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Jet lag: Everything You Need to know

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Update: April 28, 2023
6 min read

Written by

Manya Mishra
Content Writer
Jet Lag

Long-distance travelling is often inconvenient and uncomfortable, especially with all the baggage of problems it comes with. Jet lag is one of those problems. It is a physical burden of long-distance travelling, and this phenomenon often occurs when travelling across two or more time zones. 

Poor sleep, stomach and digestive issues, and other bothersome symptoms are discussed in this article. Along with the symptoms, the article also discusses jet lag meaning, how to prevent jet lag and tips for reducing the symptoms. So, what does jet lag mean?

What Is Jet Lag

Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that can affect travellers who travel quickly across multiple time zones. It involves disruption of a traveller’s body clock and sleeping after travelling a long distance. According to a finding, a person’s body can adjust to 1 to 1.5 changes in time zones; however, if a person crosses two or more time zones in one day, symptoms can arise.

Moreover, jet lag is followed by symptoms like fatigue and difficulty concentrating. It can also affect eating patterns, digestion, and motivation, leading an individual to feel generally unwell.

What Does Jet Lag Feel Like

Jet lag makes a person feel out of sorts due to an abrupt change in the person’s internal clock or circadian sleep rhythms. And considering the jet lag symptoms, a person may feel drowsy, tired, irritable, lethargic, and slightly disoriented.

How Long Does Jet Lag Last

People can experience one or multiple symptoms of jet lag. And depending on the symptoms and time zones, jet lag can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Moreover, how long does jet lag last also depends on the person and their trip details. Anyhow, jet lag is usually a short-term problem.

Causes of Jet Lag

Besides long-distance travelling, other multiple factors can influence jet lag. Some of these are listed below.

Trip Details

Trip details like the total distance and length of time at the destination, time zones crossed, the pressure and temperature in the cabin, amount of delays in between, and other small specific details. 

Arrival Time

When a traveller arrives during the morning or afternoon, the severity of the symptoms may be reduced because light during the morning and afternoon helps the body’s clock to adjust better.


A person’s age is another factor that plays a role in jet lag. And research suggests that jet lag symptoms may become more challenging as people age; possibly because the circadian rhythm changes with age.

Sleep Before Travel

Sleep deprivation before a flight makes jet lag worse. And poor sleep quality and jet lag are not a pretty combination.


Malignancy of stress can keep the mind and body on edge, which makes it harder to cope with jet lag.

Use of Alcohol and Caffeine

It is known that alcohol and caffeine can harm the quantity and quality of sleep, which makes the body and mind vulnerable to jet lag.

Past History of Jet Lag

 People with jet lag history are prone to experience it again.

Individual Variation

Every person has a different circadian rhythm. Thus the reasons are uncertain, and some people may experience more severe circadian rhythm disruption with long-distance flights than others.

Symptoms of Jet Lag

A person may experience one or multiple jet lag symptoms, which include:

Difficulty Sleeping at Bedtime

Jet lag symptoms make it hard for a person to fall asleep according to their body’s natural clock.  

Problems Waking up in the Morning

Just like falling asleep is hard, a person may feel too tired to get off in the morning.


Jet lag makes the person feel overly tired, even to do usual activities and make it through your day. 

Daytime Sleepiness

Jet lag causes a person to frequently feel sleepy and tired during the daytime.

Poor Sleep Quality

Once across multiple time zones, a person may experience a temporary sleep problem that can affect anyone who travels quickly. 

Difficulty Focusing and Remembering Things

Jet lag can cause a person to experience problems with attention or memory. Or it could simply feel like the thinking is slowed.

Reduced Mental and Physical Performance

With disruption in circadian rhythm, jet lag can adversely affect mood, cognition, and some measures of physical performance.

Digestive Problems

Jet lag can induce gastrointestinal problems like constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.


Gastrointestinal disturbances also include nausea.


Along with fatigue, poor sleep quality, and headaches, jet lag can cause dizziness.

Changes in Appetite

It can cause the traveller some negative effects on sleep and a change in appetite, which can potentially hamper weight loss or even increase the risk of obesity.

Mild Anxiety

Jet lag sufferers may experience many physical and emotional symptoms, including mild anxiety.

An Excessive Need to Urinate During the Night

People travelling east may find it harder to sleep at night. Also, some people may feel an excessive need to urinate at night.

How Can You Reduce Jet Lag

Here are some ways how to prevent and reduce jet lag:

Light Exposure

Getting a little light exposure in the daylight can jump-start alertness. Because the exposure stimulates morning melatonin helps the body recognise that it’s time to be awake.

Melatonin and Sleep Aids

Melatonin and sleep aids have been studied widely as a jet lag remedy. And now, melatonin and sleep aids are commonly accepted as part of effective jet lag treatment.

Pre-Adjusting Your Internal Clock

Pre-adjusting your internal clock is one of the methods of preventing jet lag. This method focuses on modifying the sleep schedule in the days leading up to the trip. This will help synchronise the travellers’ circadian rhythm to the local time of the destination.

Creating a Plan for Overcoming Jet Lag

Jet lag depends on many factors, including the destinations and direction of your flight. Therefore, creating an optimal planner to overcome jet lag on account of the destination may help manage it to some extent.

Adjust Your Sleep-Wake Schedule

As mentioned before, to reduce the impact of jet lag, the traveller can adjust the body’s internal clock by modifying their sleep-wake schedule in the days leading up to their trip.

Focus On Getting Quality Sleep

Focusing on getting a good night’s sleep at least a few nights before the journey ensures the traveller isn’t sleep-deprived.

Avoid New Foods

Avoid foods that can aggravate the stomach and refrain from trying new food to reduce the risk of digestive problems. Instead, opt for fruits and vegetables over heavy and calorie-rich snacks.

Drink Lots of Water

The atmosphere and pressure in cabins can cause dehydration. So, drink a lot of water to replenish fluids and counteract dehydration during the journey.

Tips to Avoid Jet Lag

Following are some tips on how to avoid jet lag.

Schedule the First Days of Your Trip

Accounting for all the aforementioned causes, symptoms, and preventions, make sure to schedule the first days of the trip. Ensure that the first days are scheduled to rest and sleep, with a lot of light exposure and empty slots just in case the sluggishness kicks in.

Minimise Travel Stress

Minimise the stress by completing tasks like packing and leaving to catch a flight ahead of the scheduled time because last minutes can heighten the stress and make the journey more difficult.

Get Quality Sleep

Get quality sleep before the trip to avoid sleep deprivation. In fact, sleeping on a plane can reduce the sleep deprivation that makes jet lag worse.

Stay Hydrated

As mentioned before, drinking water is not a thing to neglect. Stay hydrated since the atmosphere and pressure in cabins can cause dehydration.

Limit Alcohol and Caffeine

Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake since they can negatively affect the mind, body and sleep. Besides, limiting the caffeine and alcohol will get quality sleep.

Eat Smart

Circadian rhythm is about both sleep and metabolism, and to avoid digestive problems, eat healthily. Include more fruits and vegetables in the diet instead of high-calorie and heavy snacks.

Stand Up and Move

Although it is recommended to sleep and take things easy to prevent jet lag, sitting for too long can cause muscle stiffness. So keep the body movement active, stand up, walk, and stretch a little.


The best way to keep body movement active is to exercise. Find some time of the day to do some physical activity outside the house. This will provide daylight exposure and will help recalibrate your circadian rhythm.

Limit Heavy Meals

Avoid heavy meals before and during travelling to avoid stomach and digestive problems. Limit excessive intake of caffeine, alcohol, or heavy and calorie-rich meals.

Nap With Caution

Avoid taking long naps, sleeping late in the morning and sleeping during the day. Have naps that are less than 30 minutes long, and only nap eight or more hours before your bedtime

Final Words

Jet lag is a common problem for people travelling long distances. It is a temporary sleep disorder that affects the circadian rhythm of the traveller. Jet lag causes fatigue, sleep disruption, gastrointestinal changes, and other symptoms. 

While there isn’t a particular medication to cure jet lag, there are ways to prevent and avoid the malignancy of travelling by managing sleep and light exposure and adjusting the routine for sleeping, eating and exercising.


How do you get rid of jet lag fast?

Arrive early, rest well and try to sleep in the plane while flying. Also, try to adjust your schedule in advance and keep yourself hydrated to prevent the jetlag symptoms from bothering you.

Can you get jet lag from the 1-hour time difference?

It is possible to experience jetlag from the 1-hour time difference if you live in an area where daylight saving time is observed and have difficulty adjusting to the change.

How do you survive jet lag?

Stay hydrated, keep your body moving and try to sleep if it’s night-time at your destination. Use earplugs if needed to keep away distractions.

Should you nap when jet lagged?

Although a quick nap can help you get over the fatigue and feel relaxed, if you take a long one, it can disrupt your sleep cycle even more as you’ll find it difficult to fall asleep at night.


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Written by

Manya Mishra
Content Writer
Bachelor's Degree in English Literature 7 years of experience as a content writer Has experience writing for various industries, including health and wellness, travel, and technology

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