Jet lag is a sleep disorder that affects people who travel across multiple time zones. It disrupts the body’s circadian rhythms. The more time zones crossed, the greater the discomfort.
Symptoms include fatigue, disorientation, disturbed sleep, and poor concentration.
Travel to the east causes more discomfort than travel to the west. Jet lag recovery takes one or two days. Changes in cabin pressure, caffeine, and alcohol worsen symptoms. Risk factors for jet lag include crossing multiple time zones, flying east, and multiple air trips.
A non-prescription medicine to ease jet lag is Melatonin. In addition, Zolpidem (Ambien), Eszopiclone (Lunesta), and Zaleplon (Sonata) are prescription medicines that induce sleep during flight. Side effects could include nausea and confusion. Make an appointment with your doctor to see if these medicines would be appropriate for you. Advil PM is an appropriate alternative.
When trying to reset the body clock to an earlier time, such as flying west, one of the above medicines should be taken in the morning.
Caffeinated beverages can offset daytime sleepiness. However, caffeine should be timed so that it doesn't make it more difficult to fall asleep or sleep well.
Be aware that alcohol taken with one of the above four medicines can cause dizziness, headache, loss of appetite, nausea and disorientation.
Most frequent fliers have a favorite jet lag cure or remedy to help them sleep. Some use aromatherapy, herbal supplements or other forms of complementary and alternative medicine. High protein foods improve alertness; carbohydrates help with sleep.
Jet lag can be prevented or alleviated. Consider arriving at your destination a day or two earlier to reduce symptoms. Get plenty of rest before departure. If traveling east, go to bed one hour earlier each night for a few days. Go to bed one hour later for several nights if you're flying west. Eat meals closer to the time you'll be eating at your destination.
Set your watch to the new time before you depart. After you arrive, try not to sleep till the local nighttime. Stay well hydrated. No, don’t overdo it with alcohol or coffee. Dehydration worsens jet lag.
When you begin the flight, try to sleep if it's nighttime at your destination. Earplugs, headphones and eye masks can help block noise and light. If it's daytime where you're arriving, resist the urge to sleep.
To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries. Aldous Huxley