Now that we are in the middle of winter, and the hot days of summer are just a distant memory, many of us will travel south in search of sun and sand.
In most cases, these sunny destinations are far away and thus a plane ride is often required. When crossing multiple time zones quickly, we can sometimes suffer from jet lag disorder. Most commonly referred to as simply jet lag, this condition is defined as a temporary problem or disruption in sleep patterns.
As I am sure you are aware of, our bodies have its own internal clock which tells us when to sleep and when to stay awake. Jet lag generally occurs when you cross more than two time zones quickly. Essentially what happens is our body’s internal clock is still set at the original time zone and will take some to sync with the new one. It is important to note that not every traveler will experience jet lag, however, it is more likely to occur the more time zones that you cross. The severity and length of symptoms of jet lag greatly vary from person to person. Some individuals experience one symptom and others experience several. Symptoms may include: 4Fatigue (especially during the daytime) 4Gastrointestinal/ digestion problems 4Disturbance in sleep pattern 4Mood and concentration changes
The good news is that the symptoms of jet lag usually subside on their own within a few days of being in the new time zone. However, if you are a frequent traveler that suffers from jet lag, you may have to see a sleep specialist.
There are a few simple steps that you can take to help minimize the effects of jet lag.
First of all, due to the fact that our internal clock is heavily influenced by daylight, regulating the amount of daylight that you are exposed to in the new time zone may help your internal clock adjust gradually. In addition, light therapy which involves exposing your eyes to artificial sunlight for specific amounts of time may be beneficial.
Research has shown that dehydration increases the risk of jet lag. It is important to stay hydrated while traveling on planes as the air on board tends to be very dry.
Although it is generally not recommended, some individuals will drink beverages which contain caffeine such as coffee or tea to help offset the daytime tiredness. On the other hand, it is recommended to avoid caffeine in the evening time.
Another common remedy for jet leg is melatonin supplementation. Melatonin is a chemical in our brains that signals it is time to sleep. By taking melatonin at specific times, you may be able to reset your internal clock. It is wise to talk to a health care professional before supplementing with melatonin.
Finally, some individuals start to modify their sleep schedules before they go on a trip. For example, if you will be travelling to a destination that is three hours ahead of your home time zone, try gradually staying up later the week before you leave.
As you can see, jet lag is more of an inconvenience than a serious medical condition. I personally feel that it is a small price to pay for the sun, sand and beaches of vacation destinations.
Until next month, drive safely.
Dr Christopher H. Singh Chiropractor, runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024 E.mail: chris_s[email protected]patico.ca