We live in a world of frequent travel. Jet lag is a condition that can occur when you travel by plane across time zones. The medical term for jet lag is known as “desynchronosis.” Simply put, jet lag affects the internal biological clock. Many people are affected by jet lag when they travel. It can put a brake on your travel plans and even affect your physical health. There are several things you can do to help decrease jet lag symptoms.

Cause of jet lag: The cause is due to crossing time zones. We have 24 time zones around the world. In the United States we are divided into four zones; eastern, central, mountainous and peaceful. When you travel, your body has a hard time adjusting to the new time zone. You will adjust but it is a process. For example, if you travel from New York to California, your body still thinks you are in the New York time zone. This struggle for adjustment is what creates the symptoms associated with jet lag.

To understand it more clearly, it is necessary to know how the biological clock works. Humans operate on a 24-hour cycle. This is known as the “circadian rhythm.” The hypothalamus in the brain is an internal clock. It regulates many functions, including determining the time of day. This is done in conjunction with the visual perception of the eye. The signals are affected and the result is jet lag.

Symptoms of jet lag: The clear symptoms of jet lag are fatigue and insomnia. Lesser known symptoms may include; dizziness, nausea, constipation, irregular heartbeat, and headaches.

Recommendations: Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages. Before flying, you should stay away from such stimulant products. Alcohol can make you feel dehydrated, which can intensify jet lag for some people. Healthy Eating: Avoid overeating a few days before flying. You need to eat right and give your body the nutrients it needs to be nourished and energetic. Eating light on the day of your flight is also helpful. Avoid too much fat or carbohydrates the night before you travel because they can affect your sleep. Keep doing this for a few days after your flight to make sure you get the best possible sleep.

After the trip: Sleep: You must get enough sleep after traveling. There are many things you can do. Ease your way to sleep by taking a warm bath. This helps your body relax and makes you feel drowsy. Sleep aids, such as eye masks or earplugs, can be helpful. Minimize distractions and keep your room as dark and quiet as possible to induce sleep. If it becomes more severe and you can’t seem to sleep, you should see your doctor, especially if you are a frequent traveler. You may be prescribed a sleeping medicine. There are also trained “sleep specialists” who can help with jet lag symptoms.

Change your schedule ahead of time – the adjustment rate to feel normal again is usually one day per time zone. Let’s say you will cross a lot of time zones, for example a trip from New York to London. You can start a little adjustment before you leave for your trip by trying to delay your daily schedule an hour a week or so before you travel. This will reduce the impact and intensity of jet lag that some people experience.

Jet lag is a common and often unpleasant effect of travel. With proper planning, you can help reduce negative effects and have a more positive travel experience. Whenever you make diet or lifestyle changes, always check with your doctor, especially if you have an illness or are taking prescription drugs.

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