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The Simple Definition of Jet Lag, and How to Cope With It

Thanks to air travel, we are able to move around quickly, even over very long distances. But, unfortunately, these flights may have some unpleasant consequences, like a feeling that is commonly known as jet lag.

At 5-Minute Crafts, we decided to find out what jet lag is and what causes it.

What jet lag is

Jet lag, also called jet lag disorder, is a sleep problem that occurs after traveling across multiple zones. There are several symptoms of this condition, and you may have only one or all of them at once.

  • Disturbed sleep, like insomnia or, conversely, excessive sleepiness
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Stomach problems, like constipation or diarrhea
  • A general feeling of not being well
  • Mood swings

Jet lag causes more severe symptoms if you are traveling east than if you are traveling west. This is explained by the fact that it’s easier for our body to adapt to staying up late than to going to bed earlier than we usually do.

Usually, the symptoms of jet lag appear in the first 2 days after a flight, and they are worse the more time zones you cross. You should cross at least 2 time zones to experience any of them. It usually takes as many days to recover as the number of time zones you’ve crossed.

What causes this

Your body has its own internal clock, known as a circadian rhythm, and it signals the body when to go to bed and when to wake up. After quickly crossing several time zones, this internal clock remains synchronized with the time zone you live in.

This also explains why we may have problems with our stomach — we tend to feel hungry at a certain time, and if we have to go to bed at this time, digestive problems may arise.

Sunlight also plays a key role in jet lag. That’s because light influences the regulation of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and synchronizes the work of cells throughout the body. When we find ourselves in a new environment with a different day and night cycle, this can cause problems.

How to cope with jet lag

There are a few simple tips to follow that can help you cope with jet lag.

  • Spend more time in the sun. Daylight will help your body recognize that it’s time to be awake.
  • Avoid unfamiliar foods. Create comfortable conditions for your body and don’t eat foods that are new to you.
  • Drink lots of fluids. Dehydration can worsen jet lag symptoms.
  • Try to sleep on the plane — it will help you adjust to the new time zone faster.
  • If possible, try to gradually adjust your schedule before departure. Try to go to bed an hour earlier or later (depending on which direction you are flying) a few days before the flight and have meals closer to the time you’ll be having them at your destination.

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