Jet Lag Disorder and Long Flights

man covering face with both hands while sitting on bench

Reducing and Beating Jet Lag in International Air Travel

Frequent fliers often experience jet lag disorder. It can occur when traveling over multiple time zones, such as international or cross country travel. This article explains jet lag and what can be done to cope with or prevent its symptoms.

What is Jet Lag?

According to the Mayo Clinic, jet lag is is a sleep disorder that occurs in individuals who have quickly traveled across multiple time zones, such as international or coast-to-coast air travel. Jet lag, also known as time zone change syndrome, is caused when the internal clock of a traveler is disrupted. The internal clock tells the body when to be awake and alert, and when to sleep, and traveling across several time zones can impair it.

What Are the Symptoms of Jet Lag?

Jet lag disorder can cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling tired and unwell
  • Difficulty staying alert and awake
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating or functioning at the usual level
  • Digestive problems such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Muscle aches or soreness
  • Moodiness

While the feeling of jet lag is temporary, it can make traveling uncomfortable and unpleasant.

What Can Be Done to Beat Jet Lag?

There are a few ways that frequent travelers can help to prevent or mitigate the symptoms of jet lag. Sunlight is a natural (and free) way to get the body’s rhythms back on track. For best results, light exposure should be based on the origination and destination points in an itinerary, as well as overall sleep habits. For the correct times, use a Jet Lag Calculator.

Caffeine can also be used to help combat daytime sleepiness and get the body back on track. Be careful about timing, however – drinking caffeinated beverages too close to bedtime can make sleep even more difficult.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that helps to regulate sleep and wake patterns. Some studies have shown taking melatonin supplements to reduce how much jet lag is felt by travelers crossing multiple time zones. As with any medication, consult with your doctor before using melatonin.

How Can Jet Lag Be Reduced or Prevented?

There are a few things business travelers can do to help prevent jet lag from occurring. Get a good night’s sleep prior to traveling to ensure that you are well rested prior to traveling. If crossing multiple time zones, start adjusting to them before traveling – for travelers who will be flying east, go to bed an hour earlier each night for a few days prior to departure. If traveling west, go to bed one hour later for several nights. In addition, change daily routines in order to eat meals closer to the times they will be consumed at the destination.

Travelers can also stay hydrated and eat well prior to travel and during the trip in order to optimize health. Keep up with exercise routines as well.

Jet lag is a common occurrence in business travel; however, the effects of jet lag can be minimized or even prevented with just a few small changes to a routine.