Jet lag: It’s NOT Just in Your Head

woman looking at departure board at airportAs people’s thoughts start to turn to holiday destinations once more, I thought it would be useful to look at the issue of jet lag and the impact it has on sleep.

For years, jet lag was considered merely a state of mind. Now, studies have shown that the condition actually results from an imbalance in our body’s natural “biological clock” caused by traveling to different time zones. Basically, our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called “circadian rhythms.” These rhythms are measured by the distinct rise and fall of body temperature, plasma levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake.

When traveling to a new time zone, our circadian, or day/night rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when it’s actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night. This experience is known as jet and three photos on old map

If you’ve flown overseas or travelled across time zones quickly, chances are you’ve experienced jet lag and know it can be disruptive to your plans. Jet lag happens when you travel quickly from one time zone to another, and your internal clock, known as circadian rhythm, cannot adjust to the time change as fast as you travel. You may feel the need to go to bed several hours earlier or later than normal, depending on the direction of travel. Also, you may have other symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, changes in mood/vigilance, or nausea.

Thankfully, jet lag usually goes away on its own after your body finishes adjusting to the new time zone. But what about that adjustment period? Jet lag can be a huge drag at the start of your vacation or business trip, and it’s especially hard on your body when you’re traveling eastward.

What about the People Flying the Planes?

airline pilot landing plane at nightPeople are usually focused on themselves and their fellow travellers when it comes to dealing with jet lag and sleep deprivation on trips.

Have you ever thought about pilots other aircrew members?

They experience frequent time zone changes and, consequently, more jet lag. So, what is being done among commercial airlines about the risk of jet lag or sleep deprivation affecting their pilots’ ability to fly safely? That’s a question that yet needs to be answered adequately – for everyone’s safety.

Suggestions for Avoiding Jet Lag

Here are a few things you can do to get the sleep you need:

  • In the days approaching your flight, go to bed and wake up earlier for eastbound travel or later for westbound travel
  • Change your watch/phone clock to your destination time zone on the plane
  • Stay hydrated throughout your flight
  • Get some sunlight (which regulates circadian rhythm) upon arrival

For additional simple, natural and drug free tips to help you avoid or reduce the impact of jet lag, book a free, no obligation Slip into Sleep Session at


Sources: Somnology, National Sleep Foundation, Johns Hopkins Medicine