Last Updated: Mar 23, 2020
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Jet Lag - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment And Home Remedies

About Symptoms Symptoms intensity Causes Direction of travel Treatment Risk factors Medications Vitamins How long does jet lag last? Home remedies How to get over jet lag? Prevent

What is Jet Lag?

Jet lag disorder or jet lag as it is commonly known as a temporary sleeping disorder that can happen to any person who is travelling quickly over multiple time zones. The human body has its internal clock which is medically known as the circadian rhythm that signals the body when to remain awake or go off to sleep. Jet lag happens when the body’s clock remains still in sync to your original time zone, from where you started your journey.

Instead of the new time zone where you’ve travelled and is your destination. The more time zones that you cross, the more jet lag disorder you will find in your body. Although jet lag is not a life-threatening condition and goes away in a few days, nonetheless it can significantly reduce your business or vacation travel’s comfort. Medically jet lag disorder which is a chronobiologic problem is known as desynchronosis.

What are the symptoms and signs of jet lag?

These symptoms can vary from one person to another and the symptoms include disturbed sleep, concentrating problems, constipation, daytime fatigue, mood swings. These symptoms can worsen if travelled in different time zones and can last for a longer time. For each time zone, it may take at least one day to recover.

Do the symptoms of jet lag vary in intensity?

The intensity of jet lag varies from one person to another and even on the number of time zones crossed.

What causes jet lag?

  • Disturbance in the circadian rhythm: It occurs due to crossing up of multiple time zones thus changing your circadian rhythm that helps in regulating your sleep-wake cycle.
  • Influence of sunlight: Sunlight influences the internal clock of a person as light influences the regulation of melatonin hormone which synchronizes cells throughout the body.
  • The atmosphere and Air cabin pressure: In some of the research it is shown that if there is a change in the air cabin pressure contribute to jet lag.

Does the direction of travel matter for jet lag?

Jet lag becomes tougher while traveling in eastern direction while traveling west is easier. The jet lag becomes long-lasting if traveling in the east as it reflects the internal clock of the body.

What is the treatment for jet lag?

Jet lag does not need any treatment or medication because the symptoms do not last long and resolve within a few days. Jet lag treatment can be done in various procedures as per the patient interest.

But if the problem doesn't go away in a few days then the doctor may recommend best jet lag pills such as zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta) and zaleplon (Sonata). These medications work as sleeping pills.

Jet lag becomes tougher while traveling in eastern direction while traveling west is easier. The jet lag becomes long-lasting if traveling in the east as it reflects the internal clock of the body.

What are the risk factors for jet lag?

The risk factors of jet lag include:

  • A number of time zones crossed: if the number of time zones crossed is increased then the intensity of jet lag also gets high.
  • Being an older adult: if you are an older adult then it might take much time for getting recovered from jet lag.
  • Being a frequent flyer: business travelers, piolets, flight attendants are more prone to jet lag.

What are the effective medications for jet lag?

The best effective medication for jet lag is Lunesta, Ambien, zaleplon. These are prescribed to frequent travelers and work as sleeping pills.

What vitamins help with jet lag?

Vitamin D and B both are helpful in jet lag. Vitamin B-12 keeps the body energized and active and vitamin D is natural and is directly related to melatonin levels of the body.

How long does jet lag last?

As fast as the body adjusts to the local time zone. Generally it takes 3 to 5 days to recover from jet lag.

What are the home remedies for jet lag?

Home remedies for jet lag are as follows:

  • Sunlight: it can be used to reset the internal clock of the person as it is the most powerful and natural tool for regulating your sleep cycle
  • Caffeine: avoid beverages which contain caffeine like coffee, espresso after midday as they make difficult to fall asleep.
  • Additional remedies: additional remedies like changing in diet fasting, high-protein diet, low protein diet. Exercising can also be done to try easing off the effects of jet lag.

How to get over jet lag?

  • Setting up your watch to new time zone
  • Sleep and waking time can be customized
  • Taking melatonin
  • Do not overeat or fill up tons of food
  • Keeping dehydrated
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and coffee
  • Adjusting to the rhythm of destination
  • Start going out in the sunlight
  • Before departing prepare at home

How to prevent jet lag?

These are the basic steps that can help in preventing jet lag:

  1. Arriving early: if you have some important work then try leaving early and adjust to the changes. This will help the body to adjust to the new place and time.
  2. Gradually adjust the leave schedule: Travelling east may cause a problem and go to bed one hour earlier before a few weeks of departure may help.
  3. Getting plenty of sleep before the trip: don't be sleep deprived as it makes the condition of jet lag even worse.
  4. Staying hydrated: one must stay hydrated and drink plenty of water because dehydration can worsen the symptoms of jet lag. Alcohol and caffeine must be avoided as they both affect your sleep.
  5. Stay on new schedule: try to be scheduled as the timing of new place and try to sleep as the timing of the place and try matching your meal timings too.
  6. Try sleeping on the plane: By blocking up the nearby noises and sleeping on a plane may help.

Popular Questions & Answers

My husband is 36 years old. Pandemic affected our lives and we were emotionally and financially down. My husband used to take a lot of stress as he had to wrap his business. Things, however, are better now but due to all the instabilities in the past few months, he has developed insomnia. Doctor please help me in knowing is insomnia a serious problem?

MD - Psychiatry, DNB Psychiatry, MRCPsych
Psychiatrist, Mumbai
Yes, it might become a serious issue if left untreated for a long time. Insomnia is a condition where you can't sleep well. Sleep is important for your mental, physical and overall health. People with insomnia are prone to fatigue, anxiety and eve...

Hello doctor. My 32 years old son has been having sleeping problems for the past couple of months. He is under a lot of stress as he lost his job due to the pandemic. He is struggling to find a good job. Symptoms suggest that he is suffering from insomnia. Doctor please tell me is insomnia a mental disorder?

MSc - Psychotherapy And Counselling
Psychologist, Bangalore
No, insomnia is not a mental disorder. However, there may be a few symptoms related to mental illness that come from another disease such as depression or anxiety.

I am a 42 years old male and I am suffering from insomnia. It was detected 2 weeks ago and I have been on medicines since then. I can see a little recovery but not much. Should I consult my doctor or it takes this much time?

MSc - Psychotherapy And Counselling
Psychologist, Bangalore
If you have short term insomnia, it generally lasts for a few days or weeks. It occurs due to some personal or professional stress. However, if it is chronic insomnia, it may last for months and needs proper treatment. Chronic insomnia is a condit...

Hello doctor! I am shivani and I am 36 years old. For the past couple of months, I have been facing difficulty in sleep. Either I can’t sleep at night or I wake up at midnight and find it hard to sleep again. I don’t know if this is insomnia. Doctor please help me in knowing what the causes of insomnia?

MD - Psychiatry, DNB Psychiatry, MRCPsych
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Primary causes for insomnia are - stress, disturbance due to noise, change in temperature, etc, change in sleep schedule, and genetics. Other causes for insomnia include: depression and anxiety, medications for allergies, high bp, asthma, acute pa...

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