Jet lag is caused by flying in an airplane and crossing one
or more time zones, such as traveling east to west or west to east. Crossing
time zones disrupts the body's biological "clock," or 24-hour rhythms (circadian rhythms). Sleep patterns are one of these
rhythms. Jet travel across time zones may make it hard for you to fall asleep
or stay asleep at night and stay awake during the day. Jet lag also can cause
fatigue, irritability, and indigestion.
The symptoms of jet lag
may take from one to several days to go away. Jet lag usually lasts longer when
you fly east than when you fly west.
Melatonin is a hormone the body makes
that regulates the cycle of sleeping and waking. It is not known if taking melatonin to help
"reset" your sleep and wake cycle helps with jet lag.
There are other things you can do to decrease
the effects of jet lag. Be rested before you leave, and try to walk around
during the flight so that you are not confined to cramped spaces for long
periods of time. Do not drink alcohol, but drink lots of water, because the air
in airplanes tends to be dry. Vitamins and herbal remedies that can be bought
without a prescription can also be tried to help reduce jet lag. Going outdoors
during the day may help fight jet lag by resetting your circadian
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.