Jet Lag: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Jet lag is a disturbance of sleep and wake cycles in the body caused by flying with planes and across one or more time zones. Crossing the time zone makes it difficult for someone to fall asleep, stay asleep, or stay awake during the day. The more time zones crossed, the higher the chance of experiencing jet lag.

Jet lag causes the body to feel tired during the day, difficulty focusing, feeling unwell, and digestive problems. Although this condition is temporary, it can interfere with activities. Now, after knowing what jet lag is? Read on to find out the causes, symptoms to how to treat jet lag.

Cause Jet lag

As a result of crossing two or more time zones causes interference with the circadian rhythm. Here are some conditions that cause jet lag:

1. Circadian Disorders

Jet lag occurs when someone crosses two or more time zones. This condition makes the internal clock or circadian rhythm, not in harmony with the time in a new place.

Jet lag is a condition that causes the body is not in harmony with a new place, for that the body needs several days to adjust, adjust the sleep and wake cycles, and other bodily functions, such as hunger and defecation.

2. Effects of Sunlight

The main impact on the internal clock is sunlight which affects melatonin, a hormone that helps align cells throughout the body. Certain cells in the tissue on the retina send light signals to an area of ​​the brain called the hypothalamus.

Low light signals at night, so the hypothalamus tells the pineal gland (a small organ in the brain) to release melatonin. During the day, the opposite is true and the pineal gland produces very little melatonin.

3. Aircraft Cabin Pressure and Atmosphere

Changes in aircraft cabin pressure and altitude related to air travel can cause jet lag symptoms. In addition, it is also caused by low levels of humidity on the plane.

If you don’t drink enough water during the flight, your body can become dehydrated. This condition can also cause jet lag symptoms.

Jet Lag Risk Factors

Here are some factors that increase a person’s risk of experiencing jet lag:

  • Number of Time Zones Crossed

The more time zones that are traversed, the more likely it is to experience jet-lag.

  • Fly to the East

When flying east, the number of days needed to recover from jet lag is about two-thirds of the time zones you cross. For example, if you pass through six time zones, it will take about 4 days to return to normal.

  • Age

The older a person is, the more severe the symptoms of jet lag, and the longer time it takes the body back in harmony. While children usually have milder symptoms, and recover faster.

  • Body Condition

Lack of sleep, stress, and poor sleep habits before traveling can worsen jet lag symptoms.

  • Flight Conditions

Monotonous air travel, immobility and cramped seating, airline food, altitude, and cabin pressure can affect the symptoms of jet lag.

  • Drink alcohol

Consuming excessive alcohol during long flights can worsen the symptoms of jet lag.

Jet Lag Symptoms

Jet lag usually appears within 12 hours of arriving at a new location and a different time zone. The symptoms will last a few days. Here are some of the most common jet lag symptoms:

  • Fatigue, fatigue, and lethargy
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Feeling a little confused
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Get angry quickly
  • Mild digestive problems (upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia

When to see a doctor?

Jet lag symptoms are mild for most people. If you experience more severe symptoms, such as cold sweats, vomiting, and fever, or may experience other conditions, such as contracting a virus, flu, and fear of heights. If the symptoms last more than 24 hours, you should immediately see a doctor to get the right treatment.

Jet Lag Diagnosis

The cause of jet lag is usually obvious, so there is no test for jet lag. If you have common symptoms of jet lag, medical treatment is not necessary.

If you have jet lag symptoms that last more than two weeks, chances are something else triggers insomnia. Your doctor may recommend an evaluation to check for other disorders.

How to treat jet lag

There has been no treatment for jet lag to date, but some lifestyle adjustments can help reduce the symptoms of jet lag. Here are some ways to overcome jet lag:

1. Physical Fitness and Health

People who remain physically fit, rest well, and eat a balanced diet seem to have fewer and less severe symptoms than someone who is less fit.

2. Control the underlying medical conditions

Existing medical conditions, such as lung disease, heart disease, or diabetes, can worsen symptoms. So, how to overcome jet lag by asking your doctor’s advice before making long-distance air travel.

Jet Lag Prevention

There are things you can do to reduce the effects of jet lag. Rest before the flight and try to take a walk during the flight so that you are not limited to narrow spaces for long periods of time. Drink lots of water, because the air on the plane tends to dry. Vitamins and herbal remedies that can be purchased without a doctor’s prescription can also try to help reduce jet lag.

Here are some ways to prevent jet lag:

  • Choose flights that arrive in the afternoon local time, so you can sleep before 11:00 at night
  • Prepare for a long flight to the east, by getting up and going to bed early for the previous few days. As for flights to the west, wake up and go to sleep later.
  • Change the clock to the destination time zone immediately after boarding the aircraft.
  • Stay active during the flight by doing exercises, stretching, and walking along the hallway (going to the toilet).
  • Use eye patch and earmuffs to help you sleep quickly during the afternoon trip. Sleep at night at your destination, and sleep for 20 minutes at other times, to reduce sleepiness.
  • Drink plenty of water during the flight, avoid caffeine and alcohol, to reduce dehydration.
  • When you arrive at your destination, avoid heavy food or strenuous exercise, spend better time outdoors in the sun, and sleep at normal time for the destination time zone.

The faster it adapts to the time zone at its destination, the faster the body’s clock will adapt to the new environment. People who travel regularly for work must ensure that they exercise regularly.


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