Effective jet lag recovery strategies to overcome symptoms Effective jet lag recovery strategies to overcome symptoms

That feeling of fatigue you experience when you go abroad is more than just exhaustion from the hustle and bustle of travel. Jet lag is a common and temporary sleep disorder that occurs when you travel across one or more time zones. 

Also known as jet lag disorder, it’s caused by your body’s internal clock having trouble adjusting to the new time zone. Behind the scenes in your body is something called a circadian rhythm, a process that’s responsible for telling you when to be awake and when to be asleep. This internal clock is usually adapted to the time zone where you live so when you are in a different time zone, your circadian rhythm is thrown off. 

The severity of jet lag tends to correspond with how many time zones you’ve travelled across. One or two may not cause much disruption to your internal clock, but travelling across three or more can cause significant symptoms. These symptoms should pass once you adapt to the new time zone, but that is time that could have otherwise been spent enjoying your travels. 

Jet Lag Symptoms

The most commons symptom of jet lag is a feeling of daytime fatigue followed by difficulty falling asleep. However, jet lag can cause disturbances throughout your entire body with symptoms like: 

  • Dehydration
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Stomach upset
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Mood swings
  • Indigestion
  • Excessive sweating
  • Confusion or memory problems
  • Dizziness

The Science Behind Jet Lag 

Time zones are designated regions of the globe where the time of day remains the same. Even though there are 24 hours in the day, because of border locations, day light savings time, and local regulations there are more than 24 time zones in the world. This also means that time zone differences can fluctuate depending on the time of year. 

Jet lag happens because your body is in sync with the time zone where you have been living or staying. A key influence on this is sunlight. The amount of light you’re exposed to and when you’re exposed to it provides signals to your internal clock. 

The cells in the back of your eye transmits light signals to a part of your brain known as the hypothalamus. When the light starts to go down, your hypothalamus tells your brain to start slowly releasing a hormone called melatonin that’s responsible for making you feel sleepy. 

Even if you’re exposed to sunlight at your destination, your internal clock can’t make adjustments that quickly. So, if when you land it’s 2pm local time, but it’s 10pm at your original location, your body will still think it’s 10pm. This can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and make you sleepy when you should be awake and awake when you should be sleepy.   

Factors that Can Worsen Jet Lag

Most cases of jet lag can be traced to airplane travel since this is the quickest way to cross multiple time zones. The conditions on an airplane are thought to make the symptoms of jet lag worse. Planes travel at high altitudes, experience changes in air pressure, and are frequently low in humidity. This creates a dehydrating environment and dehydration has been linked to jet lag. 

Some people are more likely to experience jet lag disorder or to experience more pronounced symptoms. This includes people who are: 

  • Flying east (because you “lose” time and must stay awake longer). 
  • Very young or older in age. 
  • Travelling long distances often. 
  • Diagnosed with pre-existing sleep disorders. 

Jet Lag Prevention 

If you know you’re going to be travelling a long distance, start gradually adjusting your internal clock before you leave. For westward travel, go to bed an hour or two later for a few nights. For eastward travel, go to bed at least an hour earlier than you normally would. You should also aim to eat any meals closer to the mealtime at your destination location. Setting your watch or phone’s clock to your destination’s time zone can assist with these adjustments. 

Light exposure can also make a significant difference in whether you’ll get jet lag or how bad it will be. If you’re going west, exposure yourself to light in the evening and if you’re going east, expose yourself to morning light. Light exposure directly affects your circadian rhythms so getting enough light at the right time of day can help you adapt to your new destination. 

Since airplane travel and travel in general can dehydrate you, drink plenty of water throughout your trip. This includes before you travel, during your travels, and after you arrive. You should avoid caffeine and alcohol until your jet lag symptoms subside as these types of drinks can dehydrate you and affect your sleep cycle. 

Melatonin for Jet Lag 

Another way to deal with jet lag is by getting a prescription for a medication called Melatonin. Your body naturally produces a hormone called melatonin that’s an important part to how your circadian rhythm functions. At night, your body produces higher levels of melatonin to help you feel sleepy. These levels drop during the day so that you can stay awake. 

Melatonin tablets are a synthetic version of this hormone that can be taken for short periods to treat the symptoms of insomnia and jet lag. Your prescriber will give you instructions on how to take this medication, but in general you can take it once a day for up to 5 days. It can take up to 1-2 hours to work so you should take it close to the time you want to go to sleep. Melatonin will start to help you wind down and become sleepy enough to fall asleep. 

Melatonin for Jet Lag from Pharmacy Planet

By using Melatonin to offset the symptoms of jet lag, you’ll have more time and energy to spend enjoying your travels. Before your next big trip, reach out to us to get a prescription for Circadian Melatonin. Just complete a short online assessment and our pharmacists can have your medication delivered right to your door.