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by Miers Laboratories, Wellington, New Zealand.
Copyright © 1995-2010 nojetlag.com

Classic symptoms:

Fatigue and disorientation

Becoming tired and disoriented for days after arriving. Lack of concentration and motivation, especially for any activity that requires some effort or skill, like driving, reading, or discussing a business deal. But even simple activities can become harder. And your ability to really enjoy that vacation is significantly reduced.

Interrupted sleep

Crossing time zones can cause you to wake up during the night or make it difficult to get to sleep. You then end up trying to get to sleep during the day. Your built-in circadian rhythms have been disturbed. And it can take many days to readjust to the new time zone. In fact, NASA estimates that you’ll need one day for every one-hour time zone crossed to get back to your normal rhythm and energy levels. So a five hour time difference means that you’ll need five days to get back to normal. Can you afford that?

Confusion and fuzziness

Having to go back to check two or three times to see if your hotel room was left locked or unlocked. That is typical of the effects reported by flight crews suffering from jet lag. And that is not good if you’re on a business trip.

Getting uptight

“Losing it” is another symptom reported by flight crews. And that helps explain why long distance flights can get very tedious toward the end. What’s more, going through customs and immigration, then getting to your hotel can seem like a real challenge. In addition to the above symptoms of jet lag, the syndrome is made even worse by some common physical problems caused by being cooped up in an airliner for hours.

Dehydration

That dry air aboard your aircraft can give you headaches, irritate your nostrils and dry your skin. In addition, you’ll be more susceptible to any colds, coughs, sore throats and flu that may be floating around the aircraft.

Uncomfortable legs and feet

Swollen limbs can be extremely uncomfortable. In some cases, it could actually prevent you from wearing your normal shoes for up to 24 hours after you land.

Overall health problems

A report from the World Health Organization directly links jet lag to problems like diarrhea caused by microbes contaminating your water or food, affecting about 50% of long distance travelers. “Factors like travel fatigue, jet lag, a change in your diet, a different climate, and lowered immunity may aggravate the problem by lowering the traveler’s resistance. And making passengers more susceptible to infection, or even poisoning,” the World Health report points out.

Click below for information on:

Motion Sickness

MORE on JET LAG:

Even though “jet lag” is a common occurrence, many travelers don’t know why it happens or ways they can ameliorate the symptoms. According to John P. Cunha, DO, “jet lag (aka Desynchronosis) is a temporary disorder [that occurs as]…a result of air travel across time zones
A tiny part of the brain called the hypothalamus acts like an alarm clock to activate various body functions such as hunger, thirst, and sleep. Thus, when your eyes perceive dawn or dusk many hours earlier or later than usual, the hypothalamus may trigger activities that the rest of the body is not ready for, then jet lag can occur.  To put it another way, your body doesn’t like sudden changes in its circadian rhythms (wake and sleep cycles) or daily habits. When these changes occur your body attempts to adjust, but puts up a fuss in the process.
If you haven’t already experienced symptoms of jet lag here are the common ones:
* Fatigue to insomnia
* Anxiety to irritability
* Irregular sweating to dehydration
* Constipation to diarrhea
* Problems with cognition and coordination
* Headaches
Here are a couple rare symptoms that have also been reported:
* Heartbeat irregularities
* Memory loss
If you want to prevent or lessen any of the above symptoms try adjusting the hours (+ or -) that you eat and sleep one week prior to flying.
  • If possible, break up your fly time if it is longer than 6 hours.
  • The day of and the day after your flight, try to avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks, since they are known to affect your circadian rhythms and dehydrate your body. Stay well hydrated with water or preferably electrolyte-enriched water.
  • Make sure to eat foods the current mealtime calls for, and not what your body remembers in your last time zone.
  • Try to get as much sun exposure as possible in your new place as this will help your hypothalamus set itself to your new time zone.
To answer your other question, there is a difference in the “severity of adjustment” the body makes when traveling from West to East and East to West. When flying EAST you are “losing time,” therefore your body has to adjust your daily habits ahead however many hours you traveled eastward. Flying WEST you “gain time,” so the symptoms tend to be less severe, but they can still often present themselves after arrival.  How long it takes to adjust to the new time zone is more or less a case-by-case basis, but as a rule of thumb, “it can last for several days, roughly up to 2/3 the number of time zones crossed for eastward flights and up to ½ the number for westward flights”

Safe travels,
Amanda Terry, R.N.
References

 

1. Cunha, J. P. (2010). Jet lag. Reviewed October 29, 2007. Retrieved from the MedicineNet.com website:
http://www.medicinenet.com/jet_lag/page4.htm
2. Yanni, E. (2009, July 27). Traveler’s health-yellow book: chapter 2: the pre-travel consultation self-treatable diseases: jet lag.
Centers for disease control and prevention. Retrieved/Reviewed July 27, 2009 from:
http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2010/chapter-2/jet-lag.aspx

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