What is Jet lag?
Jet lag (sometimes referred to as jet lag disorder) is a temporary issue that occurs when you travel across several time zones in a short space of time. This problem can affect travellers of all ages.
Your body has its own internal clock known as circadian rhythms, which signal when it is time to be awake and time to go to sleep. This is commonly known as your body clock. The reason for jet lag occurring is because your body clock is still synchronised to your normal time zone. Your jet lag is likely to be more severe the more time zones you travel across.
Jet Lag Symptoms
The symptoms of jet lag may vary from person to person. The severity of your symptoms, how many you suffer from and how long they last will also depend on the individual.
However, the symptoms of jet lag can include:
- Changes in your mood
- Feeling generally unwell
- A disturbed sleep schedule (insomnia, sleeping too much or waking up too early)
- Daytime fatigue
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Stomach problems
When am I likely to get Jet Lag?
The more time zones you travel across, the more severe your jet lag is likely to be. Studies have shown that people who are travelling east are more likely to suffer from jet lag disorder than those who are travelling west. When you travel across time zones, it will normally take about one day to recover from each time zone you travel across. If you have travelled across several different time zones, your body may take several days to recover.
If you have crossed more than two time zones, jet lag will normally appear within one or two days of travel.
Treatments for Jet lag
There are various techniques you can try to lessen the effects jet lag when you are travelling to a different time zone.
Try to sleep properly before you travel; getting plenty of sleep ahead of your trip will mean you are set up better for a new time zone. Arriving in your new location feeling tired and fatigued will only make your symptoms worse. One way you could do this is by going to bed and getting up earlier or later than usual, adjusting this to fit the time zone you will be travelling to.
Staying hydrated is another important factor in reducing the effects of this problem. Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after the flight to combat the dehydration that can be caused by airline cabins. You should also avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks like tea or coffee, as these can also dehydrate you and stop you from getting enough sleep.
If it is the evening in the destination you are travelling to, try to sleep on the plane. If it is daytime in your destination, try not to fall asleep until it is night time.
Try to adjust your schedule gradually before you set off for your new location. For example, if you are going somewhere with a time zone that is a few hours in front of your current one, try to go to bed an hour or two earlier than usual. This will help to regulate the change when you get there. Similarly, try to eat at similar meal times to those in the new destination.
Medication for jet lag
Aside from taking these precautions to help you to adjust to a new time zone, you may also wish to take some medicine with you to help your body to adjust.
One of the most effective medicines for many people to take is the sleep medication Circadin. Circadin contains melatonin as its active ingredient and, when taken correctly, it can help you adjust to your new local time and help you sleep when it is dark.
If you are over the age of 55 and have insomnia, this medicine may be prescribed to help you sleep. However, it is also an 'off-label' treatment for people who only need it for a short time to avoid any circadian rhythm problems when travelling to a new destination. The NHS website covers 10 handy tips for beating the symptoms of insomina.
To help your body sleep and adjust to the time change, you should take Circadin (melatonin) at bed time on the first day you arrive in your new location.
Circadin (melatonin) 2mg tablets are available to order from Medicine Direct after an online consultation with a doctor.
Our pharmacists and prescribers follow NICE guidelines when prescribing Jet Lag treatments.