Jet lag is a common issue that primarily impacts those flying through multiple time zones. With symptoms like fatigue, digestive upset, and changes in mood, jet lag can feel pretty debilitating when it strikes.
Today, we’re here to explore everything you need to know about jet lag so that you can recover — fast.
What Is Jet Lag?
It is exciting to travel, especially to new places. Whether it is for work or pleasure, there are vital pieces of information to be aware of to prepare for travels and be proactive regarding jet lag.
Jet lag is more common when you are traveling long distances, especially when flying east as opposed to traveling west. Every person is unique when it comes to the way flying affects them, whether it be a long-haul flight or not. Jet lag may not have the same effects on every individual, and some people may not be impacted by jet lag at all.
However, when jet lag does strike, the side effects can last for a few days — or even a few weeks.
We want to support you in armoring yourself with the necessary knowledge to minimize the effects of jet lag. Some strategies may even help you avoid jet lag in the first place so that you can fully enjoy your experience without any downsides. Let’s get into it.
What Causes Jet Lag?
Jet lag is the result of a few factors that work together. Gaining a better understanding of why jet lag happens can help you be more prepared for any symptoms. Here are three of the main elements to be on the lookout for:
Circadian Rhythm Disruptions
When you fly and cross two or more time zones, it changes the sleep-wake cycle that your body is used to. In normal conditions, your body’s internal clock syncs with the hours of daylight in your home location.
Flying changes the amount of sunlight you receive, which affects your body clock. When you enter your new time zone, your internal clock temporarily remains synced with your home location.
Exposure to Sunlight
The sun helps our bodies regulate our circadian rhythm, or internal clock, because of its effect on melatonin production.
With some planning, you may be able to more easily adjust to the local time in your new location by receiving sunlight — as long as you make sure to get some sun during the day, rather than in the evening. We will review more on what melatonin is and its vital role in beating jet lag by regulating your sleep schedule later on
As the plane shifts and the cabin pressure fluctuates, you may experience symptoms of nausea, headaches, and irritability.
Similarly, there is less oxygen in the cabin as the plane reaches higher altitudes. This, too, may contribute to feelings of jet lag.
What Are the Symptoms of Jet Lag?
The symptoms of jet lag can vary from person to person. You might experience none of these symptoms, one of them, or many of them.
Pay attention to how you feel after a flight and check back with this list to notice if any of these symptoms are highlighted for you:
- Sleep Cycle Irregularities: These irregularities could include insomnia, oversleeping, or waking up in the middle of the night or in the early morning. Any of these symptoms could make it hard to get a good night’s sleep.
- Daytime Sluggishness: If you feel fatigued after traveling, you could be experiencing this symptom of jet lag.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Since your circadian rhythm may be off, you might have a challenging time concentrating and focusing on tasks.
- Digestive Issues: It can be hard enough to maintain proper nutrition while you are traveling. Add time differences into the equation, and your digestion may really take a hit. Nausea, diarrhea, and constipation are a few symptoms you might experience in your new destination.
- Overall Discomfort: Jet lag can also cause more general feelings of illness. If you generally do not feel quite like yourself, this, too, may indicate jet lag.
How Can I Prevent Jet Lag?
Jet lag can be exhausting and uncomfortable. Fortunately, taking certain steps may help you avoid it.
There is typically a low level of humidity during air travel, and making sure you drink enough water while traveling is critical to prevent dehydration. While you are traveling, you may also want to try to avoid alcohol and caffeine, as they are known to dehydrate the body.
Sleep on Your Flight
Any sleep on the flight can aid you in getting through that first day of jet lag. The goal is to stay awake the first day of your arrival and make sure you can go to sleep during the night in your new timezone.
Rearrange Your Schedule
Be sure to check the time difference between your new location and your previous location before traveling.
Rearranging your schedule to be more aligned with your new timezone can help you regulate your body more quickly by syncing with the daylight hours.
Be Mindful of Naps
If you are able to nap on the plane, that’s great! That is actually recommended.
However, you want to be mindful of arriving at your destination and taking a nap. A small nap will generally be fine, but naps can be counterproductive and may throw you off in reaching a better sleep-wake cycle in the new timezone.
It is ideal for you to get plenty of rest before your trip. This way, when you get to your new destination, you can stay active until it is nighttime so that your circadian rhythm can catch up.
Once you arrive, do your best to stay active during the day. If that means you need to have something planned out ahead of time to make sure you remain functioning that first day, then do so.
Bring the Essentials
Jet lag can sometimes affect our immune systems and lead to an overall feeling of tiredness. It can be difficult to travel without having everything from home at your fingertips.
We recommend packing a few things that may be helpful if you start to experience any jet lag.
Bring your vitamins. Sometimes when we are traveling, we may not receive all of the essential minerals and nourishment that we do on a normal day. Pack something that can give you a boost if you end up needing it.
Maintain Proper Nutrition
It is actually recommended to eat light when you are traveling for your body to adjust more quickly to the new timezone. This helps you get on the normal meal schedule of the new time zone you have entered.
Use Melatonin to Your Advantage
We all have cells in our retinas that send light into the hypothalamus in the brain.
At night, there is naturally not as much light, so the hypothalamus tells the pineal gland to release melatonin. The opposite is also true — the pineal gland releases less melatonin during the day. In the first day or so in your new destination, it may be beneficial for you to use melatonin in the evening to help your body go to sleep at the proper times.
Be Prepared for the Plane
In order to get any rest on the plane, you may want to bring earplugs, an eye mask, and a neck pillow. It would also be beneficial to bring healthy snacks, since traveling can cause us to eat a poorer diet than what we are used to at home.
If you feel sleep medicine is an essential traveling item, let us introduce to you the below products. ASYSTEM has two different kinds of sleep gummies since some people prefer a sleep aid with or without melatonin, depending on how the body responds to it.
Our Sleep Gummies with Melatonin can help you fall asleep faster and allow you to wake up rejuvenated without the grogginess associated with some other sleep aids. It also has benefits to help calm the mind. This gummy contains:
- Safr-Inside™. Clinically proven Persian saffron that encourages adequate sleep, decreases anxiety, and helps to improve overall emotional health.
- Melatonin. We learned how this naturally occurring hormone is produced in the body, but sometimes our body needs extra support to produce the necessary amounts for our sleep cycles.
- Chamomile. Here we have an antioxidant that connects to the brain via receptors to assist us in feeling sleepy.
- Passionflower. This herb is wonderful for sleep support and reducing anxiety. It is known for having a calming and relaxing effect.
- Holy Basil. This ingredient is an adaptogen that supports our immune system and respiratory tract and relaxes any irritations and discomfort.
- Lion's Mane. There is so much we can say about this mushroom. It is an antioxidant that can help enhance our brain performance while also being anti-inflammatory.
- Rhodiola. Feeling any mental fatigue? This herb can support you in turning that around, as it promotes and supports a balanced sense of well-being.
- Lemon Balm. This smell-good herb is known to have sedative properties while also supporting our brain function and improving our overall mood.
- Night Terpene Blend. We have four terpenes in this blend - Myrcene, Linalool, Terpinolene, and Phytol. These can assist you in falling asleep more quickly and waking up feeling refreshed. Terpenes are known to support stress relief and a calm mind.
It is best to take one delicious gummy around 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. You may notice the powerhouse of herbs working in your body immediately to prepare you for the ultimate sleep of your life.
Our Melatonin-Free Sleep Gummies have all the same ingredients and directions for usage — except for one thing. The melatonin.
Instead, we use L-Tryptophan, an essential amino acid that can help us synthesize serotonin, which is beneficial for a good night's sleep.
Jet lag can impact those traveling long distances or across several time zones. Symptoms can include sleep disturbances, digestive issues, and changes in mood or appetite. Jet lag can be uncomfortable, but certain strategies may help you avoid it or minimize it.
Maintaining proper nutrition, staying hydration, and working to only sleep at the appropriate time in your new location may help reduce any symptoms of jet lag. Plus, ASYSTEM is here to help if you need a little something extra.
Jet Lag: What is it, Symptoms, How Long Does it Last & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Former Olympic Athlete, Founder, B2ten Foundation (coach to multiple Olympic Champions)
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