Jet lag occurs when traveling quickly over long distances east to west or west to east. It is most commonly associated with jet travel and it is where it gets its name. It can cause headaches, fatigue, irregular sleep, insomnia, disorientation, irritability, depression and mild stomach upset. We know that jet travel is the reason that jet lag occurs, but what actually causes this condition?
What is the cause of jet lag?
Jet lag is caused by the disruption of the body clock as it is out of synchronization with the unfamiliar time zone of the destination. The body experiences different patterns of light and dark than it is normally used to, which disrupts the natural sleep-wake cycle. It also disrupts the normal times for eating and regulation of hormones, which can also cause some symptoms of jet lag. The body struggles to realign all of these natural cycles and becomes jet lagged.
The severity of jet lag depends on the distance traveled as well as the individual. Some people are able to adjust to the new time zone quickly, while others can take several days. Jet lag does not usually occur unless more than two time zones have been crossed.
There are many reported ways to minimize jet lag, but not all are supported by scientific evidence. These include; taking melatonin (the hormone responsible for sleep-wake cycle), keeping hydrated and avoiding caffeine or alcohol, using light therapy, fasting, exposure to sunlight at the destination and even taking Viagra. If you are planning a long distance journey it is important to speak to your doctor about the best management plan.