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What Causes Jet Lag and How to Fight it

Updated on November 20, 2010

The friendly skies may bring bad surprises upon arrival

Fighting jet lag
Fighting jet lag | Source

Whether your are traveling for purposes related to your work, for leisure, or to simply embrace a loved one far away, your primary goal is to arrive fresh at your destination. Unfortunately though, an invisible enemy can put  quite a dent into all your business planning or leisure expectations. The invisible enemy awaiting your arrival is medically known as ''  as desynchronosis','  or  in layman terms ''jet lag''.

A Look At What Causes Jet Lag

Jet lag takes place when a de-synchronisation between your internal rhythms and external environmental rhythms takes place. In more simple words, your internal body clock becomes out of synchronization with the local time of your destination. This explains why once you settle in your new place and get ready to enjoy a nice and deserved restoring night of sleep, you find yourself tossing and turning at 4 AM in the morning. 

Not everybody however will suffer jet lag on their next flight across different time zones. Whether or not you will be affected by jet lag depends on where you are traveling and your over all condition. Seasoned travelers generally know how to fight jet lag and prepare themselves days or weeks ahead. You can prepare yourself well too once you better understand why jet lag occurs in the first place.

We all have an internal body clock that yes, works around the clock.  This sophisticated body clock obtains information about light, and therefore day time, from the eyes but also from registering temperature and humidity. It is basically to put it simply,  powered by the environment surrounding us.

When you arrive at your destination, after traveling across several time zones, you will likely adjust your wrist watch to reflect the local time. While you can easily do this by turning the hands of your watch and setting it to your new time, your body will need some more adjustment. Now, this explains why you were tossing and turning at 4 Am in the morning when outside it was still dark. While it is 4 AM in the morning, your body and mind may still believe that it is 8 PM, the time of the place you left behind!

Interesting Facts About Jet Lag and How to Fight it

Interestingly, depending on your destination jet lag may hit you in a different way. Generally, the more time zones are crossed, the more your circadian rhythms will be put of sync and the more severe the symptoms.  According to the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  ''Eastward travel is associated with difficulty in falling asleep at the new bed-time and difficulty arising in the morning, whereas westward travel is associated with early evening sleepiness and predawn awakening''. Also, it appears that those traveling eastward end up having more difficulties and requiring more time for adaptation.

Typically, the body responds to getting out of synchrony with a variety of tell tale signs. According to Mayo Clinic staff, jet lag sufferers may expect symptoms ranging from daytime fatigue, difficulty staying alert, to even feeling unwell and developing gastrointestinal problems. The duration of such symptoms may last a few days but could be disruptive enough to ruin plans.

While jet lag may be annoying to deal with the good news is that it is just temporary. Generally, no  treatment is required even though in some cases, doctors may prescribe medications to help you sleep during your flight and the nights afterward. Light therapy may be helpful in some cases.

If you will be traveling any time soon, you may not be able to prevent jet lag totally, but you may take action and make your body better prepared . Keep yourself in top shape days prior to your travel date, eat well and try your best to respect the new times of your new destination, recommends the Centers for Disease Control. Your body may not adjust to time as quickly as your wrist watch, but it may be able to withstand its deleterious effects.


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