Many of us who travel across various time zones experience jet lag, and some are more prone to it than others. Circadian rhythms (your body's internal clock) tell you when to stay up and go to bed, and because they're pegged to to your home time zone rather than the new time zone you've gone to, you experience jet lag if you cross more than two or three time zones. Flying from the U.S. East Coast to Europe, for example, when you arrive around 8 AM your internal clock still thinks it's 2 AM, and will continue to lag six hours behind for some time.
Common symptoms include daytime excessive fatigue; general malaise; difficulties concentrating; disrupted sleep; and digestive issues, and they generally tend to last for one day for each time zone crossed, though for some it can last longer. It can certainly be a drag on any vacation or business trip!
Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to jet lag:
- Sunlight significantly affects your body's production of melatonin, a hormone which regulates cell synchronization throughout the body and is produced by the brain's pineal gland at night when light levels are low.. So taking melatonin supplements after you arrive may help alleviate some of the effects of jet lag (for more details click here).
- Inflight conditions such as air pressure and low humidity levels can also affect jet lag; you can help ameliorate this a bit by hydrating sufficiently and avoiding alcohol (ideally entirely but certainly in excess).
- It's more common for jet lag to manifest when you fly east rather than west. Because it's simpler to slow down than to speed up your internal clock while travelling in one direction, the effects of jet lag might vary depending on where you're flying. There is usually no jet lag for north-south flights - even long-distance - which do not cross time zones.
- Jet lag may be affected by other factors including the duration of the flight(s); the number of layovers; number of time zones crossed; direction of travel; and the duration of daylight in the destination country.
- Age may affect jet lag - for example, those over 60 may find it tougher to recover - but evidence for this is still inconclusive.
- Stress and poor sleep in the days before a flight increases a person's likelihood of experiencing jet lag after landing.
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