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A natural hormone produced in the body called melatonin regulates sleep and wakefulness; this varies on a daily basis. Jet lag tablets can boost the amount of this hormone in the body in the evening to reduce jet lag. The medicine suppli

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What is jet lag?

Jet lag is a common problem that occurs when crossing several time zones. It is characterised by disruption to your sleeping and eating patterns and although it is not serious, it can take some time to recover and disrupt your travel plans.

What causes jet lag?

The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal 24-hour cycle which plays an important role in sleeping pattern, appetite, hormone levels and body temperature. When crossing several time zones at once, the circadian rhythm is disrupted and forced to adapt to a different schedule, which can leave you feeling tired when you need to be awake, restless when you should be asleep, ill-tempered, and hungry at odd times of the day and night.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of jet lag?

The symptoms of jet lag include:

  • Feeling restless and awake at night
  • Feeling lethargic and lacking energy during the day
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Feeling ill-tempered or down
  • Nausea and loss of appetite
  • Headaches and dizziness

Which way is jet lag worse?

Jet lag is usually worse when travelling from West to East, as the body finds it harder to adjust to shorter days than to longer days.

How long does jet lag usually last?

Most people only experience jet lag when crossing 3 or more time zones. When travelling across 5 time zones or more, it can take up to 6 days to feel normal again.

Treatment

What jet lag treatments are available?

The most common treatment for jet lag is melatonin, available on prescription and sold under the brand name Circadin. Melatonin is the name of the hormone produced naturally by the body that regulates your sleeping pattern. Melatonin levels increase at nightfall, causing you to feel sleepy, and decrease as the sun rises, signalling that it is time to wake up. When crossing several time zones, your normal sleeping pattern is disrupted. Taking a melatonin supplement can help you to fall asleep at the time of your destination, and help keep you asleep for around 8 hours. This will help you to wake up feeling refreshed, minimising disruption to your travel plans.

How to avoid jet lag

Regulating your sleep pattern can ease the transition between time zones. When you board a plane for a long flight, set your watch to the time of your destination. Try and sleep at the right times, and get up and move around if you feel sleepy during the daytime hours. When you arrive at your destination, try to stay awake until 10 pm and avoid napping in the day. Staying well hydrated and avoiding alcohol will help to relieve the lethargy of jet lag and boost your general wellbeing. Avoid heavy, fatty meals, and food that are high in sugar, and limit the amount of caffeine you drink. You may also wish to try taking a melatonin substitute to help you fall asleep at the right time.

How to quickly overcome jet lag

The best way to quickly overcome jet lag is to try and adjust to your new regime. Be strict with yourself by avoiding napping in the day and staying awake until 10 pm. Try and eat meals regularly at the usual times of day, avoiding too much caffeine, alcohol or sugar. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and boost your energy levels.

Is sleeping on the flight good for jet lag?

When flying, it is a good idea to try and sleep during the night-time hours of your destination. This will give your body a headstart in adjusting to the new time zone. Bringing earplugs and an eye mask can help with this.

Can you use sleeping tablets to deal with jet lag?

It is not advised to rely on sleeping pills to relieve jet lag, as these can lead to independence and are unlikely to aid your sleeping pattern in the long term. However, melatonin supplements are used widely to aid with jetlag. Rather than having a sedative effect, these supplement the body’s natural melatonin levels, tricking the body into thinking it is time to go to sleep and helping to keep it asleep for around 8 hours.

Q&A

Why doesn’t everyone get jet lag?

Most people will experience some jet lag when crossing multiple time zones at once. However, some people seem to find adjusting a lot easier than others, with some frequent flyers saying they never get used to it. Young children often seem to suffer the least, as they can adapt readily to a new routine, generally experience less stress and find it easier to fall asleep. Those who are used to sticking to a strict routine and are bothered by changes to their routine may find it harder to adjust. The severity of jet lag depends on the length of the flight, the number of time zones crossed, the direction of travel, and other variables including the number of intermediate stops and changes in the cabin pressure.

What are circadian rhythms and how are these affected by jet lag?

The circadian rhythm acts like an internal 24-hour clock regulating sleeping pattern, appetite, hormone levels and body temperature. It is the body’s circadian rhythm that is disoriented when crossing several time zones, resulting in changes to your appetite, sleeping pattern and mood.

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