Jet lag – also going by the names of desynchronosis and flight fatigue – is a physiological problem stemming from alterations to the body's circadian rhythms. These rhythms are basically your body’s internal clock and its way of telling you when to stay awake or feel sleepy.
You get jet lag due to your body clock being accustomed to your regular time zone, as opposed to the one you have entered. With more time zones crossed into, the higher the risk of jet lag.
The main jet lag symptoms are associated with disruption to sleep, such as poor sleep quality, struggling to wake in the morning, insomnia, feeling exhausted, etc. Jet lag can also cause you to struggle to concentrate and temporary memory problems.
Some basic adjustments could help you prevent jet lag before it begins. For example, arriving at your destination earlier than usual, say if you have an important meeting and need to be alert. Getting to your location a few days earlier could give your body time to adjust itself to the new time zone.
Also, make sure to get lots of rest before your trip. Beginning your trip already tired and deprived of sleep, will simply make the effects of jet lag so much worse.
Taking a simple over-the-counter sleeping tablet just before flying could help you get plenty of rest during your flight and leave you more refreshed upon arriving at your destination.
Most people should get over the effects of jet lag within a few days, but some people take as long as a week to recover.
There are no medications specifically licensed to treat jet lag as of yet, but ‘off-label’ treatment for jet lag may be obtained by suitable patients. Melatonin – sold under the brand name Circadin – can be prescribed for the off-label use of treating jet lag.
The hormone Melatonin is released to help us sleep. Melatonin levels are decreased by the body when we should wake up. As the branded Circadin contains Melatonin, this assists our body clock by replicating its natural process. If it is ‘bedtime’ in your new time zone, taking Melatonin (even when you aren’t sleepy) should help you get to sleep and then wake up when you should do.
Circadin’s primary and licensed use however is to treat insomnia or sleeping difficulties in those aged 55 or over.
If you still need further help or advice on ways to prevent jet lag, there is a useful website called Jet Lag Rooster. It is a completely free, simple, and effective jet lag remedy based on science. Just enter your trip details (such as departure and destination) into the boxes, and the calculator will devise you a comprehensive jet lag plan for your trip. This includes handy tips such as advice on sleeping, eating and how to reduce fatigue.