Learn how to prevent & treat jet lag Learn how to prevent & treat jet lag

You’ve finally landed and it’s time for your holiday to start! After you settle into your accommodation, however, you suddenly feel exhausted and have little desire to do anything. Despite all the delicious food, interesting sites, and activities going on, you’re finding yourself in a total funk. 

Now that your initial excitement and adrenaline have worn off, the effects of jet lag are able to take hold. Jet lag can make you feel lethargic, irritable, and out of sorts. To make matters worse, when you try to get some rest, you can’t seem to fall asleep. 

Jet lag isn’t just in your head or the result of the stresses of travel. It’s a verified sleep disorder than can end up ruining your much anticipated travel plans. Jet lag is a temporary condition and will eventually go away, but there are methods you can try to overcome jet lag and its annoying side effects. 

Causes of Jet Lag

Your body has an internal clock within it that is responsible for how your body functions throughout a 24-hour cycle, including your body temperature, hormone levels, blood pressure, and sleep cycle. Your internal clock, or circadian rhythm, is affected and regulated by how much light and darkness you’re exposed to. 

The amount of light a person takes in every day tends to be roughly the same. The amount of hours with light can change throughout the year, but is done on a gradual basis so that your body can adjust. This allows your internal clock to adapt without any major disruption. 

However, when you travel long distances your exposure to light changes dramatically. This is especially true for people who travel by plane across multiple time zones. No matter what time it is at your destination, your circadian rhythm will be in tune with your departure location. This means you might be in light when you’re usually in the dark, or its nighttime where you are while it’s the middle of the day back home. This disruption to your rhythm is what causes jet lag. 

Symptoms of Jet Lag 

  • Tiredness and malaise
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Oversleeping
  • Trouble concentrated or engaging with others
  • Bowel habit changes
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Mild anxiety

How long does jet lag last?

Jet lag will vary from person to person. How many time zones you’ve crossed and which direction you’ve gone in will also impact the severity and length of jet lag.

If you only cross one or two time zones you may not experience much in the way of jet lag because the time differences aren’t too extreme. It’s when you travel across 3 or more time zones that the symptoms will become more noticeable. 

People who travel west will have a slightly easier time than those travelling east. They will probably wake up earlier than they want to but it won’t take their bodies as long to adjust when travelling in this direction. It’ll take around 18 hours of recovery per time zone they’ve travelled. 

Those who travel east will have a relatively more difficult time adjusting. They’ll struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. People travelling east will need one day of recovery per time zone they’ve crossed. 

Prevention from Jet Lag 

With some forethought and planning you can minimise the effect that jet lag will have on you when you arrive at your destination. Since jet lag can happen to anyone, including children, encourage your whole family to try these steps as well so that everyone can have a great start to their vacation. 

  1. Start adjusting your schedule to match your destination. If you’re going across multiple time zones it won’t be feasible to completely alter your schedule to your destination, but even gradually going to bed at an earlier time and waking up earlier can help.
  2. Adjust your light exposure prior to your trip to alter your internal body clock. There are even apps that you can download to help you with this transition.
  3. Book a flight that will land around the time you usually wake up then try to sleep during your flight. By doing this, you’ll wake up at your destination soon after waking and will experience less jet lag.
  4. If you can’t sleep on the flight, stay active. Get up, walk around, and stretch your arms and legs. This will keep your muscles limber and reduce any discomfort associated with travel.
  5. Avoid long layovers because your body won’t have enough time to adjust before your trip resumes and you’re thrust into even more time zones.
  6. Only drink water or caffeine free beverages that will help you stay hydrated. This means saying no to coffee, tea, fizzy drinks, and alcohol. Dehydration easily happens because of the air system on planes and dehydration can make jet lag worse.
  7. If it’s still daylight at your destination, try to stay awake for as long as possible and don’t take any siestas. Expose yourself to the light, stay active, and eat at the times your would normally eat. If you then go to bed at a normal bed time, you should wake up the next day feeling much better for it.
  8. Take jet lag treatment like Melatonin

Treatment of Jet Lag

There are no dedicated treatments of jet lag as such, but melatonin tablets have been proven effective at helping people adjust after travelling across multiple time zones. Melatonin can also help you fall asleep on the plane. 

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in your brain that is released once it’s dark. It helps your system wind down and become tired enough for sleep. Melatonin tablets mimic this hormone and help you get your body back into its normal nighttime circadian rhythm. 

Your dosage of melatonin will vary, but in general a low dose should be enough to help you sleep and get over jet lag. Your doctor or prescriber will give you information about your dosage and when to take it. 

If you’re going to be travelling abroad, contact Pharmacy Planet about getting a prescription of melatonin for sleep and jet lag. We can have your medication delivered to your home, ready for you to go on your next big adventure.