What is Jet Lag and How Do You Cure it? – Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

low angle photography of white plane on sky jet lag

What is Jet Lag and How Do You Cure it?

Have you ever felt exhausted after a long flight, even though you slept on the plane? If so, then you’ve probably experienced jet lag.

Jet lag is a common condition that affects your body’s natural sleep rhythm. It occurs when you travel across time zones and results in symptoms like fatigue, insomnia and difficulty concentrating.

The good news is that there are ways to prevent and cure jet lag. In this article, we’ll discuss what jet lag is, what causes it and how you can overcome it.

What is jet lag and how do you cure it?

Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder caused by traveling across multiple time zones. It can cause disturbed sleep, daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating and functioning, and stomach problems. Unfortunately, there is no cure for jet lag, but there are effective ways to cope with the symptoms.

It is important to get some sun, adjust your sleep-wake schedule, focus on getting quality sleep, avoid new foods, drink lots of water, take melatonin, soak up the sunshine, commit fully to your new time zone, and eat light meals. Making these healthy choices may help jet lag symptoms go away sooner.

What are the causes of jet lag?

1. Shift in Circadian Rhythm

Jet lag is a disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm, which is the 24-hour cycle of biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes that the body undergoes (sometimes we wish we had a 25 hour circadian rhythm). It is caused by travelling across different time zones or working night shifts and changing shifts frequently, and having certain sleep disorders.

Light exposure and time zone changes are key factors in the development of jet lag. When you pass through different time zones, it can take your body a few days to adjust to the new time. Light and darkness cycles can signal to the body that it needs to adjust, while changes to mealtimes, exercise and other routines can also contribute. Even cats and dogs can get jet lag when passing through many time zones.

The pineal gland plays an important role in the circadian rhythm. When light enters the eye, cells transmit a signal to the hypothalamus, which then signals the pineal gland to release melatonin. If the light-dark cycle is disrupted, then the pineal gland may not release melatonin at the right times, leading to disruptions in the body’s internal clock.

To help the body adjust, people can expose themselves to daylight at the proper times. This can help to reset the internal body clock, which will help to reduce the symptoms of jet lag.

2. Change in Sleep Schedule

Jet lag is a condition caused by a change in the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, due to travelling across different time zones. The cause of jet lag is a disruption in the natural sleep cycle. People who work night shifts or frequently changing shifts, or who have certain sleep disorders, are also susceptible to jet lag like symptoms.

airline about to land on ramp jet lag

The cure for jet lag is to quickly adjust your sleep schedule to the new time zone. Some strategies to help with this include setting an alarm to avoid oversleeping, getting as much outdoor light exposure as possible during the day, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule according to your own chronotype, and avoiding caffeine and naps in the afternoon.

According to chronotypes, people who have Lion chronotype are less likely to experience jet lag, and studies have shown they are happier than people with Wolf chronotype.

3. Difficulty Sleeping

The cause of jet lag is a disruption to the body’s internal clock, which can lead to difficulty sleeping. Symptoms of jet lag include difficulty falling asleep quick, drowsiness during the day,

4. Dehydration

Dehydration is a state of having an inadequate amount of water in the body. It is caused by not drinking enough fluids or losing too much fluid in sweat and urine. Dehydration can be caused by factors such as altitude, humidity, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and stress. It can also contribute to the symptoms of jet lag, as being in a constant state of dehydration can be physically and mentally draining.

  • Alcohol and caffeine, both of which are often consumed during flights, can also cause dehydration by reducing fluid levels.
  • he stress of traveling can also contribute to dehydration, as it increases the rate at which fluids are lost through sweat.
  • At high altitude, the air pressure is lower, which means there is less oxygen available and more water and other liquids in the body are lost. This is compounded by the lower humidity levels and air filtration systems of planes, which contribute further to dehydration.

5. Exposure to Artificial Light

Exposure to artificial light can cause jet lag because light plays a vital role in regulating our circadian rhythms. Light helps control how much melatonin our bodies produce, which signals to our bodies when it is time to sleep and wake up. When we are exposed to too much artificial LED light, such as when working with a computer or watching television on a plane, our body clocks can become out of sync with our new destination’s time zone.

This disruption in our daily rhythms can cause us to feel drowsy during the day and restless at night, leading to jet lag. To avoid jet lag, it is important to expose yourself to daylight in the new time zone to help “reset” your body clock.

Light therapy lamps and light boxes can also be used to help sync your circadian rhythm with local time but do not use blue LED lights, use some warmer tones like red or amber.

6. Changes in Altitude

Changes in altitude can cause jet lag due to the body’s need to quickly adjust to being at a high elevation. This is why planes are pressurized, but the air pressure is not typically calibrated to what you would feel at sea level, leading to swelling, ear pressure, and symptoms similar to altitude sickness.

photo of the sky and airplane wing taken from inside the plane

Additionally, the air on planes is much thinner, resulting in less oxygen than what is found on the ground. This can lead to lethargy, which can encourage sleep.

7. Changes in air pressure

Changes in air pressure associated with air travel can cause jet lag, as this can lead to physical symptoms such as fatigue and decreased performance. This is because the air pressure in planes is lower than at sea level, and this reduces the amount of oxygen available.

8. Low oxygen levels

Low oxygen levels in the cabin can cause jet lag because they make passengers feel fatigued and disrupt their rest cycles, making it difficult for them to adjust to a new time zone.

To counteract this, travelers should keep their exposure to light consistent with their normal body clock, as sunlight naturally influences the circadian rhythm and can help alleviate the effects of jet lag.

What are the symptoms of jet lag?

1. Exhaustion

The symptoms of jet lag include extreme exhaustion, fatigue which does not resolves with sleep, sleepiness, apathy and decreased physical functioning, generalized weakness.

2. Moodiness

The mood swings associated with jet lag can include irritability, apathy, and mood changes. For example, a person who has just flown across several time zones may feel an increased level of irritability, a lack of motivation.

Research has also found that people who have a misaligned sleep cycle are more likely to report depression, anxiety, and have fewer feelings of well-being.

3. Irritability

The symptoms of irritability caused by jet lag can include: difficulty falling asleep when excited, drowsiness in the morning and during the day, anxiety, stress.

4. Difficulty concentrating

The symptoms of jetlag includes difficulty concentrating, extreme fatigue, sleepiness, impaired decision making and judgement, headaches, lack of focus or concentration, reduced mental performance.

5. Feeling dizzy, headaches

The symptoms of jet lag include dizziness, fatigue, sleepiness, memory lapses, irritability, apathy, difficulty falling asleep (insomnia), drowsiness during the day, extreme tiredness (fatigue), general feeling of being “off” or not like yourself, and upset stomach.

6. Having trouble with digestion

The symptoms of jetlag includes having trouble with digestion such as constipation or diarrhea, nausea, changes in appetite, and an excessive need to urinate during the night.

How to prevent and cure jet lag

1. Adjust your sleep schedule before the trip

If you are planning a trip and would like to avoid jet lag, there are some steps you can take to adjust your sleep schedule before traveling. Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. A few days before you travel, begin adjusting your body’s natural clock to the time zone at your destination. If you’re traveling east, go to bed earlier than usual, and if you’re traveling west, go to bed a few hours later than usual.
  2. Consider scheduling travel to arrive at your destination at least two days before any important events, to give your body time to adjust.
  3. A few nights before your flight, begin incrementally shifting your daily routine to match the time at your destination. This can include bedtimes, mealtimes, and overall exposure to light.

By following these steps, you can help your body adjust to the new time zone and minimize the effects of jet lag.

2. Adjust to the new time zone

Step-by-step instructions on how to adjust to the new time zone when traveling:

  1. Eat smaller meals just before travel to help prevent stomach aches and other stomach problems.
  2. Drink caffeinated drinks in moderation during the day
  3. Use relaxation techniques to help you adjust to the new time zone.
  4. Set an alarm to avoid oversleeping in the morning
  5. arrive to your destination a few days early so you can get used to the time zone before any meeting.
  6. If you are traveling to a time zone that is more than 3 hours different than yours, follow the destination sleep and waking routines.
  7. Take any medicine or sleep aids like a travel weighted blanket or weighted vest to help you sleep at night better.

3. Get enough sleep

Get enough Zzz’s To ensure your circadian rhythm is in sync, establish a bedtime routine, dim the lights a few hours before bed, eliminate disruptive noises, wear an earbud, get good exposure to natural light, and avoid stimulants and rich, fatty foods before sleep. Additionally, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to rest and adjust to your new surroundings when travelling. You can sleep in airports even in premium airports like JFK sleeping is allowed – if you know the secret palces!

4. Exercise regularly

Exercising regularly can help prevent and cure jet lag, so do some deep pressure activites. As little as 10 minutes of aerobic activity each day can make a big difference in your sleep quality. Walking and biking can help improve sleep quality and help the body adjust to a new time zone.

When traveling, take advantage of any opportunity to stretch your legs and move around the cabin, and if possible, engage in some outdoor exercise when arriving at the destination.

5. Limit stimulation in the evenings

Step-by-Step Instructions to Limit Stimulation in the Evenings to Prevent and Cure Jet Lag:

  1. Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable and the room is cool – between 60 and 67 degrees is best.
  2. Dim the lights a few hours before bedtime do not use LED lamps.
  3. Avoid computer, TV, and phone screens for a few hours before you sleep.
  4. Drink chamomile tea or try relaxing essential oils like lavender to promote sleep.
  5. Use ear buds, white noise machines, sleep with airpods and weighted eye masks to eliminate noise and light.
  6. Establish a bedtime routine you can follow each night.
  7. Avoid stimulants such as nicotine or coffee after midafternoon, especially if you have insomnia.
  8. Avoid rich, fatty foods just before sleep.
  9. Take a relaxing hot bath or shower before you go to bed.
  10. Avoid heavy exercise near bedtime.
  11. Avoid alcohol or caffeinated drinks for a few hours prior to sleep at night.
  12. Try to mimic your usual bedtime routine.
  13. Use relaxation techniques.
  14. Sleep with a weighted blanket if you can.

6. Get sunlight

Getting sunlight can help prevent and cure jet lag by regulating the body’s circadian rhythms. Exposure to sunlight helps the body adjust its internal clock and prevent jet lag, and getting outside in the sunlight during the prime daylight hours in the new time zone can help reset the body clock and reduce jet lag symptoms. Getting adequate natural light signals to the hypothalamus, which signals to the pineal gland to release melatonin. This helps the body stay more alert during periods of drowsiness so that the body can adjust better to the new time zone. Additionally, strategically timed light exposure can help adjust the internal clock and avoid jet lag.

7. Sip on water throughout the day

Drinking water throughout the day can help prevent and cure jet lag due to the dehydrating effects of air travel. Staying hydrated by drinking water helps to counteract the dehydration caused by the altitude and will prevent or ease the effects of jet lag. It also ensures the body is functioning optimally and is able to bounce back from a long flight. Drinking water before, during, and after a flight can also help to avoid alcohol or caffeine, which can disrupt sleep and cause further dehydration. Additionally, avoiding salty and sugary foods, as well as overeating, will reduce jet lag symptoms like poor sleep, fatigue, bloating, and an upset stomach. Moving around the cabin also helps to keep the blood flowing and get oxygen to the brain, which can help fight fatigue and swelling. Finally, popping the ears during take-off and landing can help relieve pressure and make the flight more comfortable.

8. Try to keep consistent meal times

How can you keep consistent meal times to prevent and cure jet lag? [Step-by-Step Instructions]

  1. In the days before your trip, slowly adjust your meal schedule to match when you’ll be eating at your destination. If you’re traveling east to west, go to bed later and wake up later for several days before departure. If you’re traveling from west to east, go to bed earlier and wake up earlier to help your body adjust to new sleep patterns.
  2. If your trip is short (2 to 3 days), try to eat and sleep at the times you would at home. If you’re traveling east, start moving your bedtime earlier, shifting it a half-hour earlier each night for several nights before you leave. If you’re traveling west, do the opposite.
  3. Try to move your mealtimes closer to the time you’ll be taking them at your destination. Eat at the appropriate time for your new time zone to help your body follow the new cues.
  4. Consider fasting for 16 hours prior to breakfast time in your new destination. You can try this for the four days prior to departure.
  5. Have breakfast as soon after wake up as possible, eat lunch and dinner at the same time every day – but don’t eat dinner after 7 p.m. Don’t drink caffeine after 3 p.m., and don’t nap after 4 p.m as naps do not count as sleep.

9. Use a sleep aid if needed

Yes, you may use a sleep aid to help prevent or cure jet lag. Melatonin and other short-acting sedatives are often recommended as they help to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm and can help you adjust faster to changes in time zone. However, it is important to discuss the use of sleep aids with your doctor and understand the potential side effects before taking anything.

What puts the body clock out of sync?

When the body clock is thrown off, it can cause a variety of symptoms including insomnia, early waking or excessive sleepiness, daytime fatigue. Traveling across time zones is especially disruptive because it throws off the body’s internal clock.

Jet lag is a type of sleep disorder caused by the body’s inability to adjust to the new time zone, and it can take a few days for the body to re-establish its circadian rhythm. Changes in meal times, exercise, and other routines can also contribute to an out of sync body clock.


What are the pros and cons of melatonin for Jet Lag?

Melatonin has been reported to have some benefits, such as helping people adjust to time zone changes faster. However, there is not enough evidence to show that it works and there are potential risks of long-term use. Additionally, sleeping tablets may be helpful if you’re having difficulty sleeping, but they can be addictive, so they should be used for a short time and only if the symptoms are severe.

On the other hand, jet lag often improves on its own within a few days as the body clock adjusts to the new time zone. While melatonin may be a short-term solution for jet lag, it is important to weigh the pros and cons and consult a doctor before taking it.

What is the best way to cure Jet Lag?

The best way to cure jet lag is to use a combination of various strategies to help your body adjust to different time zones. Here are some step-by-step instructions:

  1. Get some sun. Sunlight helps adjust your circadian rhythms, so get outside during daylight hours or use artificial light sources (such as a lamp) if you can’t get outside.
  2. Commit fully to the new time zone. Don’t try to ease into it; embrace your new schedule to help speed up your adjustment period.
  3. Eat light meals with plenty of protein, complex carbs, fruits, and vegetables to keep energy levels steady.
  4. Exercise. Research indicates that exercising in the morning or between 1 and 4 p.m. if you traveled west, or between 7 and 10 p.m. if you traveled east, can help reset your body clock.

Does caffeine help with Jet Lag?

When it comes to combating jet lag, the answer to the question of whether caffeine helps or not is quite complicated. While caffeine may give a quick burst of energy and alertness, its long-term effects may not be as helpful. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), caffeine and alcohol should be avoided as they can potentially worsen jet lag symptoms. Caffeine can lead to dehydration and disrupt sleep quality, making jet lag worse. Alcohol can lead to drowsiness, but can also affect sleep quality and cause fatigue, headaches, and nausea.

Overall, while caffeine may give an initial boost of energy and alertness, its long-term effects on jet lag are not ideal and should be avoided.

Personal tip from my experience: You WILL drink coffee so do not be ashamed 🙂

Are there any lifestyle changes that can help with Jet Lag?

Yes, there are several lifestyle changes that can help with jet lag. Before your trip, ensure you get enough sleep and, if you are flying westward, try to stay up as late as possible for two to three days before you leave. Wear loose and comfortable clothing, walk around the cabin when possible, and use earplugs and an eye mask to improve your sleep.

Additionally, when you arrive at your destination, try to adjust to the local time by taking small doses of melatonin after dark, soaking up the sunlight and avoiding exposure to light in the evenings, embracing the local time zone, eating light meals and staying hydrated, and exercising regularly.

What are some activities that can help with Jet Lag?

Activities that can help with Jet Lag include keeping your body moving during your flight (e.g. stretching, exercising, deep breathing), going for a walk in the natural light when you arrive at your destination, doing grounding or earthing activities such as walking barefoot or being in physical contact with the ground, keeping a sleep and time schedule appropriate for the destination, seeking bright light in the evening when you travel westward and bright light in the morning when you travel eastward, avoiding sleeping late in the morning and sleeping in the day, and exercising to maintain alertness after travel.

Finally, using a jet lag calculator can help you balance sleep and light exposure to minimize the effects of jet lag.

Can jet lag last a month?

No, jet lag cannot last a month. Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder, and symptoms usually go away within a few days. Depending on the number of time zones crossed, jet lag can last anywhere from a few days to several days.

For example, if you travel from San Francisco to Rome, it may take six to nine days to fully recover. If you travel from Rome to San Francisco, jet lag could last four to five days. Older adults may experience jet lag more severely, and recovery may take longer.

Can you get jet lag from a 2 hour flight?

No, it is not possible to get jet lag from a 2 hour flight. Jet lag occurs when you fly across multiple time zones and messes with your body’s internal clock by forcing it into a new circadian rhythm faster than it can adjust to.

It takes a few days for your body to adjust, and while you may feel tired or sluggish during a 2 hour flight, it’s not enough time for your body to adjust and cause jet lag.

Additionally, jet lag tends to be more severe when you fly farther, so a 2 hour flight is not long enough to cause jet lag.

Does jet lag get worse with age?

Research has found that older travelers tend to experience more severe symptoms of jet lag than younger travelers. This is likely due to the fact that older adults may need more time to recover from jet lag than younger travelers.

Furthermore, frequent flyers, such as flight attendants and business travelers, even more pilots are more likely to suffer from jet lag. Overall, jet lag tends to be more severe the further you travel and the more time zones you cross.

Why is jet lag worse from east to west?

Jet lag is worse when traveling east to west compared to west to east because the body’s circadian rhythm adjusts more easily to a longer day than a shorter day. When flying eastward, the body is “moving ahead” in time, and has less time to recover. As a result, jet lag symptoms may be more pronounced and last longer.

On the other hand, when traveling west, the body’s day is lengthened, which helps the body adjust more easily to the new time zone. Additionally, certain factors such as trip details, arrival time, and age can influence the severity of jet lag.