Jet lag is a common problem that occurs when crossing several time zones. Jet lag disrupts your sleeping and eating patterns. Although jet lag is not a severe problem, it can take some time to recover, and it may disrupt your travel plans.
The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal 24-hour cycle which plays a vital role in your sleeping pattern, appetite, hormone levels and body temperature. When crossing several time zones at once, your circadian rhythm is disrupted and forced to adapt to a different schedule. It 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.
The symptoms of jet lag include:
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.
Most people only experience jet lag when crossing three or more time zones. When travelling across five time zones or more, it can take up to six days to feel normal again.
The most common treatment for jet lag is melatonin, available on prescription and sold under the brand name Circadin. Using Melatonin for jet lag is an 'off-label' use of the medication in the UK. ‘Off-label’ use means that the original license does not cover this application. Extending a license can be an expensive process, which manufacturers often avoid. Despite being off-label, doctors can prescribe Melatonin for jet lag when it is the most appropriate treatment.
The original license for Melatonin is to treat insomnia. 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. Crossing several time zones can disrupt your regular sleeping pattern. Taking a melatonin supplement can help you fall asleep at the appropriate time for the time zone of your destination, and help keep you asleep for around 8 hours. An eight-hour sleep will help you wake up feeling refreshed, minimising disruption to your travel plans.
The original license for Melatonin was for use in insomnia. 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.
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 zone of your destination. Try to sleep at the right time of day. Get up and move around if you feel sleepy during the day. When you arrive at your destination, try to stay awake until 10 pm and avoid napping during the day. Staying well hydrated and avoiding alcohol will help to relieve the lethargy of jet lag. Avoid fatty meals and foods that are high in sugar. Limit the amount of caffeine you drink. You could try taking a melatonin substitute to help you fall asleep at a time that’s best for you.
To quickly overcome jet lag, try and adjust to your new regime as soon as possible. Be strict with yourself by avoiding napping during the day. Stay awake until 10 pm to reset your sleep schedule. Try to eat meals regularly at the usual times of the day. Avoid too much caffeine, alcohol or sugar. Drink plenty of water to rehydrate, especially after a long flight!
Sleeping on the flight, during the night-time hours of your destination time zone, will give your body a head start in adjusting your circadian rhythm after you land. Bringing earplugs and an eye mask can help you fall asleep on the flight as they will minimise disturbances such as noise and light.
Relying on sleeping pills to relieve jet lag can lead to dependence. It’s also unlikely sleeping tablets will help regulate your sleep cycle. However, melatonin is unlike other sleeping tablets. Rather than having a sedative effect, medicinal melatonin supplements the body’s natural melatonin levels, tricking your body into thinking it is time to go to sleep and helping to keep you asleep for around 8 hours.
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 readily adapt to a new routine, generally experience less stress and find it easier to fall asleep. Those who usually have a regular, strict 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 and the direction of travel. Other variables include the number of intermediate stops and changes in the cabin pressure.
The circadian rhythm acts like an internal 24-hour clock regulating your sleeping pattern, appetite, hormone levels and body temperature. Crossing several time zones can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm. Disrupting your circadian rhythm leads to changes in your regular sleeping and eating habits. You might find your mood and energy levels are also affected as a result of jet lag.
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