Jet lag refers to a phenomenon that can occur when crossing multiple time zones. Due to the time difference, the sleep-wake rhythm and other biorhythms get confused, so that symptoms such as heavy tiredness and sleep disturbances can occur. With a few tips and tricks, however, you can prevent jet lag or at least alleviate the symptoms. Learn more about what you can do if you get jet lag.
Bio-rhythm gets mixed up
A jet lag is caused by the fact that due to the time lag, the internal bio rhythms are no longer consistent with external timers such as day and night. If you cross several time zones, day and night will clearly shift in comparison to your country of origin. The inner rhythms, on the other hand, initially continue after the usual time.
The internal bio-rhythms include not only the sleep-wake rhythm, but also other rhythms, which are linked to the course of the day. These include, for example, body temperature, hormone secretion and blood pressure.
One day per time zone
The more time zones are flown over, the worse the jet lag usually gets. This is because the inner rhythms adapt quite slowly. Also, the adjustment period may be different for different body functions. So it can happen that your sleep-wake-rhythm has already adapted to the new time, but your digestion or your body temperature still lag behind.
In general, one should expect an adjustment period of one-half to one day for each time zone crossed over. In addition to the time difference, the state of health and the age of the traveler also play a role. For example, senior citizens have more frequent jet lag problems than younger people.
Jet lag: typical symptoms
Time shifts of up to two hours can cope with our body, without unpleasant side effects occur. However, if there is more than two hours delay, there are often typical jet lag symptoms. How strong these fail is individually different.
Due to the changed sleep-wake rhythm often occur fatigue, fatigue, fatigue and mood swings. The tiredness can also worsen the reaction rate. Likewise, sleep disturbances can become noticeable: one can not fall asleep in the evening, has problems with staying asleep or wakes up very early in the morning.
In addition, because of the time difference in addition to the sleep-wake cycle also other bio-rhythms are confused, also symptoms such as headache and dizziness can be felt. Often, the gastrointestinal tract is affected, which can adjust to inappropriate times urinary and Stuhldrang and a feeling of hunger.
Flights to the west and east
The flight direction plays an important role in the development of jet lag. In general, westward flights are better tolerated by the body than flights in the opposite direction. This is because the internal clock does not run exactly in the 24-hour clock, but in slightly longer clock phases. Flights to the west, where the day is longer, are more conducive to the internal clock than flights to the east, where the day is shorter.
Flight west: If you fly from Frankfurt am Main to the USA to Chicago and land there at 6 pm, it's midnight in Germany. If you stay awake for a few more hours, you will fall asleep, exhausted, but you will be well into the rhythm.
Fly east: If you fly from Chicago to Frankfurt and land at 6pm, your body is used to the time in Chicago - here it's only 12 o'clock. That's why it will be hard for you to go to sleep in a few hours.
If you are traveling a long distance, crossing many time zones, it is recommended to start adjusting the sleep-wake cycle a few days before departure.
- Flights to the East: Go to bed one hour earlier and get up an hour earlier.
- Flights west: Go to bed an hour later and get up an hour later.
If you've had jet lag problems before, you should make sure you book a flight that arrives at your destination in the afternoon when booking the flight. So you only have to stay awake for a few hours before you can fall into bed tired.
In addition, change your watch to the time of arrival when you get on the plane. So you can behave during the flight according to the time at your destination.
Tips against jet lag
- Be sure to adjust to the time in the destination country. Even if it's hard: Stay through to evening if possible, without sleeping. This is the best way to get in the rhythm.
- Stay outdoors as much as possible during the day. As sunlight inhibits melatonin production, the body is better able to get used to the new daily routine. The sleep hormone melatonin is instrumental in controlling the sleep-wake cycle and ensures that we get tired in the evening.
- If you feel hungry at an unusual time, eat only a small portion. Try to take larger portions only during the typical mealtimes of your destination country.
- Jet lag is also a bit of a headache: so do not constantly think about how early or late it is at your home. Contrast as much as possible with the new local time and participate in social life.
Sleep hormone melatonin
Sleeping pills should generally not just be used to treat jet lag. Because they have no influence on the conversion of body functions, they only have a short-term positive effect. However, those who travel a lot in the world can benefit from short-acting sleep aids. In particular, substances such as zopiclone are recommended, which promote falling asleep.
A more effective effect is said to be supplements with melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that plays a key role in controlling the sleep-wake cycle. Whether the intake can actually alleviate and prevent jetlag discomfort, is currently still controversial. In addition, melatonin is available in Germany only by prescription.