John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
- What is jet lag?
- What are other symptoms and signs of jet lag?
- What is a time zone?
- What causes jet lag?
- How does the body keep time?
- What is the role of melatonin in jet lag?
- Does the direction of travel matter?
- Do the symptoms of jet lag vary in intensity?
- What are risk factors for jet lag?
- How long does jet lag last?
- Should people take melatonin for jet lag?
- Are there any remedies for jet lag? Is it possible to prevent jet lag?
What is jet lag?
Jet lag, also called desynchronosis and flight fatigue, is a temporary disorder that causes fatigue, insomnia, and other symptoms as a result of air travel across time zones. It is considered a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, which is a disruption of the internal body clock.
What are other symptoms and signs of jet lag?
Besides fatigue and insomnia, a jet lag sufferer may experience a number of physical and emotional symptoms, including anxiety, constipation, diarrhea, confusion, dehydration, headache, irritability, nausea, difficulty concentrating, sweating, coordination problems, dizziness, and even memory loss. Some individuals report additional symptoms, such as heartbeat irregularities and increased susceptibility to illness.
Children and babies can also suffer the same jet lag symptoms as adults.
Generally, people to not need a medical evaluation for a diagnosis of jet lag. If you have traveled across several time zones and feel the symptoms associated with jet lag, you likely have it. If your symptoms of jet lag are severe, do not go away after a few days, or you have any other concerns, see a doctor.
What is a time zone?
A time zone is a geographical region which has the same time everywhere within it. The world has 24 time zones, one for each hour in the day. Each zone runs from north to south in strips that are approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) wide. (The actual width of each zone varies to accommodate political and geographical boundaries.) As the earth rotates, dawn occurs at a set hour in one time zone, then an hour later in the time zone immediately to the west and so on through the 24-hour cycle. Thus, in the U.S., when it is 6 a.m. in the eastern time zone, it is 5 a.m. in the central zone, 4 a.m. in the mountain zone, and 3 a.m. in the Pacific zone.
What causes jet lag?
The cause of jet lag is the inability of the body of a traveler to immediately adjust to the time in a different zone. Thus, when a New Yorker arrives in Paris at midnight Paris time, his or her body continues to operate on New York time. As the body struggles to cope with the new schedule, temporary insomnia, fatigue, irritability, and an impaired ability to concentrate may set in. The changed bathroom schedule may cause constipation or diarrhea, and the brain may become confused and disoriented as it attempts to juggle schedules.
Get tips for better sleep.