Education, study and knowledge

Jet Lag: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies to Prevent and Relieve It

Jet Lag is a temporary sleep disorder, very common among people who travel through different time zones in a short period of time. It is characterized by symptoms that are transitory and that tend to decrease naturally.

However, and as a consequence of the great mobility that characterizes our current societies, science has done a lot of research on its effects as well as some ways to remedy it. Here we explain what Jet Lag is (and why it is called that), how long it usually lasts, what are the symptoms and what remedies exist.

What is Jet Lag?

Jet Lag is a Temporary Disorder of Circadian Sleep Rhythms (CRSDs), also known as “Time Lag Disorder,” which often affects people who travel across different time zones in a short time.

It is known as "Jet Lag" by the Anglo-Saxon terms "plane" and "delay", which more or less could be translated into the expression: "jet lag for traveling by plane". This is because the most common case is precisely that of having traveled by plane from one country to another, whose time difference is significant (from east to west, or vice versa).

However, Jet Lag can also be caused by car trips through the same time zone, but which modify our waking and resting hours. For example, if a trip takes place overnight.

Some of its symptoms can even appear without the need to travel, if our daily activities require us to significantly modify the schedules in which we activate and we slept.

It is characterized by some symptoms related to physical and mental performance, for example, difficulty sleeping (at the times that the place of destination), which in turn causes a lot of fatigue and tiredness, little energy especially during the day, and a feeling of being less alert or less attentive.

Generally all these symptoms are temporary, however, if it is a person who has the need to make long trips constantly, Jet Lag can cause sleep disorders more severe, as well as some alterations in cognitive functions and even other damage to health related to the gastrointestinal system, especially according to the age of the traveler increases.

Main causes

As we have seen, the cause of Jet Lag is having traveled long distances in a short time, which implies a significant change in the hours of wakefulness and rest.

The latter is due to the fact that our “biological clock” is exposed to a very drastic modification that it cannot assimilate quickly. Specifically, our Cardiac rhtyms, which are the changes that occur in our body according to external natural cycles, for example, as light and darkness change.

Thus, Jet Lag results from strong changes in the internal rhythms of our body, not being used to sleeping in the day and night cycles of the destination. Although these are very drastic changes, the body can get used to it naturally within a few days. In this process, there is a hormone that plays a very important role: melatonin.

Remedies and treatment

While our circadian rhythms are quite flexible, Jet Lag decreases on its own, without the need for a specific treatment. It is estimated that for each hour difference between the country of origin and the country of destination, the agency takes a full day to recover, although this may vary according to the body of each person, as well as according to the specific path that has been Following.

Our circadian rhythms are regulated by a gland in the center of the body. brain of all vertebrates, which is responsible for organizing various physiological processes and neurological. This is the Pineal gland.

This gland produces and secretes a hormone called melatonin, which plays a central role in regulating sleep rhythms.

1. Functions and benefits of melatonin

Among other things, melatonin helps our body to synchronize with external natural cycles (with light and darkness), thereby influencing the time it takes to sleep and stay awake or repose.

For this reason, it has been a very recently researched substance. Some studies have found that melatonin helps "reset" the biological clock.In other words, it favors the synchronization of circadian rhythms with the schedules of the destination.

Being a hormone whose production is inhibited by light, and is stimulated in the dark, the intake of melatonin has more effects when at night. In fact, taking melatonin during the day can have the opposite effect - again making it difficult for circadian rhythms to sync up with external natural cycles.

Melatonin has become very popular in recent times, which is why it can be found in tablets or capsules, although there are many foods that favor its natural production within the body, such as rice, oats, corn, tomato or banana.

Recommendations to prevent it

It is important to take the hours of rest that the body requestsIt can even work to take a whole day of rest before starting with the tasks or activities that we have planned.

On trips from west to east, it is advisable to extend the days and avoid the light in the morning; Unlike the trips made from east to west where it is preferable to avoid any type of light at night.

Bibliographic references:

  • Sack, R., Auckley, D., Auger, R., et. to the. (2007). Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders: Part I, Basic Principles, Shift Work and Jet Lag Disorders. SLEEP, 30 (11): 1460-1483.
  • Davidson, A.J., Sellix, M.T., Yamazaki, M., et al. (2006). Chronic jet-lag increases mortality in aged mice. Current Biology, 16 (2): R914-R916.
  • Herxheimer, A. & Petrie, K. (2002). Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lag. Cochrane Common Mental Disorders Group. DOI: 10.1002 / 14651858.CD001520
  • Petrie, J., Conaglen, L. & Thompson, Ch. (1989). Effect of melatonin on jet lag after long haul flights. The BJM, 298: 705 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.298.6675.705
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