Jet lag is a condition where your normal sleep pattern is disrupted after a long flight across different time zones. This problem will normally improve after a day or two, as your body clock gets used to the new time zone you are in. Jet lag is not something that can be prevented when travelling across multiple time zones in a short space of time, but there are various techniques you can try and medicines you can take to ease the symptoms of jet lag. Browse our range of treatment products to ease this condition below.

Jet Lag

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  1. Circadin Melatonin Medicine Direct Online Pharmacy UK
    Circadin (Melatonin)
    From As low as £24.99
    • Helps the body adjust it's natural sleep pattern
    • Contains the natural hormone, Melatonin
    • Used to treat Jet Lag and changes in shift work schedules

    Please note brand received may vary

What is Jetlag?

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.

How long does it last?

The problem is only temporary, but it can cause unpleasant symptoms, such as not feeling well, fatigue, difficulty trying to stay awake and gastrointestinal problems.

At Medicine Direct, there are several medicines you can take to help you adjust to your new schedule, fall asleep when it is night time and reduce jet lag symptoms. After an online consultation with one of our doctors, they will prescribe you an appropriate treatment to help your internal clock adjust to the new time zone. Order from our UK pharmacy by 2pm and you will receive your medicine the very next day.

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

Symptoms worsen the farther you travel

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.

Causes of Jetlag

Jet lag is caused by a disruption in your circadian rhythms

Not everybody suffers from jet lag, but it is caused by travelling across at least two time zones in quick succession. Doing this disturbs your body's circadian rhythms, which regulate when it is time to wake up and time to go to bed.

This means that the new time zone you are in is not in sync with your body clock. As a result, your body may tell you that it is time to wake up when it is actually time to go to bed in your new location.

Because it also takes a couple of days for your body to adjust, it is not just your sleep schedule is not the only thing that may be disturbed. You may also find that your eating and bowel habits need time to adjust to the new time zone; this may cause stomach upsets.

Exposure to sunlight

Sunlight has a major influence on your sleep schedule. Your body's natural hormone melatonin is influenced by light; this hormone is released by the pineal gland and regulates your wake-sleep cycle.

Light signals are transmitted from cells in your retina to an area of your brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus informs the pineal gland to release melatonin in the evening, when the light signal is lower.

Cabin pressure

Certain studies have suggested that some of the symptoms of jet lag may be exacerbated by the changes in cabin pressure and the high altitudes of flying.

Failing to drink enough water may also bring on jet lag symptoms. Humidity levels are very low on planes, meaning that if you do not drink enough water during air travel, you may become dehydrated.

Who is most at risk?

Certain factors make it more likely for some people to experience jet lag than others.

You are at a greater risk of this problem if:

  • You are elderly; elderly people need more time to recover from this problem
  • You fly frequently, such as for business, you are a pilot or an air steward
  • You are travelling east
  • You are travelling across more than two time zones; the more time zones you travel across, the greater risk you have of jet lag

Possible dangers

Motor vehicle accidents that occur as a result of drowsiness may be more likely in jet-lagged people.

Treatment for Jetlag

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.

Medical treatment 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.

Circadin (Melatonin)

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) is 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.

Doctor Notes

Medicine Direct have an experienced clinical team of doctors, pharmacists and dispensers, all of whom are based in the UK. All are fully trained and qualified to provide appropriate and considered care across all areas of treatment we have available at our online pharmacy.

This means that no matter which member of our team is assigned to your case, you can rest assured that you are in the hands of a highly skilled medical professional, who possesses the compassion and clinical expertise to properly advise you on the best course of treatment.

We are fully regulated

All of our doctors and pharmacists are fully registered with both the General Medical Council (GMC), MHRA and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). Each member of our team has also worked in various clinic settings in the past, such as community pharmacies and NHS hospitals.

Hussain Abdeh Superintendent Pharmacist at Medicine Direct Online Pharmacy

Hussain Abdeh
MPharm: 2211840


Superintendent Pharmacist

This content has been written by James Nuttall and has been medically reviewed by our Superintendent Pharmacist Hussain Abdeh. Hussain has been the Superintendent Pharmacist of Medicine Direct since 2018.

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