What is Jet Lag: Causes and Treatment?

What is Jet Lag - Causes and Treatment

What Is jet lag?

jet lag is a psychological condition which occurs because of disruption in the body’s circadian rhythm, also called a body clock. In simpler language, jet lag is a disturbance in sleep-wake patterns. The person may feel tired, fatigue, drowsy, disoriented, irritable, etc. It is a result of travelling to places of different time zones or due to shift work.

For example, if a person from London travels to New York. The time difference between London and New York is about 6 hours, so if a person took the flight around noon, the person will arrive 6 hours later and for which the body will feel sleepy and ready to sleep according to 7Pm. But due to time difference in New York it would be around 1 Pm only. This conflict between the time zones and the biological clock causes tiredness and confusion. The symptoms of jet lag become more and more severe as you travel from one corner to another. More the difference in time, the more severe symptoms will be. Older the person is, more severe symptoms will be and longer it will take to get back to sync. It causes headaches, irritability, fatigue, etc. 

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What is the cause of jet lag?

Circadian rhythm regulates sleep and other in sync functions of body. When circadian rhythm is disrupted due to travelling it is known as jet lag. Jet lag is related to disruption in synchronization in two parts of brain. So, if you are planning a vacation to some place may be far away from the place you are living in which may have different time zones then, you are most likely to experience jet lag. Your body is most likely to fall asleep during a certain period of time, when it is still light during your sleep time due to time difference causes decrease in alertness and overall performance.

It is the most common sleep disorder that millions of people struggle with every day. Earlier, it was considered as a state of mind but now, after many studies, it is a condition as a result of disruption in circadian rhythm which controls our sleep and wakefulness cycle.

What is circadian rhythm?

Circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle in our body. It is also called as natural biological clock. It is a daily cycle of physical, mental and behavioral changes. It is under control of light and darkness in our environment. Being awake and asleep during day and night respectively is an example of circadian rhythm. It is present in almost all living organisms’ weather it is tiny microbes or a plant or animals. Circadian rhythm affects our sleep-wake cycle, hormone release, eating habits and digestion.

It is a behavior in association with daily activity of light and dark. A person sleeps for about 8 hours in general and during this time voluntary muscles activity nearly disappears and the metabolic rate, respiratory rate, heart rate and body temperature falls. Also, the digestive system activities increase whereas urinary system activities decrease.

Hormones such as epinephrine, increases about 2 hours before awakening to prepare our body for activities.

Melatonin and SCN role in circadian rhythm

The master clock regulates circadian rhythm. A master clock is a group of thousands of nerve cell that form the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Suprachiasmatic nucleus is present in the hypothalamus which is a part of the brain. It receives signals from the retina of the eye about the presence or absence of light. It receives signals through the retina of the eyes about light or darkness. On activation by light, the photoreceptor cells in retina transmit signals to the suprachiasmatic nucleus. the signals are further transmitted to the pineal gland which in turn inhibits melatonin hormone secretion and vice versa occurs during the night. The melatonin secretion is activated during night/darkness. Its production prepares ourselves for sleep by decreasing body temperature, blood pressure, etc. it happens when melatonin binds to receptors on SCN. The chemical signals from SN turns on a gene in the pineal gland that produces a protein involved in melatonin production. Melatonin does not cause a person to fall asleep but may initiate changes in the body that makes one feel ready to sleep. This is how circadian rhythm control our sleep cycle

How to treat jet lag?

To minimize the effects of jet lag one can do certain thing before, during and after reaching our destination are as follows:

1. Avoid caffeine or any kind of alcohol three to four hours before bedtime because they act as stimulants and can prevent you from fall asleep.

2. After reaching your destination avoid heavy meals.

3. The type of food you ear have not to effect on jet lag.

4. Be in the sunlight. More you stay outside in sunlight more it will reduce the side effects. Sunlight acts as a powerful stimulant for regulating circadian rhythm. 

5. Staying indoors can worsen the side effects of jet lag.

6. Use blindfolds/eye cover the block light while sleeping.

7. Use earplugs to block the noise while sleeping.

8. Don’t heavy exercise when you are about to sleep.

9. On boarding the plane change you watch time to your destination time zone.

10. Select flight of early evening and must take a nap during the afternoon for two hours. Set an alarm for yourself to avoid oversleeping during the day.

11. Don’t sleep before 10 pm afterwards.

12. Compensate the time difference of your destination time zone by waking and sleeping according to that time several days prior.

13. Stay hydrated – drink water before, during and after the flight to avoid dehydration. Avoid alcohol and caffeine to avoid dehydration.

14. Take a supplement of Melatonin to combat jet lag.

15. Take a hot bath before going to bed. It will help you relax  and drop your body temperature necessary to fall asleep.

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