Causes and Remedies for Jet Lag

by Diane Kelly

Physiological processes of all living beings like animals and plants work on a 24-hour rhythm, one complete cycle per day. We call it our “body clock”. When you pass through a number of time zones in a short period of time, say from Houston to New York, your body clock loses its sync. It cannot adjust to the destination’s daylight-darkness cycle quickly enough. The result is that you feel disoriented or jet-lag.

A jet lagged person can become depressive, irritable and finds it difficult to concentrate. His sleep pattern may get disturbed; he may lose appetite and at times may feel dehydrated. Condition of swollen feet may also develop.

You can become jet lagged when you travel across one or more time zones, not simply because you have spent more time on journey or you have traveled a long distance. A journey from Frankfurt to New York may cause jet lag because it goes across multiple time zones. And yet jet lag is not experienced after a journey from Frankfurt to Johannesburg because it is within the same time zone. Long journeys within the same time zones may give you cramps but not jet lag.

Of course not everyone gets jet lagged to the same extent. Generally older persons are found to suffer less from jet lag as compared to younger ones. Moreover, it is found that women in the reproductive age group are more susceptible to suffer from jet lag. It depends to a large extent on the personal physiological adjustability of each individual person. People who know they normally get jet lagged can take some precautions to avoid severity of discomfort from jet lag.

Prior to your flight get a good night’s sleep. Avoid embarking on the journey under strain; try to spend some relaxed time prior to the flight. Drink alcohol in moderation on the aircraft and, as always, DRINK PLENTY OF WATER. (Aren’t you tired of hearing that?) Get some light exercise such as walking up and down the aisle and a little stretching will help. Remove your shoes and try to stretch your feet, wiggle your toes some.

You can find many “anti jet lag” suggestions. Act on them with caution. Do not take sleeping pills to get over jet lag as some people may suggest; it may have rather unpleasant consequences. There are anti jet lag diets on the market. Efficacy apart, it is such a cumbersome remedy that it turns out to be not a very practical solution. An OTC (over the counter) homeopathic drug is available which is said to be effective and being homeopathic medicine it is stated to be free of side effects.

Drugs such as Melatonin are advertised as an anti jet lag drug; but you have to start taking it at specific times a few days prior to the journey and continue taking it for a few days after completion of the journey. Its anti jet lag claims are not really supported by research. On the contrary it may lead to worsening of the jet lag symptoms. In fact in UK Melatonin is banned altogether.

A jet lagged condition may carry on for many days. Recovery from jet lag at the rate of “one day per time zone” is considered quite reasonable. The easiest methods for rapid recovery are relaxation, good sleep, sensible diet and moderate exercise. No fun at all for a vacation. This is what you have to do at home. Give it go anyway and attempt to have fun. Bon voyage!

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