Jet lag is a term for a set of symptoms that often happen to people who travel across multiple time zones. For example, if you live in the UK but travel to somewhere with a drastically different time zone such as the USA, Australia, Asia, or somewhere else that is more than 3 time zones away.
Jet Lag causes a disruption in your sleep schedule due to the fact that bedtime in the time zone you’re used to is at a different time to where you are travelling to. This happens when your circadian rhythm is out of sync with the country that you’re staying in, as this is responsible for your body’s sleep/wake functions.
Jet Lag is only temporary, and your body will adjust to a new time zone within a matter of days, but there are various things you can do to prepare if you’re travelling across multiple time zones to reduce the severity of Jet Lag.
What is Jet Lag?
Jet Lag is a type of travel illness that happens when you fly across 3 or more time zones. It doesn’t always affect everyone in the same way, but most commonly it affects sleep and can leave you feeling tired and sluggish, or unable to sleep in the time zone that you’re travelling to.
Jet Lag is rarely serious, but it’s important to make sure that you take the necessary steps to reduce the severity of symptoms so that you can return to getting restful sleep as soon as possible.
Quality sleep is important for all of our physical and mental functions, as without it, we can begin to feel ill in a relatively short period of time. Jet Lag can be really unpleasant to experience, but if you start to prepare for it before you leave, and take steps to reduce the severity once you arrive, it can be a short lived and mild feeling that hopefully won’t impact you too much.
Jet lag only happens when you fly, and not when you drive or use public transport, this is because when you use other methods of travel, the journey is more gradual and you have chance to adjust to the time zones along the way, but you can fly through several time zones in just a few hours, so it will be a shock to your system when you arrive.
What causes Jet Lag?
Jet lag is caused by flying across 3 or more time zones when you travel abroad. It’s called Jet lag because of the fact that it happens after you’ve taken a long flight.
Jet lag isn’t just caused by flying though, otherwise we’d experience it even when travelling from the UK to France or the Republic of Ireland. Jet lag is actually caused by a disturbance to our sleeping pattern and circadian rhythm.
Our bodies naturally adjust to light and dark, meaning that at around dusk, a hormone called melatonin is produced to send signals to our brain that it’s time for us to wind down to go to sleep. When we have elevated levels of melatonin in the blood, we then start to feel more tired and are ready for bed at our normal bed time.
When you travel across multiple time zones, this circadian rhythm will be out of sync for a few days whist your body adjusts to the new time zone and when it’s light and dark.
Jet Lag symptoms
Jet lag symptoms can vary from person to person, but most cases include some of the following
- sleeping at night and waking up in the morning
- Difficulty staying awake during the day
- Poor quality of sleep
- Concentration issues
- Memory problems
- Altered appetite
- Mild anxiety
If you have jet lag, you might not experience all of the symptoms listed above, but it’s important to know that you may start to feel unwell if you don’t take steps to relieve your jet lag, as sleep affects physical and mental health.
Some symptoms of jet lag can also be mistaken for travel sickness, but it’s important not to ignore any new symptoms you develop after landing in a new time zone. Jet lag doesn’t always kick in straight away, as on your first night you may be tired from travelling. However, symptoms can surface within 2-3 days of you arriving in the destination country, so it’s important to be vigilant and start adhering to the new time zone’s sleep/wake schedule as soon as you can.
How long does Jet Lag last?
The amount of time you experience jet lag for can vary from person to person, and whether or not you take any measures to relieve the symptoms in the time leading up to your departure, but it’s important to know that it is always temporary, and should subside within a few days of being in your destination country.
Whilst it isn’t a pleasant experience, it’s important to remember that your body will take time to adjust to your new surroundings and the new day and night schedule, so you should work with it to give it the best chance of a quick adjustment by following the tips below.
How to get over Jet Lag
Whilst there isn’t a specific cure for jet lag, there are various things that you can do in order to reduce the severity of symptoms that you feel when travelling across many time zones. For example, you can start to adjust your schedule several days before you fly so that your body is more accustomed to the new time zone when you arrive. If you’re flying east, you should try gradually going to bed earlier over the course of a few days before you fly, and if you’re heading west, you should attempt to delay your bedtime by an hour each day until the day of your flight. These sall changes can help you to adjust before you land, so that the new time zone won’t be such a shock to your system. Whilst going to sleep earlier or later than normal may been strange for a while if you have a strict sleep routine, it can help to alleviate many of the symptoms associated with jet lag without involving medication at all.
Another important thing to remember when travelling long distances is to stay hydrated. Whilst this is important advice all the time, it should be particularly obeyed if you’re on a long haul flight due to the pressure in the cabin and how the air quality on a plane can cause dehydration. To make sure that you feel as well as possible, you should make sure that you stay properly hydrated throughout your flight to avoid any symptoms associated with dehydration, as this can also make jet lag worse.
When you arrive in your destination, you should try to stick to their night and day schedule as you would at home, so you should try to sleep when it goes dark and wake up in the morning in order to help your circadian rhythm adjust quicker to the new time zone that you’re in. If you struggle to sleep, you might want to try an eye mask and earplugs as these can help with a restful sleep and blocking out any distractions that might keep you awake. For morning time, you should set an alarm, as oversleeping can worsen the feeling of jet lag.
Melatonin for Jet Lag
Many people that travel to far away destinations choose to use melatonin to help them sleep at night in their destination country. Melatonin is naturally produced by our bodies at dusk, and sends signals to our brain that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. However, if you travel to a destination with different day and night schedules to where you’ve come from, it’s likely that you may need a little help with producing enough melatonin at night in the new time zone.
Circadin is a brand of melatonin supplement that can help some people with symptoms of jet lag. To use it to its full potential, you should avoid taking any stimulants such as recreational drugs or caffeine, and instead take a melatonin tablet around 1-2 hours before you’ll be going to bed in the new time zone in order to help your body adjust.
Melatonin works to its full potential if you avoid napping during the day, make sure you get plenty of natural daylight, and go to bed at a reasonable time at night.
Whilst melatonin isn’t indicated for jet lag, it can be prescribed off-label for travellers that need a little help with adjusting to their new surroundings in order to get over jet lag faster. Please note that our prescribers will only agree to you taking melatonin for jet lag if they believe that it is safe for you to do so and that it is in your best interests.
Buy Jet Lag treatment
Although there’s no specific treatment, you can buy melatonin for jet lag at Doctor4U before you fly. Please note that you must order whilst you’re within the UK, as we aren’t able to ship medications abroad.
You can buy melatonin as jet lag treatment by selecting Circadin PR (Jet Lag) and completing the associated medical consultation forms for our online prescribers. If they believe that it is safe for you, they’ll approve your request, issue a prescription, and your order will be dispatched and sent from our partner pharmacy.