Jet Lag

Definition:     Jet lag is nothing but circadian rhythm disorder of our body system.It is also known as time zone change syndrome or desynchronosis.It can occur when people travel rapidly from east to west, or west to east on a jet plane. Jet lag symptoms tend to be more severe when the person travels from westward compared to eastward. It is a physiological condition which upsets our body’s circadian rhythms –

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Circadian rhythm is the 24-hour cycle in the biochemical, physiological and behavioral process of our bodies. In layman’s terms, it means biological clock of our body. The word circadian comes from the Latin word circa meaning “about”, and the Latin word diem or dies meaning “day”. Our circadian rhythms are driven by an internal time-keeping system. This biological clock is entrained by external environmental occurrences, such as the light-dark cycle of night and day. Put simply, our circadian rhythm regulates our daily activities, such as sleep, waking, eating and body temperature regulation. Problems readjusting our internal biological clock causes jet lag, as do problems with shift work, and some sleeping disorders.

People with jet lag have their sleep-wake patterns disturbed. They may feel drowsy, tired, irritable, lethargic and slightly disoriented. The more time zones that are crossed rapidly, the more severe jet lag symptoms are likely to occur.

Researchers from the University of Washington revealed that the disruption occurs in two separate but linked groups of neurons in a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, below the hypothalamus at the base of the brain. One group is synchronized with deep sleep that results from physical fatigue and the other controls the dream state of rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep

The condition of jet lag may last several days until one is fully adjusted to the new time zone, and a recovery rate of one day per time zone crossed is a suggested guideline. The issue of jet lag is especially pronounced for airline pilots, crew, and frequent travelers. Airlines have regulations aimed at combating pilot fatigue caused by jet lag.

The common term jet lag is used, because before the arrival of passenger jet aircraft, it was generally uncommon to travel far and fast enough to cause jet lag. Trips in propeller-driven aircraft and trains were slower and of more limited distance than jet flights, and thus did not contribute as widely to the problem.

Symptoms:
Symptoms of jet lag vary and depend on several factors, including how many time zones were travelled, the individual’s age, state of health, whether or not alcohol was consumed during the flight, how much was eaten during the flight, and how much sleep there was during the flight. Jet lag usually requires a change of three time zones or more to occur, though some individuals can be affected by as little as a single time zone or the single-hour shift of daylight saving time. Symptoms and consequences of jet lag can be a significant area of concern for athletes traveling east or west to competitions as performance is often dependent on a combination of physical and mental characteristics that are impacted by jet lag.

Light is the strongest stimulus for re-aligning a person’s sleep-wake schedule and careful control of exposure to and avoidance of bright lights can speed adjustment to a new time zone.
Traveling east causes more problems than traveling west, because the body clock has to be advanced, which is harder than delaying it, and the necessary exposure to light to realign the body clock does not tie in with the day/night cycle at the destination.Traveling east by six to nine time zones causes the biggest problems, as it is desirable to avoid light in the mornings.

General symptoms of jet lag are as follows:
*Headaches
*Head feels heavy
*Lethargy, fatigue
*Insomnia
*Irritability
*Mild depression
*Attention deficit – hard to concentrate on one thing for long
*Loss of appetite
*Slight confusion
*Dizzy unsettled feeling – this may be due to moving from the plane, which wobbles all the time, to firm land.
*Some gastrointestinal disturbances, such as diarrhea or constipation.

*Travel fatigue:
Travel fatigue is general fatigue, disorientation and headache caused by a disruption in routine, time spent in a cramped space with little chance to move around, a low-oxygen environment, and dehydration caused by limited food and dry air. It does not necessarily have the shift in circadian rhythms that cause jet lag. Travel fatigue can occur without crossing time zones, and it often disappears after a single day accompanied by a night of high-quality sleep
Causes:
Jet lag is a chronobiological problem, similar to issues often induced by shift work and the circadian rhythm sleep disorders. When travelling across a number of time zones, the body clock (circadian rhythm) will be out of synchronization with the destination time, as it experiences daylight and darkness contrary to the rhythms to which it has grown accustomed. The body’s natural pattern is upset, as the rhythms that dictate times for eating, sleeping, hormone regulation and body temperature variations no longer correspond to the environment nor to each other in some cases. To the degree that the body cannot immediately realign these rhythms, it is jet lagged.

The speed at which the body adjusts to the new schedule depends on the individual; some people may require several days to adjust to a new time zone, while others experience little disruption. Crossing one or two time zones does not typically cause jet lag.

The condition is not linked to the length of flight, but to the trans-meridian (west–east) distance traveled. A ten-hour flight from Europe to southern Africa does not cause jet lag, as travel is primarily north–south. A five-hour flight from the east to the west coast of the United States may well result in jet lag.

Crossing the International Date Line does not contribute to jet lag, as the guide for calculating jet lag is the number of time zones crossed, and the maximum possible disruption is plus or minus 12 hours. If the time difference between two locations is greater than 12 hours, subtract that number from 24. Note, for example, that the time zone GMT+14 will be at the same time of day as GMT-10, though the former is one day ahead of the latter.

Management & prevention:

Tip 1: Stay in shape

If you are in good physical condition, stay that way. In other words, long before you embark, continue to exercise, eat right, and get plenty of rest. Your physical stamina and conditioning will enable you to cope better after you land. If you are not physically fit, or have a poor diet, begin shaping up and eating right several weeks before your trip.

Tip 2: Get medical advice

If you have a medical condition that requires monitoring (such as diabetes or heart disease), consult your physician well in advance of your departure to plan a coping strategy that includes medication schedules and doctor’s appointments, if necessary, in the destination time zone.

Tip 3: Change your schedule

If your stay in the destination time zone will last more than a few days, begin adjusting your body to the new time zone before you leave. For example, if you are traveling from the U.S. to Europe for a one-month vacation, set your daily routine back an hour or more three to four weeks before departure. Then, set it back another hour the following week and the week after that. Easing into the new schedule gradually in familiar surroundings will save your body the shock of adjusting all at once.

If you are traveling east, try going to sleep earlier and getting up and out into the early morning sun. If traveling west, try to get at least an hour’s worth of sunlight as soon as possible after reaching your destination.

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Tip 4: Avoid alcohol

Do not drink alcoholic beverages the day before your flight, during your flight, or the day after your flight. These beverages can cause dehydration, disrupt sleeping schedules, and trigger nausea and general discomfort.

Tip 5: Avoid caffeine

Likewise, do not drink caffeinated beverages before, during, or just after the flight. Caffeine can also cause dehydration and disrupt sleeping schedules. What’s more, caffeine can jangle your nerves and intensify any travel anxiety you may already be feeling.

Tip 6: Drink water

Drink plenty of water, especially during the flight, to counteract the effects of the dry atmosphere inside the plane. Take your own water aboard the airplane if allowed.

Tip 7: Move around on the plane

While seated during your flight, exercise your legs from time to time.Move them up and down and back and forth. Bend your knees. Stand upand sit down. Every hour or two, get up and walk around. Do not take sleeping pills, and do not nap for more than an hour at a time.

These measures have a twofold purpose. First, they reduce your risk of developing a blood clot in the legs. Research shows that long periods of sitting can slow blood movement in and to the legs, thereby increasing the risk of a clot. The seat is partly to blame. It presses against the veins in the leg, restricting blood flow. Inactivity also plays a role. It decelerates the movement of blood through veins. If a clot forms, it sometimes breaks loose and travels to the lungs (known as pulmonary embolism), lodges in an artery, and inhibits blood flow. The victim may experience pain and breathing problems and cough up blood. If the clot is large, the victim could die. Second, remaining active, even in a small way, revitalizes and refreshes your body, wards off stiffness, and promotes mental and physical acuity which can ease the symptoms of jet lag.
Tip 8: Break up your trip

On long flights traveling across eight, 10, or even 12 time zones, break up your trip, if feasible, with a stay in a city about halfway to your destination. For example, if you are traveling from New York to Bombay, India, schedule a stopover of a few days in Dublin or Paris. (At noon in New York, it is 5 p.m. in Dublin, 6 p.m. in Paris, and 10:30 p.m. in Bombay.)

Tip 9: Wear comfortable shoes and clothes

On a long trip, how you feel is more important than how you look. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Avoid items that pinch, restrict, or chafe. When selecting your trip outfit, keep in mind the climate in your destination time zone. Dress for your destination.

Tip 10: Check your accommodations

Upon arrival, if you are staying at a hotel, check to see that beds and bathroom facilities are satisfactory and that cooling and heating systems are in good working order. If the room is unsuitable, ask for another.

Tip 11: Adapt to the local schedule

The sooner you adapt to the local schedule, the quicker your body will adjust. Therefore, if you arrive at noon local time (but 6 a.m. your time), eat lunch, not breakfast. During the day, expose your body to sunlight by taking walks or sitting in outdoor cafés. The sunlight will cue your hypothalamus to reduce the production of sleep-inducing melatonin during the day, thereby initiating the process of resetting your internal clock.

When traveling with children, try to get them on the local schedule as well. When traveling east and you will lose time, try to keep the child awake until the local bedtime. If traveling west when you will gain time, wake your child up at the local time.

Tip 12: Use sleeping medications wisely — or not at all

Try to establish sleeping patterns without resorting to pills. However, if you have difficulty sleeping on the first two or three nights, it’s OK to take a mild sedative if your physician has prescribed one. But wean yourself off the sedative as soon as possible. Otherwise, it could become habit-forming.

There are also some homeopathic remedies that may be used. A product called No Jet Lag contains homeopathic remedies leopard’s bane (Arnica montana), daisy (Bellis perennis), wild chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), ipecac (Cephalelis ipecacuanha), and club moss (Lycopodium).

Valerian root is an herb that can be used as treatment for insomnia. Do not take valerian with alcohol. It is important to consult your physician before taking these or any other homeopathic or herbal remedy.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.
Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_lag
http://www.medicinenet.com/jet_lag/page4.htm#how_long_does_jet_lag_last

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