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Home / Travel Health / Jet Lag

Jet Lag

Jet lag causes, symptoms, and available treatments

If you're about to go on holiday or a business trip, the last thing you want to worry about is jet lag. This is a common condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender, who travels through multiple time zones in a short period of time.

Whether it's a holiday or business trip, jet lag can be treated effectively with medication. To order this from HealthExpress, we ask that you complete a free online consultation — this will be checked by one of our doctors. If approved, we will then dispatch your order with free next-day delivery.

Dr. Kok Ching Ng
Content reviewed on 29-08-20
Dr. Kok Ching Ng
Prescribing Doctor
MBBS, MRCP Diploma (GMC Reg: 2378125)

Available Treatment(s)

Melatonin
  • Tolerable jet lag tablets
  • Reduces symptoms quickly
  • Speeds up recovery time
View Treatments
 

What is jet lag?

Jet lag is an extremely common condition that is an often unavoidable consequence of long distance air travel. Flying through different time zones disrupts your natural body clock, which controls things like your sleep patterns and when you get hungry. When this disruption occurs, your body may take some time to adjust, causing you to experience associated symptoms. Such symptoms include drowsiness and a general lack of energy. These symptoms tend to become more pronounced as more time zones are passed through.

What are the causes of jet lag?

In simple terms, jet lag is caused when an individual travels through several time zones via air travel. This occurs because of the disruption to your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm, commonly referred to as the body clock, maintains your body's natural routines, such as when you want to eat and sleep. Your body depends on this routine to function properly, and an integral part of it is when your body is exposed to light and darkness throughout a 24-hour cycle.

Travelling through time zones so quickly, as is the case with air travel, disrupts this regular rhythm. Your body needs time to adjust to the change. Factors, such as whether you travel east or west, and oxygen levels in the aeroplane, are also believed to have an effect.

A quick summary of the causes of jet lag including contributing factors include:

  • weakened immune system
  • Adjusting to a new time zone

  • circadian rhythm
  • Disruption of circadian rhythm

  • travelling eastwards
  • Travelling eastwards

  • dehydration
  • Dehydration

  • cabin pressure
  • Changes in cabin pressure

  • stress levels
  • Increased stress levels

What are the symptoms of jet lag?

The main symptoms of jet lag are easily identifiable and may vary from person to person, but are commonly associated with lack of sleep or sleep disturbance. They include:

  • Disturbed sleep pattern
  • Exhaustion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability

However, some of the less commonly known symptoms can include:

  • Indigestion
  • Bowel issues
  • Nausea/loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Muscle soreness
  • Irregular periods in women who travel frequently

It is suggested that jet lag often gets worse the further you travel and the more time zones you cross. This in fact may extend the amount of time taken to recover and reset the body clock to its original setting.


  • symptomsDisturbed sleep pattern
  • symptomsExhaustion
  • symptomsDifficulty concentrating
  • symptomsIncreased iritability
  • symptomsAnxiety
  • symptomsSweating
  • symptomsHeadache
  • symptomsIndigestion

What are the benefits of treating jet lag?

Treating jet lag is important, as it means you can get back to your normal self as quickly as possible. Whilst the symptoms of jet lag usually only last around 2 days, some people experience disturbed sleep for a lot longer. That's why it's often very helpful to get your jet lag under control via treatment. Other benefits include:

  • Behavioural normalisation
  • Restored sleeping pattern
  • Returned appetite

What treatments are there for jet lag?

The hormone known as melatonin, which is produced naturally in the body, plays an important role in regulating when you sleep and when you feel awake. The effects of jet lag can be reduced when this hormone is increased which will then promote sleep and help to restore your natural circadian rhythm, to the new time zone, when you travel. Hexpress Healthcare sell Melatonin tablets which you can take for up to 5 nights in order to combat your symptoms of jet lag.

Additionally there are other methods which work well for some people to alleviate the symptoms of jet lag.

Natural sunlight

If you expose yourself to the sun as much as possible as soon as you arrive in a new travel zone, it can help the body reset its internal clock. Going outside for a while or just opening the window can help you to adjust to the time zone.

Light therapy

This is similar to the treatment with sunlight, but is most effective in regions where there is/will be minimal sunlight. As the body's circadian rhythm is influenced by exposure to light, light therapy can help ease the transition in a new location. By exposing your eyes to bright artificial lighting you can simulate when you're meant to be awake and vice versa.

Exercise

This has been found to have some impact on the body's adjustment to a new time zone. By participating in moderate exercise outdoors, exposure to sunlight can provide a double treatment for jet lag.

Homeopathic remedies

There are some homeopathic treatments that are available to treat jet lag. However, as with most treatments of this nature there is no clinical evidence that they are effective in their application.

Some of the ingredients that are used in homeopathic treatments include:

  • Arnica
  • Bellis perennis
  • Chamomilla
  • Ipecacuanha
  • Lycopodium

How can you prevent jet lag?

There is no way to guarantee that you will not get jet lag, but it is possible to reduce its effects, if you are prepared. Following a jet lag prevent plan will help you to reduce your risk of jet lag.

Before you travel, you can prepare for the sleep disruption by going to bed either an hour earlier, or an hour later, depending on your direction of travel. Try to reduce the stress that can be related to air travel, as this can worsen jet lag symptoms. Checking in online, for example, can be a helpful way of reducing flight-related stress and anxiety. During the flight itself, make sure you are well hydrated and try to keep your alcohol and caffeine intake limited.

There are a few things you can do when you get to your destination that can help with jet lag symptoms. These include:

  • Establishing a new routine in the new time zone.
  • Try not to sleep when you arrive, as this can prevent your body from adapting
  • Spending time outside is recommended

To discover more about preventing jet lag effectively, you can click our infographic below to enlarge the information.

Travel health infographic: How to beat jet lag

What do HealthExpress offer for jet lag?

Melatonin-based treatments can regulate when you sleep and when you feel awake, which can reduce the symptoms associated with jet lag significantly and improve your sleeping pattern throughout your travels. We offer Melatonin to help you combat jet lag when you travel. You can buy this treatment here at HealthExpress after you have completed our free online consultation.

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