Jet Leg Remedies

How to reduce the unwanted symptoms of time zone travel.

RNfinity | 15-07-2023

What is Jet Lag?

Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that occurs when there is a misalignment between a person's internal body clock (circadian rhythm) and the external time cues, such as time zone changes, experienced during long-distance travel. The scientific understanding of jet lag involves several key aspects, including circadian rhythm disruption, light exposure, and melatonin production.


What are Jet lag symptoms?


1)      Sleep disturbances, such as difficulty falling asleep or waking up too early.

2)      Daytime fatigue and decreased energy levels.

3)      Impaired cognitive function, making it challenging to concentrate or perform at normal levels.

4)      Gastrointestinal issues, like constipation or diarrhea.

5)      A general sense of malaise or feeling unwell.

6)      Mood changes, such as irritability, mood swings, or increased susceptibility to emotional fluctuations.

The severity and duration of symptoms tend to increase with greater travel distance. Generally, it takes approximately a day to recover from jet lag for each time zone crossed when traveling across at least two time zones.


Does the direction of travel matter?

 Flying around the Globe

Yes, the direction of travel can have an impact on the severity and duration of jet lag symptoms. Jet lag is typically more pronounced when traveling eastward compared to traveling westward. This is due to the disruption of the body's internal circadian rhythm and the challenges in adjusting to a new time zone.


When traveling eastward, you are advancing your body clock, which means you are trying to adjust to an earlier time zone. This can result in a more significant misalignment between your internal clock and the external time cues, leading to a more pronounced jet lag effect. It can be more challenging for your body to adapt to an earlier sleep-wake schedule, resulting in symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep at the desired local bedtime, morning fatigue, and sluggishness.


On the other hand, when traveling westward, you are delaying your body clock, which means you are trying to adjust to a later time zone. While jet lag symptoms can still occur, they tend to be less severe and easier to manage compared to traveling eastward. Adjusting to a later sleep-wake schedule may be more aligned with the natural tendency of the body to stay awake for longer periods, making it relatively easier to adapt.


The direction of travel matters because our bodies have an inherent circadian rhythm that is synchronized with the natural day-night cycle. Disrupting this synchronization by rapidly crossing time zones can lead to desynchronization between the internal body clock and the external environment. The body needs time to adjust and realign its sleep-wake patterns, hormone secretion, and other physiological processes with the new time zone, hence the occurrence of jet lag symptoms.


It's important to note that individual factors, such as age, overall health, sleep habits, and coping strategies, can also influence how someone experiences jet lag, regardless of the direction of travel.


Top 10 remedies for Jet Lag?


1)      Light therapy: Bright light exposure, particularly in the morning, has shown promising results in adjusting circadian rhythms and reducing jet lag symptoms. Burgess, H. J. (2019). Resetting the clock: The role of circadian rhythm induction in the treatment of jet lag. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 43, 101-110. [PubMed ID: 30193739]


2)      Melatonin supplementation: Taking melatonin before bedtime can help regulate sleep-wake cycles and reduce the severity of jet lag symptoms. Effect sizes from clinical trials have shown significant improvement in sleep quality and adjustment to new time zones. Herxheimer, A., & Petrie, K. J. (2002). Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lag. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2002(2), CD001520. [PubMed ID: 12076414]



3)      Sleep schedule adjustment: Gradually shifting sleep schedules before travel to align with the destination time zone can aid in minimizing the impact of jet lag. Waterhouse, J., Reilly, T., & Atkinson, G. (2007). Jet lag: Trends and coping strategies. The Lancet, 369(9567), 1117-1129. [PubMed ID: 17398310]



4)      Avoiding alcohol and caffeine: Alcohol and caffeine can disrupt sleep patterns and exacerbate jet lag symptoms. Avoiding or minimizing their consumption during and after travel can have a positive effect on reducing jet lag severity. Van Reen, E., Roane, B. M., Barker, D. H., McGeary, J. E., Borsari, B., & Carskadon, M. A. (2010). Dose-response relationship between sleep duration and human psychomotor vigilance and subjective alertness. Sleep, 33(7), 901-909. [PubMed ID: 20614860]


5)      Hydration: Staying adequately hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after travel can help alleviate jet lag symptoms, particularly those related to dehydration. Reilly, T., & Waterhouse, J. (2009). Altered sleep-wake cycles and food intake: The Ramadan model. Physiology & Behavior, 97(2), 277-282. [PubMed ID: 19427301]


6)      Physical activity: Engaging in regular exercise and physical activity, particularly during daylight hours in the new time zone, can help adjust circadian rhythms and promote better sleep. Youngstedt, S. D., & Kline, C. E. (2006). Epidemiology of exercise and sleep. Sleep Medicine Clinics, 1(3), 407-422. [PubMed ID: 17561633]



7)      Short naps: Strategic short naps during the day can help combat fatigue and improve alertness. Napping for 20-30 minutes has been shown to be effective in improving cognitive function and reducing sleepiness. : Milner, C. E., & Cote, K. A. (2009). Benefits of napping in healthy adults: Impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Journal of Sleep Research, 18(2), 272-281. [PubMed ID: 19413647]


8)      Dietary adjustments: Consuming meals that align with the local time zone, particularly focusing on regular meals at appropriate times, can assist in resetting the body's internal clock. Evidence on effect size is limited, and individual preferences and tolerance should be considered. Pot, G. K., Almoosawi, S., & Stephen, A. M. (2016). Meal patterns and timing: Implications for cardiovascular disease prevention: A review from the British Nutrition Foundation. Nutrition Bulletin, 41(2), 96-128. [PubMed ID: 27152178]


9)      Prescription medications: In some cases, prescription medications such as hypnotics or stimulants may be used under medical supervision to manage sleep and alertness during travel. Pandi-Perumal, S. R., Srinivasan, V., & Cardinali, D. P. (2006). Jet lag: Therapeutic use of melatonin and possible application of melatonin analogs. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, 4(1-2), 65-81. [PubMed ID: 16377295]


10)   Acupuncture: Some studies have suggested that acupuncture may help alleviate jet lag symptoms, although the evidence is limited. Choi, T. Y., Kim, J. I., Lim, H. J., & Lee, M. S. (2018). Acupuncture for managing jet lag: A systematic review protocol. BMJ Open, 8(7), e022928. [PubMed ID: 30049661]


The effectiveness of these interventions can vary among individuals, and additional research is needed to establish precise effect sizes for each intervention. It is advisable to consult with healthcare professionals for personalized recommendations and to determine the most appropriate interventions for specific circumstances.


In clinical studies of interventions for jet lag, treatment outcomes are typically measured using various subjective and objective measures. The specific measures used can vary depending on the study design, intervention being investigated, and the focus of the research. Here are some commonly used measures in clinical studies of interventions for jet lag:


Sleep parameters: Sleep quality, duration, and efficiency are often assessed using subjective reports (e.g., sleep diary, questionnaires) and objective measures such as polysomnography (PSG) or