OHSU

Jet Lag

Tips for preventing jet lag

Rapid travel across several time zones disturbs normal body rhythm and produces many physical and psychological stresses on the body. Commonly referred to as jet lag, the medical term is "circadian dysrhythmia," and while this rarely causes any severe problems, a few days of discomfort may take place before your body adjusts to your new time zone.

What are the symptoms of jet lag?

The following are the most common symptoms of jet lag. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • general fatigue
  • sleepiness during the day
  • difficulty with normal sleeping patterns
  • impaired mental ability and memory
  • irritability
  • headaches
  • gastrointestinal discomforts, including stomach cramps, diarrhea, or constipation
  • reduced physical activity

The symptoms of jet lag may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult a physician for diagnosis.

How long does it take to recover from jet lag?

The rule of thumb is that generally for west-to-east trips, it takes one day to recover for each time zone you crossed. For east-to-west trips, one day is required for each one and a half time zones crossed.

Some people like to break up a long trip with a stopover to help themselves adjust to the new time zone to which they are traveling. It is also a good idea to build in an extra day or two of low-key activities to help compensate for jet lag.

Is there any way to prevent jet lag?

  • There is nothing that eliminates jet lag entirely. The following tips will, however, help to minimize its effects and help you to recover more quickly:
  • Drink plenty of beverages to keep yourself well hydrated during your flight. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages.
  • Eat smaller meals that are high in protein and low in fat before, during, and just after your flight.
  • Try going to bed earlier than usual for a few days before an eastbound flight; if flying westbound, stay up later than usual.
  • Set your watch to your destination during your flight to begin making the psychological adjustment to your new time zone.
  • If arriving early in the morning at your destination, sleep as much as you can during the flight, then try to make it through the day and go to bed early that evening. If arriving at your destination in the evening, plan to go to bed shortly after you arrive.