More individuals are flying now than ever before and jet lag is often an associated experience. Complete avoidance of jet lag is sometimes unavoidable due to the extent of eastern or western bound travel. Nonetheless, the period of adaptation to the new time zone can be significantly improved. Follow these simple tips on your next big trip and you will be enjoying your destination sooner than later.
What is jet lag?
Jet travel across multiple time zones produces a misalignment between the new actual time and your circadian “internal” clock. Your circadian clock is responsible for producing certain hormones that control temperature, sleep and various other processes. You are more susceptible to jet lag when crossing many time zones in one day (usually at least five time zone) and jet lag tends to be worse when travelling in an eastern direction.
What are the symptoms of jet lag?
When travelling east: difficulty falling asleep
When travelling west: difficulty sleeping in
Other symptoms: headaches, upset stomach, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Symptoms usually improve after the first two days.
How to prevent jet lag?
- Ensure you remain hydrated, drink lots of water during the flight
- Go outside and expose yourself to as much natural light
- Before leaving on your trip, for a couple of nights, attempt to: Advance or delay your sleep and wake up time by an hour or two to correspond closer to your new destination time.
- Try to adapt your daily routine to the new time schedule as soon as possible: meals, sleep, and other daily routine.
- Melatonin can help:
Flying East: Phase Advancing
- 3 mg Melatonin 4.5 hours before sleep and 3 mg 2 hrs before sleep
- Sunlight in the morning
Flying West: Phase Delaying
- Bright lights at night
- Dark in the morning, wear sunglasses if outdoors
Although it is certainly possible to improve your adaptation to jet lag, depending on the extent of travel complete avoidance of jet lag symptoms are not always possible. Plan according and expect there to a re-adjustment period when your circadian clock re-aligns itself with the new time zone. Hasta la vista!
 Eastman, C., Burgess, H. (2009). How to travel the world without jet lag. Sleep Med Clin. 4: 241-255.