Jet lag
Posted in Sleep disorders

Jet lag

Jet lag is the fatigue, and sleep wake cycle disturbance that happens due to travel across different time zones.

What are the symptoms of jet lag?

Jet lag can lead to many symptoms including fatigue, irritability, difficulty falling asleep, mood disturbances, inability to concentrate, and can affect both physical and mental performance.

What causes jet lag?

Our sleep wake cycle is controlled by an internal clock in the hypothalamus that gets disturbed when you travel across the time zones giving rise to the symptoms of jet lag. Fortunately, our bodies are able to readjust to the new time zone although it takes as much as a day to adapt to a clock difference of an hour.

What can be done to reduce the symptoms of jet lag before travel?

Some measures that can help lessen the symptoms of jet lag include the following:

  • Exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get plenty of rest
  • If traveling west – start going to bed an hour or two later than usual 
  • If traveling east – start going to bed earlier than usual to shift your body’s clock
  • Break up a long trip with a short stop in the middle, if possible.

What can be done during the travel to deal with jet lag?

  • Avoid large meals, alcohol, and caffeine
  • Drink plenty of water
  • On long flights, get up and walk around periodically
  • Sleep on the plane, if you can

What are some measures to be taken after the travel to help deal with jet lag?

  • Don’t make any important decisions the first day
  • Eat meals at the appropriate local time
  • Spend time in the Sun
  • Drink plenty of water, and avoid excess alcohol or caffeine
  • If you are sleepy during the day, take short naps for half an hour or so you can still sleep at night
  • Consider prescription or over the counter sleeping aids in consultation with a sleep physician

Are there any medications that can be used to treat jet lag

Melatonin, prescription or OTC sleeping aids, bright light therapy, and other supportive measures are some of the commonly used measures to help deal with jet lag.

Can hypnotic medications be used to treat jet lag?

Prescription medications like temazepam, zolpidem, or zopiclone may reduce sleep loss during and after travel but do not necessarily help resynchronize circadian rhythms or improve overall jet lag symptoms.

Can Melatonin and Melatonin-Receptor Analogs be used to treat jet lag?

Melatonin is secreted at night by the pineal gland and is probably the most well-known treatment for jet lag. Melatonin delays circadian rhythms when taken during the rising phase of body temperature in the morning and advances rhythms when ingested during the falling phase of body temperature in the evening. These effects are opposite to those of bright light. The instructions on most melatonin products advise travelers to take it before nocturnal sleep in the new time zone, irrespective of number of time zones crossed or direction of travel. Studies published in the mid-1980s indicated a substantial benefit of melatonin (just before sleep) for reducing overall feelings of jet lag after flights. However, subsequent larger studies did not replicate the earlier findings.

Can melatonin receptor agonists be used to treat jet lag?

Ramelteon(Rozerem), a melatonin-receptor agonist, is an FDA-approved treatment for insomnia. A dose of 1 mg taken just before bedtime can decrease sleep onset latency after eastward travel across 5 time zones. Higher doses do not seem to lead to further improvements, and the effects of the medication on other symptoms of jet lag and the timing of circadian rhythms are not as clear.

Can combination treatments be the best option to deal with jet lag symptoms?

Multiple therapies to decrease jet lag symptoms may be combined into treatment packages. Although marginal gains from multiple treatments may aggregate, evidence from robust randomized controlled trials is lacking for most of these treatment packages. One treatment package offering tailored advice via a mobile application was piloted to be used over several months of frequent flying. Participants reported reduced fatigue compared with the comparator group and improved aspects of health-related behavior such as physical activity, snacking, and sleep quality but not other measures of sleep such as latency, duration, use of sleep-related medication.

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Prab R. Tumpati, MD. Dr. Tumpati is the founder and medical director of W8MD Weight Loss, Sleep and MedSpa Centers. Dr Tumpati is board certified physician practicing sleep medicine, obesity medicine, aesthetic medicine and internal medicine. Dr. Tumpati’s passion is to educate patients and get to the root of the problem rather than "band aid medicine". As a physician with fellowship training in Obesity Medicine, Dr. Tumpati has a unique approach to wellness, weight loss, and medical aesthetics with a focus on prevention rather than cure. Dr. Tumpati takes pride in helping patients come of many chronic life style medications such as blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes medications by helping them lose weight and change their life style. Dr Tumpati believes in evidence based medicine rather than fad diets that do not work and works with each patient taking their unique situation in to consideration that causes them to gain weight so he can find a customized solution. Serving as the medical director of the W8MD's New York City, Cherry Hill NJ and greater Philadelphia offices, Dr Tumpati is the leading weight loss, sleep and aesthetic medicine physician in the tristate areas of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

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