Whether traveling for the holidays, business, or simply a week-long getaway, jet lag can happen to the best of us when traveling across time zones.
Jet lag disorder is a type of temporary sleep disorder that occurs when flying on a plane. It does not happen to everyone that flies, only usually to those that travel a long distance very quickly, and experience multiple time zones.
It can affect your body’s internal clock and circadian rhythms, which makes it difficult to determine when you should be awake and when you should be sleeping. The more time zones you pass during your flight, the more this is going to affect you. Here are some things to know about jet lag disorder and how to cope with it.
What Causes Jet lag?
The main cause of jet lag is a disruption to your body’s internal clock, also known as your circadian rhythms. These rhythms help to regulate a normal sleep-wake cycle, when you know naturally when to sleep and when to be awake.
When you have the nearly the same hours every day of the week, your body instantly knows when it is time to sleep. However, when you travel over different time zones, the clock might say one time, but your body thinks it is an entirely different time.
There may also be a link between the pressure and atmosphere in an airplane and getting jet lag, though the primary cause is due to your circadian rhythms being affected during your flight. Some of the other risk factors of jet lag include being an older adult, flying East as you are losing hours of time, and flying frequently.
What Are the Signs?
Disturbed sleep is only one of the signs and symptoms you will experience if you are dealing with jet lag disorder. It can also cause excessive sleepiness during the day and daytime fatigue, stomach problems like diarrhea and abdominal cramps, menstrual issues in women, not feeling well, muscle soreness, and problems concentrating or focusing. The farther you travel and more time zones you pass, the worse these symptoms typically are.
How Can You Treat it?
While jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that may go away on its own when you return home, there are also some things you can do to cope with it. The first thing to do is get sunlight. The sunlight and darkness of the day and night are what help to trigger your circadian rhythms. If you get sunlight, you may notice your body understands it is time to be awake, and that can help with the daytime fatigue. An alternative to sunlight is getting bright light therapy to re-start your body’s internal clock.
There are also some medications you can take for jet lag, including sleeping aids like Lunesta, Ambien or Sonata. Additional medications may be prescribed to help with your other symptoms, like nausea and constipation.
Natural remedies may also help you sleep when you need to and stay awake during the day with jet lag. These include melatonin, chamomile, valerian root, and passion flower. Talk to your doctor about natural remedies for treating jet lag disorder.
Can it be Prevented?
While you may not be able to prevent jet lag every time, there are some things you can do to lower your risk. They include:
- Getting enough rest before your trip to reduce the effects of jet lag.
- Arrive early so you can catch up much-needed sleep and reduce how severe your jet lag is during your vacation.
- Getting regular light or sunlight exposure.
- Starting a new sleep-wake schedule gradually before your trip.
- Staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet.
In addition, while sleeping on the plane at night won’t be nearly as comfortable as your PlushBeds natural latex mattress, it may help you deal with jet lag.
Jet lag disorder can be frustrating when your body is having trouble distinguishing day from night. These tips can help you cope with it and hopefully prevent it in the future.
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