General Health

Sleep Revolution 5: Disorders of Sleep (Jet Lag)

 Have you ever travelled from one time zone to another, and suddenly you discover you are finding it difficult to sleep at night in the new time zone?Certain sleep disorders manifest this way and could go on for many weeks causing serious concern or anxiety for the individual.  When a person travels across multiple time zones and sleep pattern is affected, it is called Jet lag.

In many individuals, Jet lag is a temporary condition which occurs after travelling a long distance by air. The circadian rhythm (body clock) that is already adjusted to the previous time zone finds it difficult to quickly align with the new time zone of the new location. The consequence is sleeping when it is daytime in the new time zone or being awake at night when sleep is expected. the severity of the Jet lag depends on the number of time zones crossed and the direction of travel.  Flying east is usually more difficult of an adjustment than westward travel. It is estimated that it takes one day per time zone for the body clock to fully adjust to local time. Jet lag affects all age groups, although older adults are more likely to experience more severe Jet lags and usually need a longer recovery time

Jet lag can be worsened by:

  • Sleep loss due to travel
  • Spending a long time sitting in an uncomfortable position, such as in an aeroplane
  • Stress
  • Caffeine and alcohol use
  • Air pressure or poor air quality

How it Happens!

Jet lag is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder. The circadian rhythm works on a 24-hour schedule. it serves as an internal alarm clock that ‘rings’ for sleep and for alertness. The body uses sunlight to determine this role. During the day, when the sun is up, the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin is very low and it rises in production to a high during the evenings.

As a result, you are alert during the daytime and sleepy at night

Travelling across multiple time zones can disrupt the circadian rhythms.


Jet lag from travelling across time zones can be difficult to cope with. The individual feels fatigue when they are expected to be awake and alert for the daytime activities. Symptoms are worse and have a longer effect when you travel very far from your previous time zone especially eastward. 

Complaints related to jet lag include:

  1. Trouble falling asleep
  2. Feeling tired or disoriented
  3. Being unable to function normally during the daytime
  4. Mild sickness
  5. Stomach problems
  6. Menstrual symptoms in females


Jet lag does not usually require treatment. Certain remedies and behavioural adjustments can help overcome jet lag:

Plan ahead

Get familiar with the time zone of your destination long before you travel and begin to slowly adjust your sleeping pattern to align with the new time zone. In such cases, the body clock finds it easier adjusting when you eventually arrive the new location

Go out

Sunlight is a powerful tool to reset the internal clock. When you get to your destination, make sure to open a window or be more outdoor during the daytime to expose yourself to sunlight. This will help the body clock adjust more rapidly to the new time zone.

Bright light therapy

When you have to be indoors or you travelled to a location without much sunlight. Schedule short sessions of bright light therapy. This involves exposure to a special artificial light at certain times to help stimulate the body clock and ease the transition to a new time zone. Sessions could be in the morning and early afternoon with the light. Special lightbox, desk lamp, visor or dawn simulator for light therapy are used.


Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland and considered a sleep-promoting hormone. This hormone can be ingested as a supplement (Melatonin supplements) and helps the body adjust to jet lag by adjusting the circadian rhythms. Research suggests that a dose as low as 0.5 mg is just as effective as higher doses.

Sleeping pills

Certain times doctors prescribe a hypnotic sleeping pill to help patients get rest at the proper times when they first reach their destination or to help avoid sleep deprivation during the flight. Sleeping pills may help you sleep better as you adjust to the new time zone, but are not necessary and should be used on a short-term basis.

Minimize caffeine and alcohol consumption

Caffeine and alcohol use can interfere with the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. It is recommended that you avoid these substances while you are on the aeroplane.


Some studies have shown that moderate exercise helps adjustment to new time zones. Outdoor exercise will help strengthen muscles and at the same time exposing you to more sunlight and help you adjust faster.

Are you Having enough Sleep?

Do you know anyone Not sleeping enough?

Join the sleep revolution and invite your friends


Read previous editions to get full gist

Cheers to your Health!!!

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Dr. Lucky Aziken
Dr Lucky Aziken, a multitalented Optometrist believes health education is key towards achieving a healthy society. He is passionate about knowledge and creatively communicates his thoughts. He loves reading, writing and connecting people.

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