are really struggling, Melatonin tablets are available on prescription to help you fall asleep. This might be suitable if you are attending an important event or work function and need to ensure you are able to focus and participate effectively. 

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