The processes of all animals and plants follow a 24-hour rhythm called body clock. This is our personal synchronization with the daylight-darkness cycle. When you travel in an airplane crossing time zones, say from New York to Houston, your body clock cannot adjust itself quickly enough. Your will lose sync with the new daylight-darkness cycle of where you left (NY) and does not recover quickly for the place that you are going (Houston). This causes a condition of disorientation called jet lag.
This disorientation can cause a person to be irritable, forgetful and tends to lose their concentration easily. The person may suffer from mild depression, disturbed sleep pattern and loss of appetite. Occasionally the person may suffer from dehydration and develop swollen or uncomfortable feet.
A long flight to places within the same time zone will not cause jet lag; it may give you cramps, headache and discomfort. A journey from Los Angeles to Tokyo which goes across time zones can cause jet lag, not the journey from Johannesburg to Frankfurt which is within the same time zone. Crossing time zones is the essential condition necessary for being jet lagged.
Of course not everyone gets jet lagged to the same extent. Generally older persons are found to suffer less from jet lag as compared to younger ones. Moreover, it is found that women in the reproductive age group are more susceptible to suffer from jet lag. It depends to a large extent on the personal physiological adjustability of each individual person. People who know they normally get jet lagged can take some precautions to avoid severity of discomfort from jet lag.
Try to start the journey in a relaxed frame of mind and avoid rushing around. A good night’s sleep on the day prior to the journey is helpful. During the flight take alcohol in moderation and drink plenty of water. Some light exercises such as stretching and walking up and down the aisle helps. Take off your shoes, wiggle the toes, stretch your legs and this will avoid swelling of the feet.
Many “anti jet lag” preparations are available on market; act on them with extreme caution. Some people suggest taking sleeping pills to get over jet lag; this may, however, have rather unpleasant consequences. Anti jet lag diets are available on the market; but efficacy apart, it is not a very practical solution; it is so cumbersome to carry diet around. An OTC (over the counter) homeopathic drug which said to be effective and it is free of side effects.
Drugs such as Melatonin are advertised as an anti jet lag drug; but you have to start taking it at specific times a few days prior to the journey and continue taking it for a few days after completion of the journey. Its anti jet lag claims are not really supported by research. On the contrary it may lead to worsening of the jet lag symptoms. In fact in UK Melatonin is banned altogether.
Some people may feel a jet lag condition for many days after their flight. It is suggested by medical experts that a reasonable rate of recovery from jet lag at the rate of “one day per time zone. To get a quick recovery from jet lag after you arrive at your destination rest well, relax, eat sensibly and exercise in moderation. This does not sound like the recipe for a fun vacation but try to have fun anyway. Bon voyage!