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Jet lag disorder


Disease: Jet lag disorder Jet lag disorder
Category: Psychiatric diseases

Disease Definition:

A sleep disorder called jet lag or time zone change syndrome could affect anyone who travels across multiple time zones quickly. The disruption of the body's internal clock or circadian rhythms that tell the body when to wake up and when to sleep causes jet lag. The more time zones a person crosses, the more likely they are to experience jet lag.


Gastrointestinal problems, a feeling of being unwell, daytime fatigue and difficulty staying alert could be caused by jet lag. Although jet lag is temporary, but it could inhibit a person’s business travel or vacation. However, to help prevent or minimize jet lag, there are steps that could be taken.

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Symptoms, Causes


Jet lag has lots of symptoms, a person could either experience only one symptom, or they could experience multiple symptoms. Some of the signs and symptoms of jet lag may be:


  • Daytime fatigue
  • A general feeling of not being well
  • Disturbed sleep, such as excessive sleepiness, insomnia or early waking
  • Menstrual symptoms in women who travel often
  • Diarrhea, stomach problems or constipation
  • Muscle soreness
  • Difficulty concentrating or functioning at the usual level.


The farther someone travels, the worse the symptoms will get. If someone has traveled across at least two time zones, the symptoms of jet lag will occur within a day or two of travel. The more time zones he/she has crossed, the symptoms will get worse or last longer. For each time zone crossed, it's estimated to take about a day to recover.


Jet lag is a temporary problem. However, a person may benefit from seeing a sleep specialist in case he/she travels frequently and continually struggles with jet lag.


Jet lag occurs because crossing multiple time zones puts a person’s internal clock or circadian rhythms that regulate his/her sleep-wake cycle, out of sync with the time in the new locale. Anytime a person crosses two or more time zones, this problem could occur. The person’s sleep-wake cycle, along with most of their body functions such as hunger and bowel habits will remain out of step because it takes a few days for their body to adjust to the new time zone.



Sunlight is a key influence on a person’s internal clock because the pineal gland, which is a part of the brain that influences circadian rhythms, responds to light and darkness. The signal of light is transmitted by certain cells in the retina, which is the tissue at the back of the eye, to an area of the hypothalamus, which is a part of the brain. Then, this signal is sent to the pineal gland. The pineal gland releases the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin at night, but during the day, melatonin production stops. So, a person may be able to ease their adjustment to the new time zone by exposing him/herself to daylight in that new time zone.



The changes in cabin pressure associated with air travel have been shown to contribute to some problems of jet lag, regardless of travel across time zones. A study has shown that simulated air travel at cabin pressures equivalent to 7,000 to 8,000 feet of elevation produced symptoms of altitude-related malaise (a feeling of being unwell), fatigue and muscular discomfort. Additionally, most airline cabins circulate very dry air, which could be dehydrating. This mild dehydration could contribute to feelings of malaise, eye and nasal discomfort and headache.





Usually, treatment isn't required for jet lag. However, a person may be prescribed medications or light therapy in case he/she is a frequent traveler and continually get bothered by jet lag.




  • Benzodiazepines, such as triazolam.
  • Nonbenzodiazepines, such as zaleplon, zolpidem and eszopiclone.


These are medications that could help someone sleep during their flight, in addition to several nights afterward. Side effects are not common, however, when they do occur, they may include vomiting, confusion, nausea, morning sleepiness, sleepwalking and amnesia. These medications can't diminish daytime symptoms of jet lag despite the fact that they help with sleep duration and quality.



Sunlight as well as other factors influences the body's internal clock or circadian rhythms. A person’s body has to adjust to a new daylight schedule when he/she travels across time zones, and reset, to allow him/her to fall asleep and wake up at the proper times.


This transition could be alleviated with light therapy. In this therapy, the person’s eyes will be exposed to an artificial bright light or lamp, which will stimulate sunlight for a specific and regular amount of time during the time when he/she is meant to be awake. This method could be quite useful for businessmen who travel frequently and spend their time indoors, away from natural sunlight during the day in a new time zone. There are several forms of light therapy; for instance, it could be a light box that sits on a table, a desk lamp that could blend in better in an office setting, a light visor that the person could wear on his/her head, and a dawn simulator, which gradually makes the room brighter, making the person wake up in the morning.


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