If you have travelled fast between continents before, you might have experienced jet lag. it is a state where the normal daily rhythm is disturbed by travelling long distances. It is not a serious condition but can have a few annoying symptoms. Here we will provide a few tips on how to recover and even eliminate them the best way possible.
What’s on this page?
What is jet lag?
It is a feeling of tiredness, dizziness and insomnia. As a result, the daily rhythm disturbs and these symptoms occur. Jet lag happens when you travel far enough (East of West) fast enough. If the time difference is only an hour the symptoms are less likely to occur. However, if you are travelling a long distance you can experience stronger symptoms.1
What are the symptoms?
Jet lag can cause a variety of symptoms. These symptoms are a body’s reaction to puzzlement that occurs after experiencing more or fewer hours on a day. The daily rhythm controls our sleeping patterns, moods, muscles and metabolism. The body forms into the routines and when they are disturbed we start experiencing the symptoms. These symptoms often pass by themselves after a couple of days when the body has gotten used to the new daily rhythm.
The most common symptoms are:
- problems in concentrating
What can worsen the symptoms?
When you travel, the daily rhythm is not the only factor that is disturbed but there are also other aspects.
Some of the possible factors can be:
- lack of sleep
- lower cabin air pressure
It is common to be tired and exhausted after a long flight, especially if you are unable to sleep on the plane. Also, the lower air pressure can have an effect on the symptoms. Dehydration is a common problem and it will worsen after consumption of alcohol. All the abovementioned and the differences within the new country can worsen the symptoms.
Flying East compared to West
Many studies have focused on finding out which route causes the worst jet lag symptoms. The results show that the symptoms worsen when travelling from West to East compare to vice versa. If you are travelling from the UK, you might experience stronger jet lag symptoms when travelling to Thailand compared to the US. The reason for this is that for many it is easier to adapt to a longer day than a shorter day. When you travel to East, the day becomes shorter and thus, it is harder to fall asleep at night. Researchers have developed several jet lag calculator apps that help in getting rid of the symptoms. It tells you when to expose to sunlight and when to fall asleep.
There is no direct cure for jet lag but there are several ways that help to relieve or even eliminate the symptoms completely. If you want to avoid the symptoms altogether you can try any of the following:
- ensure that you have enough liquids during your flight
- sleep enough before travelling
- avoid coffee, coke and other drinks that contain caffeine
- avoid alcohol because it results in dehydration
- set your clock on the time at the destination
- ensure that you receive as much sunlight after arriving at the destination as possible
- eat lightly and healthy – avoid greasy and meals
- If you are travelling outside Europe, like Australia, it is a good idea to split the trip into a few parts by adding a couple of layovers
You should stay in your normal daily routine during short trips that last less than three days. One way to do this is to avoid strong sunlight at the time when you are usually asleep. If you are staying more than three days, then it is worthwhile to adjust to the new rhythm by eating and sleeping on the local times.
There is medication available that can help in adjusting to the new daily rhythm. These medications contain melatonin which is a hormone that helps us sleep. It is naturally produced in the body.
One of the most popular medications for treating jet lag is Circadin. The medication works best when travelling East but can also be used when travelling West. Usually, it is taken 1-2 hours before you want to fall asleep but read the instructions from the packaging for more.
These melatonin tablets can be useful for athletes that need to perform soon after landing and adjust into the new rhythm quite fast. It is a natural hormone which means that it will not have any serious side effects and thus, can be bought over the counter.
The recovery from jet lag usually takes a couple of days. The process itself it is not serious but can have an effect on the physical performance which is annoying especially if you are travelling because of work. You should have at least a couple of days off when arriving in the new atmosphere so that the recovery would be easier.
The term jet lag is often used when travelling away from home but it is even more common after returning home. The symptoms are the same or even stronger if you have work or a meeting the next day. In this case, the melatonin treatment can be helpful.