Updated: 2018, Oct 31

Do You Suffer With Jet Lag – Know Its Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

By - Reviewed by CHD Team
Jet Lag

What is Jet Lag?

Jet Lag, also goes by the name “zone change syndrome” or in the medical world it is known as “desynchronosis“. This is categorized as a sleep disorder, because our body’s clock (also known as circadian rhythm) becomes off balance. Some people are not affected at all, but most take a few day to recuperate from jet lag.


Jet Lag

Jet lag is caused when a person is traveling by air, and crossing over several time zones. Typically a three hour or more time change will cause symptoms of jet lag.

It is important to mention that it doesn’t matter how long the flight is. For instance, a flight from Europe to the southern points of Africa can take about ten hours of flight time, but because the flight pattern is mostly north to south, jet lag should not be a problem or even a concern. A flight that is only five hours of travel time, but is going east to west, will have many passengers complaining of jet lag symptoms.

As just noted, it is not the amount of time traveled by air that may cause jet lag – but the time zone variations.

Symptoms That People Complain of May Include

Traveled By Air

Many people are familiar with the symptoms of jet lag, and they include major fatigue, poor concentration and insomnia. Add to this the frustration of feeling so mentally and physically exhausted, and not being able to sleep. Many professional sports players experience this while traveling over more than 3 times zones.

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Other symptoms of jet lag include anxiety, headaches, stomach pains and dehydration.

Many complaints include the recovery time; for westward travel, it can take up to 7 days to return to normal, and for flights due east, it can take up to 2 weeks for your body clock to “reset” and return to normal.

What Worsens Jet Lag?

Jet lag is known to worsen when traveling (by air) west to east.

It is important to drink pure water while flying, and avoid caffeine and alcohol, because dehydration can also worsen jet lag symptoms. It is recommended to consume a minimum of one liter of water for every six hours of air time.

It is also helpful not to eat, so your body clock can adjust quicker to the new time zone. Eat shortly after landing and pass on in-flight meals (unless the airline serves food according to the destination time zone).

Treatment Options for Jet Lag

Jet Lag

Although there is no magic pill to cure and/or avoid jet lag, there are some treatments available that have been proven to be effective in minimizing symptoms associated with jet lag.

Many researchers believe that getting natural sunlight will help to reset your biological clock.

Sleeping during air travel is helpful to avoid symptoms, a travel pillow, headphones and sleep masks help some individuals to get some sleep on a plane. Comfortable , loose fitting clothing makes people more comfortable, while trying to sleep on a plane.

When on a westbound flight, it is encouraged to stay up until nightfall, and try to sleep throughout the night. If you are on an eastbound flight, many airlines arrive in the morning, and this poses a challenge for many to stay awake until night time arrives.

There is also a specific diet plan (made with pilots and flight attendants in mind). It is called the “Argonne anti- Jet Lag Diet“, and it basically involves a feasting/fasting eating routine, with doses of caffeine taken at very specific times.

It is advised to avoid Valium and Sudafed, as many travelers have complained of short term amnesia upon arrival.

Sonata and Ambien are prescription sleeping aids that have been helpful in treating jet lag in travelers. Benadryl (an over-the-counter antihistamine), also gets a thumbs up from some travelers.

Other positive jet lag treatments may include massage therapy, spending some time in floatation tanks, and acupressure. Try anything, especially if there aren’t any negative side effects to the treatment that you choose, and you may feel better quicker.

We do hope that these jet lag tips will help you to have a more enjoyable flight and arrival.

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