Traveler Discomfort, Tips for Overcoming Jet Lag

Traveling across three or more time zones introduces time delays that affect human body functions and sleep quality. Learn how to deal with jet lag in this article.

Traveling between countries in different time zones causes jet lag for some. The human body resents the journey of crossing multiple time zones in a single journey. Jet lag-related fatigue is temporary, but it negatively affects the body’s functioning.

All the reasons that lead to countries with standard time zones that are three times longer than usual confound our biological clocks, which tell us when to eat and when to sleep. These are two dysfunctions that are also called ‘traveller’s disease’.

Jet lag-related symptoms can be sufficiently alleviated . Before talking about how to deal with it, let’s first look at the concept of jet lag.

What is jet lag and how it affects travelers

The journal ‘Travel Medicine and Infectious Diseases’ reports that jet lag is a sleep disorder that affects circadian rhythms . This syndrome is a product of meridian flight due to the too rapid crossing of time zones .

People who experience meridian flight show daytime sleepiness, insomnia , and physical symptoms as the organism adjusts to a new routine as it synchronizes light and dark periods as if it were living itself .

‘Human Brain Mapping’ conducted neuroimaging studies to analyze the effects of jet lag. The results showed  that adding or subtracting time to the circadian clock affected activity in brain regions related to sleep and neuroendocrine behavior .

Other names for jet lag include ‘time zone syndrome’, ‘jet lag’ and ‘circadian arrhythmia’.

jet lag symptoms

Certain factors increase your chances of experiencing jet lag or circadian arrhythmias. The Mayo Clinic emphasizes frequent travel against the biological clock and eastward flights cause jet lag  .

Insomnia is the most common symptom, waking up too early or sleeping through the day. Travelers experiencing jet lag may experience irritability and other discomforts such as:

  • unrest
  • loss of stamina
  • anorexia
  • fatigue
  • poor concentration
  • memory loss
  • headache and stomachache
time zone difference
Traveler anxiety becomes more evident when moving eastward and crossing more than five time zones.

Tips for overcoming jet lag before, during, and after travel

Practicing the recommendations before, during and after travel can reduce the effects of time zone syndrome. Note the following.

before the trip

  • Rest: Sleeping as much as possible will help you adjust to your new schedule. Also, avoiding worry and not putting things off until the last minute gives you a sense of security.
  • Adjust your biological clock: Adjust your eating and sleeping times according to the places you visit. If you have an intercontinental flight, it is also useful to delay sleep by 30 minutes on a few days.
  • Schedule your arrival a few days in advance: Time zone adjustments are less abrupt if you arrive at least two days in advance. This is because they need enough time to get used to the dynamics of foreign countries.

Tips for Overcoming Jet Lag While Traveling

  • Stay hydrated: The Aerospace Medical Association recommends drinking 8 ounces of water every hour on long flights, as cabin humidity is low and tends to cause dehydration .
  • Stimulate circulation: Walking through the aisles during long flights stimulates blood circulation. You can also move your joints with simple exercises in your seat.
  • No coffee or alcohol: Both caffeine and alcoholic beverages promote fatigue and alter sleep patterns. Avoid ingesting these ingredients while flying. Eat only at the times set by the airline.

after arriving at the destination

  • Avoid napping: Take a break at night to slow down the effects of jet lag.
  • Get active: Walking, jogging, and stretching keep you energized, essential for turning on endorphins and resetting your body clock.
  • Meals on time: It is important to be in line with mealtimes in the destination country. Eating at the right time can improve human body functions and minimize traveler’s discomfort.
  • Move in broad daylight: Even if you are tired after landing, stick to your schedule according to the time of day in the country you are visiting. To adjust the biological clock, act according to the daylight hours.
hydrating jet lag
Hydration during flight is important. You should drink water every hour.

Other alternatives to overcome jet lag

Melatonin reduces the effects of sleep disorders. The pineal gland produces this hormone naturally, but there are supplements that reduce the coordination time of rest, which is useful for jet lag. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests light therapy for jet lag . For eastward travel, exposure to bright light in the morning relieves symptoms. When traveling west, use light in the evening to reduce jet lag. Light therapy works like sunlight by shining safe, intense artificial light into your eyes at regular times and affecting your body clock.

This type of treatment is taught by a sleep specialist .

How long will the traveler’s anxiety last?

Time Zone Syndrome doesn’t last long, but it’s inconvenient and interferes with the enjoyment of travel. It usually occurs in the first two days after arrival and can last as long as all time zones intersect. ‘Hospital Cliníc de Barcelona’ emphasizes that symptoms are more common in children and adults over the age of 50 .

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