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Jet Lag: causes, symptoms and remedies to prevent and relieve it

Jet Lag: causes, symptoms and remedies to prevent and relieve it

June 17, 2024

Jet Lag is a temporary sleep disorder, very common among people who travel through different time zones in a short period of time. It is characterized by symptoms that are transient and that usually diminish naturally.

However, as a result of the great mobility that characterizes our current societies, science has investigated a lot about its effects as well as some ways to remedy it. Then we explain what Jet Lag is (and why it is called that), how long it usually lasts, what are symptoms and what remedies exist.

What is Jet Lag?

The Jet Lag is a Temporary Disorder of the Circadian Sleep Rhythms (CRSDs are its abbreviations in English), also known like "Disorder of Offload of Schedule", that usually affects the people who travel through different time zones in a short time.


It is known as "Jet Lag" for the Anglo-Saxon terms "airplane" and "delay", which more or less could be translated in the expression: "jet lag for traveling by plane". This is because the most common case is precisely that of having made a plane trip from one country to another, whose time difference is significant (from east to west, or vice versa).

However, the Jet Lag can also be produced by car trips through the same time zone, but that modify our waking and rest schedules. For example, if a trip is made throughout the night.

Even some of its symptoms can be presented without the need to travel, if our daily activities require us to modify significantly the schedules in which we activate and fall asleep.


It is characterized by some symptoms related to the physical and mental performance, for example, difficulties to sleep (in the schedules that the place of destination accustoms), which at the same time causes a lot of fatigue and fatigue, little energy especially during the day, and feeling less alert or less attentive

Generally all these symptoms are transient, however, if it is a person who has the need to make long journeys constantly, the Jet Lag can cause more severe sleep disorders, as well as some alterations in cognitive functions and even other damages for health related to the gastrointestinal system, especially as the traveler's age increases.

Main causes

As we have seen, the cause of Jet Lag is having traveled long distances in a short time, which implies a significant change in the hours of wakefulness and rest.


The latter is due to the fact that our "biological clock" is exposed to a very drastic modification that can not be quickly assimilated. Specifically, our circadian rhythms are affected, which are the changes that occur in our organism according to external natural cycles, for example, as light and darkness change.

Thus, the Jet Lag results from strong changes in the internal rhythms of our body, not being accustomed to sleep in the day and night cycles of the destination. Although they are very drastic changes, the body can get used to it naturally with the passage of a few days. In this process, there is a hormone that plays a very important role: melatonin.

Remedies and treatment

While our circadian rhythms are quite flexible, Jet Lag decreases on its own, without the need to carry a specific treatment . It is estimated that for every hour of difference between the country of origin and the country of destination, the agency takes an entire day to recover, although this may vary according to the body of each person, as well as according to the specific path that It has been followed.

Our circadian rhythms are regulated by a gland in the center of the brain of all vertebrates, which is responsible for organizing various physiological and neurological processes. This is the pineal gland.

This gland produces and secretes a hormone called melatonin, which plays a central role in the regulation of sleep rhythms.

1. Functions and benefits of melatonin

Among other things, melatonin favors our organism to synchronize with external natural cycles (with light and dark), which influences the time it takes to sleep and keep us awake or at rest.

For this reason, it has been a substance recently investigated. Some studies have found that melatonin helps to "reset" the biological clock , that is to say, it favors the synchronization of the circadian rhythms with the schedules of the place of destination.

Being a hormone whose production is inhibited by light, and is stimulated in the dark, the intake of melatonin has more effects when during the night. In fact, taking melatonin during the day can have the opposite effect (again making it harder for circadian rhythms to synchronize with external natural cycles).

Melatonin has gained much popularity in recent times, so it can be found in the presentation of tablets or capsules, although there are many foods that favor its natural production within the body, such as rice, oats, corn, tomatoes or bananas. .

Recommendations to prevent it

It is important to take the rest hours that the body asks us It may even work to take a whole day of rest before starting with the tasks or activities that we have planned.

On trips from west to east it is advisable to extend the days and avoid the light in the morning; unlike trips made from east to west where it is preferable to avoid any kind of light at night.

Bibliographic references:

  • Sack, R., Auckley, D., Auger, R., et. to the. (2007). Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders: Part I, Basic Principles, Shift Work and Jet Lag Disorders. SLEEP, 30 (11): 1460-1483.
  • Davidson, A.J., Sellix, M.T., Yamazaki, M., et al. (2006). Chronic jet-lag increases mortality in aged mice. Current Biology, 16 (2): R914-R916.
  • Herxheimer, A. & Petrie, K. (2002). Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lag. Cochrane Common Mental Disorders Group. DOI: 10.1002 / 14651858.CD001520
  • Petrie, J., Conaglen, L. & Thompson, Ch. (1989). Effect of melatonin on jet lag after long haul flights. The BJM, 298: 705 doi: //doi.org/10.1136/bmj.298.6675.705

Jet Lag - Patient Education Video (June 2024).


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