Jet Lag Disorder : Symptoms, Causes and How long Does Jet lag Last

Last Update on June 13, 2023 : Published on June 13, 2023
jet lag disorders

We all struggle with jet lag when we enter a new time zone… but for a short time…right?? But do you travel frequently into multiple time zones? How long does your jet lag last…for a long time…right?? Well, there’s a science behind this…let me cover this for you in short.

Our body has a 24-hour internal sleep cycle which is known as the body clock or circadian rhythm that controls your waking and sleep cycle. Scientifically, it also depends on factors like hormones (melatonin) and sunlight that help our body clock to adjust to a new time zone. Basically, these factors and the body clock help us control our sleeping and waking time appropriately for the newly adapted time zone.

The jet lag disorder is related to our circadian rhythm; however, jet lags are temporary. According to psychology, jet lag disorders are temporary sleep disorders that are caused by traveling to multiple time zones rapidly. When our body mismatches with our internal body clock and new time zone, people struggle with the jet lag disorder.

When we cross different time zones, or body functions according to our previous time zone, and since our body is not able to catch up with the new time zone instantly, we are likely to experience jet lag.

In this blog, we’ll explore what jet lag disorder is, its symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention. So, let’s get started!

What is Jet Lag Disorder?

The jet lag disorder is a common type of short-term sleep disorder experienced when someone travels a long distance quickly or enters multiple time zones in a short period. It’s a short period of sleeping problems (also known as a circadian rhythm sleep disorder) that happens when our body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm takes time to adjust to the new sleeping schedules.

Jet lag disorder not only impacts our sleeping cycle but can also impact our body temperature, digestion, and hormones. In short, jet lag means the un-synchronized daylight-night-time schedule of your newly entered time zone.

Symptoms and Mental Health Impacts of Jet Lag

Below are some common symptoms (physical and mental) of jet lag disorder:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty waking up or falling asleep
  • Difficulty performing regular tasks
  • Disorientation
  • Deprived quality of sleep
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Irritation
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of interest
  • Lack of mental awareness
  • Lethargy
  • Mood swings
  • Stomach problems
  • Overall sickness

The fact is that jet lag disorders are not only physically tiring but not getting enough sleep can also take a toll on our overall wellbeing. Adjusting to new local times can be disorienting or confusing sometimes.

Additionally, when we cross multiple time zones in a short period, various bodily changes occur such as hormonal imbalance, heart rate fluctuations, blood pressure changes, digestive problems, and dysregulated body temperature.

Take This Quiz to Know What’s Your Sleep Like?

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Causes of Jet Lag

Scientifically, when we travel to a new time zone or multiple time zones in a short period, our body experiences difficulty in adjusting to the new time cycle due to the internal body clock that adjusts our waking and sleeping cycle. Consecutively, we experience sleeping issues. For example, we feel asleep during day time when we’re supposed to be regularly functioning or unable to sleep even when it’s dark outside.

Jet lag keeps on getting severe every time when we enter or cross a new time zone. According to geographical conditions, when we travel eastward, we tend to struggle with our sleeping schedule. When we travel westward, we tend to struggle with waking up at the desired local time schedule.

While jet lag disorder is common to experience, it can be worsened by various factors:

  • Alcohol use or extensive caffeine consumption
  • Chronic stress
  • Lack of proper sleep
  • Sitting in an uncomfortable position for a long period
  • Reduced air pressure while flying

The fact is that jet lag disorder also depends on some factors like age, sex, and other factors. For example, old people are more prone to experience jet lag disorders for a long period as compared to younger adults. Additionally, people who travel more (travelers, flight attendants, or pilots) frequently experience jet lag more as a part of their lifestyle.

Now, let us find out how long a jet lag disorder last so that we can learn about prevention and coping techniques more effectively.

How Long Does a Jet Lag Disorder Last?

To answer it directly, how long a jet lag disorder lasts totally depends on various factors such as how far you have traveled, how many continuous days you’re into traveling, or if your body is able to synchronize with the circadian rhythm or not.

Generally, people who cross time zones rapidly or continuously can feel its effect for weeks however, people who travel less can experience its effect for a shorter period of time (let’s say a few days) as compared to people who travel rapidly. For rapid travelers, jet lag stays for a long or up to a week as they need time to connect with their biological clock.

how long does jet lag last

Talking specifically about symptoms of jet lag disorders, they usually start disappearing  within a day or two after traveling to multiple time zones. However, in some cases, the symptoms are likely to progress when someone travels rapidly or does not allow the body to take rest. This mostly happens when someone flies in the east direction.

In cases of progressing symptoms, it is suggested to connect with a physician or physical health professional nearby. A physician or doctor might prescribe some medications or light therapy to combat with jet lag.

Light therapy helps your internal clock connect with the timer zone. Basically, it helps in adjusting to the new daylight schedule. This therapy is effective because it allows us to fall asleep and awake according to the newly adapted time zone.

To learn more about light therapy, refer to Best Light Therapy Lamps for Renewed Energy

Prevention and Coping Techniques for Jet Lag

Here’s how you can effectively cope and prevent jet lag disorder while flying or crossing multiple time zones in a short period:

1. Get in sync with new timings

If you are currently traveling or planning to travel in the future, it’s always the best idea to adjust your bedtime and meal time according to the new timing so that you can transition easily. Additionally, check the eastward and westward factors so that you can adjust effectively.

2. Expose yourself to the light

If you’ve just entered a new time zone, try to expose yourself to the light so that your body can get synced with the new circadian rhythm.

3. Avoid alcohol and eat regular meals

Most importantly, avoid alcohol, substance, and caffeine intake so that you can adjust to new timings and get proper sleep.

4. Stay hydrated and take short naps in the meanwhile

While traveling or entering a new time zone, keep yourself hydrated so as to remain mentally and physically alert. Additionally, take short naps in the meanwhile so that you can adjust to the new cycle and get proper sleep at the end of the day.

5. Set your watch and take complete rest after entering a new time zone

If you’re planning to travel, adjust your watch according to the new time zone so that you can make the transition easier. Additionally, if you’re going on a vacation, add one-day or 12 hours for rest in your itinerary to get along with the new time zone.

A Word from the Author

Jet lag disorder is one of the most common problems experienced by almost everyone. However, it can severely affect the elderly, children, travelers, or people whose occupations depend on traveling. If you are feeling moderate sleep disturbances or symptoms, you can try syncing to the new timings so that your body can understand the new routine.

If you’re planning to travel, you can prepare your body in advance so that you can enjoy your new time zone happily. Usually, a jet lag disorder lasts for a week, therefore, consider getting light therapy so that your body can connect with the new circadian rhythm.

Additionally, you can also try alternative remedies, such as taking melatonin as a sleep aid for those times when you’re typically resting or crossing multiple time zones rapidly. To understand more about doses and possible side effects of melatonin, connect with your healthcare provider.

I hope this blog helps you understand what jet lag disorders are and how to prevent them while entering a new time zone. For more such content, connect with us through all social media platforms.

Thanks for reading!

About The Author

Aayushi Kapoor
Aayushi Kapoor

Aayushi is a Content Creator at Calm Sage. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Food Technology and a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Her constant interest in the improvement of mental health, nutrition, and overall wellness embarked upon her career as a “full-time educational writer.” She likes to make an asynchronous connection with her readers. Her mantra for living life is "What you seek is seeking you".

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