With all of the security precautions that we all need to go through while embarking on air travel these days, is more exhausting than ever to fly. But, if you are someone who flies on a regular basis through various time zones, then you have a much bigger problem to deal with.
Jet lag is more than just a feeling of exhaustion from air travel, but rather is a temporary sleep disorder that can greatly affect a person’s well-being.
What Is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is essentially a disruption in your body’s internal clock which is a direct result of quickly traveling through multiple time zones. When you travel from coast-to-coast in the United States or to a different continent, you will experience an extreme sleep disruption simply because you will be forced to go to sleep at a time that is not natural for your body. Then, you will need to wake up often when you would normally go to sleep.
What many people fail to realize is that our body is fine-tuned to a particular rhythm that is set by the rising and setting of the sun. When you travel quickly to another area of the world where this occurs at a different time, it can be very disruptive to your body. Your body will simply not recognize the correct time to sleep.
Is This A Serious Medical Condition?
In terms of sleep disorders, jet lag would tend to be one of the more minor ones. Obviously, this is an issue that can be prevented and it can also be recovered from very quickly. However, there are many side effects of jet lag that could cause potential problems for people who regularly travel.
In fact, jet lag is considered to be one of the biggest potential health problems for pilots and flight attendants, in particular because they fly on such a regular basis. Those who fly transcontinental will often have great difficulties falling asleep when they arrive at a particular location, and therefore may feel excess daytime fatigue. This kind of fatigue can be potentially dangerous when you are the person flying the plane.
What Are The Symptoms Of Jet Lag?
It is pretty easy to determine if you have jet lag, simply based on the fact that you will have flown through the numerous time zones in a short period of time. However, symptoms of jet lag include disturbed sleep which may include insomnia, waking up too early, or falling asleep too late.
Other symptoms include difficulty concentrating, being overly emotional, feeling fatigued or unwell, or having various stomach issues. Interestingly enough, women in particular often have difficulties with jet lag in terms of menstrual symptoms.
What you will find is that the further and faster you travel, the worse your jet lag symptoms will be calm. Flying from California to Colorado may not cause you any problems, but flying from California to New York may be disruptive. Flying from California to Europe would be considerably far more disruptive simply because you are going through more time zones.
Generally speaking, most experienced travelers will tell you that jet lag is worse if you are heading east, partly because you will be forced to go to bed earlier which is often very difficult for people.
What Can You Do To Prevent Jet Lag?
The most obvious thing you can do to prevent jet lag is to travel at a slower pace or not travel at all. You will not experience jet lag if you travel by car in most instances; because you will allow yourself time to adjust to each time zone as you go through them. If you must fly, then you can reduce the symptoms of jet lag by making a layover or two along the way.
A rule of thumb among those who travel on a regular basis is that it will take you an entire day to recover from one time zone’s worth of travel. Therefore, if you travel from California to New York, you should expect 3 to 4 days of recovery time in order to get back on a regular sleeping schedule. Traveling from New York to California may take you one day less.
What Treatment Options Are There?
There are no significant treatment options available for people who suffer from jet lag on a chronic basis, such as those who travel coast-to-coast on a very regular basis. However, if you are finding that travel is seriously disrupting the amount of sleep you are getting or you are experiencing sleep-related difficulties or other sleep disorders, then it is certainly worth talking to a doctor.
Last Updated 26 July 2013
1. Mayo Clinic (Accessed 26 July 2013)
2. NHS Choices (Accessed 26 July 2013)
3. Medicine Net (Accessed 26 July 2013)
4. Better Health Channel (Accessed 26 July 2013)
5. Medline Plus (Accessed 26 July 2013)