If you get on a plane and fly 8 hours to a different time zone, you may find yourself tired, annoyed and sleepy at odd times when you get to the other end. This is because you are jet lagged – i.e. your body is trying to adjust itself to a completely different time zone. Here’s some interesting info:
The world is divided into 24 time zones. The base is the Greenwich Meridian (an imaginary line that passes through Greenwich, London, and is used to help measure longitude). The clock changes by one hour for every 15º travelled in either direction from the Greenwich Meridian.
Jet lag occurs after crossing a number of time zones, which disrupts the body’s normal ‘circadian rhythm’ (your body’s natural 24-hour routine).
The wonderful thing we call a ‘biological clock’ is in tune with your local time, which is why you feel hungry around lunch time and sleepy around bed time.
The oxygen levels in an aeroplane cabin are also thought to play a role in jet lag. As the air pressure in an aeroplane cabin is relatively low, the amount of oxygen that you have in your blood is reduced.
Who gets it?
Anyone can get jet lag and it’s especially common when you’re going somewhere over 6 hours ahead or behind the time you are used to. Apparently children and babies find it easier to adjust to new time zones and the elderly find it the most difficult.
What are the symptoms?
Having trouble getting to sleep or falling asleep at odd times is the most common symptom of jet lag. But, there are others which can also make you feel pretty uncomfortable, such as:
- loss of appetite
- difficulty concentrating
- feeling disorientated
- memory problems
- lack of energy
- light headedness
- muscle soreness
- menstrual irregularities in women who often travel
- generally feeling unwell
Can it be prevented?
This question is not dissimilar to – how do I prevent a hangover? The answer is simple, avoid alcohol. Although in this case there is even more to it. Aside from avoiding alcohol, drinking lots of fluids and getting plenty of rest, other recommendations include checking in online in order to avoid stress and start preparing for your jet lag by going to bed a couple of hours earlier (or later, depending on the new time zone) than usual.
How do I treat jet lag?
Unfortunately (like with a hangover), you have to ride it out. Try to avoid napping, that way you will get into the new routine quicker. You should also try to spend lots of time outdoors and establish a new routine early on.