The headaches of flying for any type of trip can seem endless, ranging from crowded airports and airline delays to misplaced luggage and overweight baggage fines. When traveling, the last thing you want to worry about is getting at your destination only to experience a case of jet lag.

Continue reading to learn more about jet lag and how to avoid it.

According to the Sleep Foundation, jet lag is a circadian rhythm sleep-wake problem that develops when your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s 24-hour clock, does not coincide with the local day-night cycle.

Let’s begin by dissecting that definition in terms of your circadian cycle. Our circadian rhythm, an internal clock that governs our sleep patterns, is present in all humans. Based on when the sun rises and sets, your body’s internal clock adjusts to match your geographic location. You remain awake and attentive all day long and go to sleep at night thanks to it.

When the times of sunrise and sunset are abruptly shifted, this internal clock is thrown off, resulting in jet lag. It has an effect on how your body makes hormones, which can have an impact on other bodily functions like sleep.

As a result of your body still being in sync with your home time zone, you may find yourself wide awake at five in the morning in a new place.


Why Do We Get Jet Lag?

When traveling east or west over three or more time zones, people are more susceptible to jet lag. Since time is typically “lost” for passengers flying east, eastbound passengers may be more prone to develop symptoms than those going west. Your symptoms could get more severe the more time zones you go through.


Am I Likely to Experience Jet Lag?

The Sleep Foundation asserts that not all long-distance travelers will experience jet lag. There are numerous variables that could affect the likelihood and intensity of your jet lag, including:

  • Trip specifics: The severity of your jet lag can be influenced by details like the total distance traveled, the number of layovers, the number of time zones you cross, your direction of travel, the length of time spent at a destination, and the local daylight hours.
  • Arrival Time: According to some research, jet lag is lessened for travelers who arrive in the afternoon as opposed to the early morning.
  • Age: Research on the relationship between aging and jet lag has produced conflicting findings. While research on athletes indicated that younger people were more susceptible to jet lag, some studies indicate that persons over 60 have a tougher difficulty recovering from it.
  • Travelers who don’t get enough sleep before their flights are more likely to have jet lag.
  • Stress: Stress can disrupt sleep and make it more difficult to adjust to jet lag.
  • Drinking alcohol and coffee while flying can have an impact on the brain that can interfere with falling asleep.
  • People who have previously experienced jet lag are more likely to do so again.

Scientists are only now starting to learn about a great number of additional elements that can affect someone’s likelihood of developing jet lag. According to universal agreement, a person frequently experiences jet lag because of a number of interrelated variables.


How Can Jet Lag Impact Me?

The following list includes signs and symptoms of jet lag:

  • Daytime drowsiness and difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Difficulty paying attention or remembering
  • Exacerbation of mental health issues and irritability
  • Constipation, nausea, and decreased appetite are examples of stomach issues.
  • An increased risk of nighttime seizures or sleep paralysis (in rare circumstances)


What is the duration of jet lag?

The Mayo Clinic states that symptoms often start one to two days after travel. For every time zone traveled, jet lag recuperation takes about one day. Although it has the potential to ruin your trip, jet lag is thankfully only a transient ailment.


Guidelines for Avoiding and Reducing Jet Lag

Fortunately, there are a number of actions you can do to assist avoid, reduce, and treat any jet lag you might suffer when traveling. Here are our top suggestions for preventing jet lag and weariness, from setting your internal clock ahead of time to staying hydrated on the plane:


If possible, reserve a night flight

You’ll have more possibilities for flights the earlier you begin your holiday preparation. If there are any overnight flights available, make the reservation!

You’ll be able to eat dinner at a regular hour, and you’ll probably arrive in the morning or afternoon, making it more likely that you’ll sleep than you would on an afternoon flight. These factors make it simpler for your body to reset its internal clock.


Set Your Internal Clock in Advance

The Mayo Clinic advises that you progressively adjust your resting and eating routine to match the average sleeping and eating hours in your destination city (at least a few days before to departure).

Especially the few evenings prior to your departure, for those traveling east, go to bed one hour earlier each night. For the few evenings before to your trip, people traveling west should go to bed one hour later each night.


Limit your caffeine intake

Stay away from the coffee shop closest to your terminal. Try to avoid consuming caffeine at least 12 hours prior to your travel and while you are in the air. Although it might provide you a brief boost of stimulation and alertness, it’s frequently followed by a drop in blood sugar.


Your watch should be synced to the new time zone

Consider adjusting your watch to match the time zone of your destination on the day of your journey. You may psychologically prepare for a major time change by doing this.


Avoid alcohol and stay hydrated the entire flight.

Dehydration, in accordance with the Mayo Clinic, may increase the intensity of your jet lag symptoms. Since airplanes have low humidity levels, it’s crucial to stay hydrated the entire flight by drinking lots of water.

Even if you don’t feel thirsty, Travel Bank advises consuming at least 8 ounces of water for every hour in the air.


Sleep on the Plane

Those who travel overnight or from the west to the east may find it helpful to sleep on the plane. Since traveling can be physically taxing, getting some rest can help you be more prepared to handle any jet lag symptoms that may arise later. If flying first class is out of your price range, choose an emergency aisle seat for additional leg room or a window seat (so you can prop your head against the wall).

If at all possible, stay away from the back of the plane because passengers sitting there will experience the most turbulence. Make sure to carry a pillow and blanket, and think about packing earplugs, a sleeping mask, and headphones that block out noise as well.


Final Thoughts

The best explanation for jet lag is a discrepancy between the circadian body clock and the time of the destination. The number of days the body clock stays set to departure times after swift (airplane) travel depends largely on the number of time zones traveled.

Thanks to external time-givers, such as the alternation of outside night and dark periods as well as social gatherings and meals, the circadian clock gradually adapts to new schedules.

There have been many attempts to hasten or avoid this adaptation, from straightforward methods to strong light and melatonin to sleeping drugs and stimulants. Overall though, these solutions only partially address the problem. The best manner to cope presently seems to tailor the solutions to individual travels demands.