The symptoms of a jetlag occur when crossing multiple time zones. The time shift disturbs our bio-rhythm and this may lead to severe sleepiness and sleep disturbances.
Due to the crossing of several time zones day and night drastically shift compared to the country of origin. But, the bio-rhythm still is following the accustomed time. “Bio-rhythm” is not only concerning the sleep-wake-cycle but also other rhythms that are linked with the course of the day, like the body temperature, blood pressure, heart frequency and the release of different hormones, for example.
The time of alignment of the different body functions often differs. It might be, that the sleep-wake-cycle is already adjusted to the new time but the digestion and the body temperature haven’t.
Basically, per crossed time zone the bio-rhythm needs about half a day or a day to adjust. Besides of the time difference, age and health condition of the travelling person are also influencing the effects of a jetlag. Elderly people often have more problems than younger persons.
Typical symptoms of a jetlag are severe tiredness, exhaustion, fatigue, mood swings, head ache, dizziness, concentration difficulties, loss of appetite and digestive disorders. Sleep disturbances are likely – either, you are not able to fall asleep in the evening, you wake up too early in the morning or you are not able to sleep through.
The direction of the flight is decisive for the occurrence of a jetlag. Flights towards West are having a less negative effect on the body than towards East. Our inner clock is not working exactly in a 24-hour-cycle but a bit longer. Now, when flying West the day gets prolonged – our inner clock is able to handle this much easier than a flight towards East where the day gets shortened.
Hints to cope with a jetlag:
- Try to adjust your sleeping time to the time of your target country before leaving. When flying west, try to go to bed and to get up an hour later. When flying east, try to go to bed and to get up an hour earlier.
- On frequent occurrence of a jetlag care for booking a flight that is landing at your destination in the afternoon. Like this, you only have to wait a couple of hours before you can go to bed in the evening.
- Already set your watch to destination time during the flight. This enables you to adjust your behavior already during the flight to the destination time.
- When arriving, try to postpone sleep to the evening. This makes it much easier to adjust to local time.
- Should you be hungry at an unusual time only eat a snack. Try to eat your main meals at the eating times of your destination.
- During daytime, spend as much time as possible outdoors. The sunlight inhibits production of the sleeping hormone melatonin (on a cloudy day, too) and the body adjusts more easily to the new daily routine. Melatonin is responsible for the control of the sleep-wake-cycle and is the reason why we get tired in the evening.
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