What is jet lag

After travelling long distances or places that are far from their homes or accustomed time zone, people often experiences sleep-related issues termed as jet lag. Your circadian rhythm or body's "internal clock" needs time to acclimatise to the new sleep and waking cycles at your destination while flying across more than two time zones. Jet lag is a type of sleep problem characterised by a disruption in the circadian cycle. It is a temporary sleep disorder which disappears as soon as an individual’s adapts to the new time zone. Let us understand what is jet lag and the underlying reasons.

Circadian rhythms
Your body's 24-hour cycles are known as circadian rhythms. These rhythms tell your body when it's time to go to bed and when it's time to get up. Other physiological functions such as hormones, digestion, and body temperature are also affected due to jet lag.
A body develops this rhythm over time with the help of the brain on its own. External stimuli (such as light) can, however, affect these cycles. When light enters your eye, pituitary pars tuberalis (PT) and suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) cells send a signal to your brain instructing it to stop producing melatonin (a hormone that helps you sleep). Thus, your wake up and sleep cycles get disturbed.

When travelling by plane across two or more time zones, jet lag is common. Since your body moves quicker than your brain and circadian rhythms can handle the time change, plane travel exacerbates jet lag. Some of the other causes of jetlag are listed below:
•    Sitting for a longer time on a plane
•    Comparatively lower oxygen level inside the plane
•    Low humidity and a warm cabin temperature might lead to dehydration

People are affected by jet lag in various ways. When flying long distances, you might expect more severe jet lag. This is because longer distances necessitate a larger adjustment from your body.
The majority of people who suffer from jet lag use to experience modest symptoms. They rarely seek medical attention. A few of the symptoms of jet lag are mentioned below:
•    Having trouble falling asleep (insomnia).
•    Feeling drowsy throughout the day
•    Headaches
•    Lack of concentration or focus
•    Extreme exhaustion (fatigue)
•    A general sense of being "odd" or uncharacteristic of yourself.
•    Stomach ache
•    Mood changes and irritation

If you believe your body isn't responding to a new location as it should and concerned about your symptoms, contact your healthcare physician. Your physician may recommend a sleep study if your sleep difficulties don't go away or are affecting your quality of life. This test is conducted while the patient is asleep. It determines if your symptoms are caused by a sleep disorder.

Self-treatment techniques
After a long journey, when you reach your location, do the following:
•    Get some fresh air and sunlight: Getting outside during the day will help you become more aware so that your body can understand that it is time to wake up. If you can't get outside, artificial light sources (such as a lamp) can provide similar benefits.
•    Adjust your sleep cycle: Getting used to your destination's sleep-wake schedule as soon as possible can help with jet lag symptoms.
•    Focus on getting good sleep: If you can, sleeping on the plane might help your body acclimate to a new time zone quickly. However, if you need to take any medications for sleeping consult your doctor first.
•    Avoiding unfamiliar meals: Choosing foods that your body is familiar with (at least for a day or two) may help alleviate any stomach issues associated with jet lag.
•    Drink a lot of water: After a long travel, your body may develop dehydration, therefore drinking a lot of water will help you to cope with this issue and keep you healthy as well.

Note: The article is meant for general awareness of the readers. In case you experience unbearable discomfort after travelling, do consult a doctor.

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