Jet lag is a condition that affects the body when travelling over long distances and crossing several time zones. It is caused when the body struggles to adjust to the new time zone. It can produce a number of distressing symptoms, ranging from sleep disruption and feelings of tiredness to nausea and diarrhoea.
The body has an internal biological clock that regulates your daily routine. This is known as the body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is sensitive to night and day, regular eating habits, sleep patterns, body temperature, and digestion. When travelling over multiple time zones this natural body clock can be disrupted, leaving the circadian rhythm out of sync and needing to adjust. When the body struggles to adjust, jet lag occurs.
The risk of developing jet lag can be increased or exacerbated by:
- drinking alcohol or caffeine during a long flight
- sleep deprivation
- being over 60 years of age.
It is more common to suffer from jet lag when travelling east opposed to travelling west. When travelling east the body will need to adapt to a shorter day. Travelling west creates a longer day. Most people find it easier to stay awake for a few extra hours to adapt to the longer day than they would having to force themselves to sleep when encountering the shorter day.