Jet Lag

What is jet lag? — Jet lag is a condition that causes sleep problems, tiredness, and other symptoms. It happens in people who fly across several time zones, especially when they fly east. The more time zones a person crosses, the more likely he or she is to get jet lag.

Jet lag gets better on its own as a person adjusts to the new time zone. But this can take several days. The farther from home a person is, the longer it takes to get over jet lag.

What are the symptoms of jet lag? — The symptoms include:

Sleep problems, such as problems falling or staying asleep

Feeling tired or sleepy in the daytime

Having trouble thinking, concentrating, or doing normal activities

Stomach problems, such as constipation

Feeling sick or having less energy than normal

Should I see a doctor or nurse? — If you think you had jet lag in the past, talk to your doctor or nurse before going on a long airline flight. He or she can help you figure out ways to avoid jet lag.

How can I prevent jet lag? — Here are a few things you can try:

Stay awake and sleep at certain times. This can help your body adjust to the new time zone. For example, you can:

Stay up until it’s dark if you fly west – Only go to sleep when it gets dark. If you go sightseeing, try to do it during the day.

Avoid bright morning light if you fly east – Go outside as much as possible in the afternoon. If you go sightseeing outdoors, try to do it in the afternoon until your body adjusts to the new time zone.

Eat meals at mealtime in the new time zone – For example, if you normally eat lunch at noon, eat at noon in the new time zone (not noon at home).

Get some exercise, but not right before you are supposed to go to sleep.

Can supplements or medicines help with jet lag? — Yes. A supplement called “melatonin” can help with sleep problems from jet lag when you fly east. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally made by a gland in the brain. Taking extra melatonin can help your body adjust to a new time zone. You can buy melatonin pills in a store or pharmacy without a prescription. The usual dose is 5 milligrams after dark each night, about half an hour before you want to go to sleep.

If you want to try melatonin, tell your doctor or nurse. He or she can tell you if it is safe for you. If you take warfarin (brand names: Coumadin, Jantoven) or medicine to help with epilepsy, melatonin might not be safe for you. Tell your doctor or nurse about all medicines and supplements you take, including over-the-counter medicines. You should start taking melatonin the night you arrive, at bedtime. You can take melatonin for up to 5 nights in the new time zone. After that, you are not likely to need it. Only adults should take melatonin. Doctors don’t know if it helps with jet lag in children. Avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking melatonin.

Does melatonin cause side effects? — Some people have side effects from melatonin. These can include:

Feeling sleepy in the daytime

Dizziness or confusion


Loss of appetite, nausea, and other stomach problems

But these side effects are very similar to jet lag. So doctors are not sure if they are really side effects of melatonin or just jet lag symptoms.

One thought on “Jet Lag”

  1. My main difficulty when flying is motion/altitude sickness. I’ve tried meclazine, Ear Planes, chewing gum, you name it. If I don’t get a window seat, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’ll vomit, so I don’t eat or drink for several hours before a flight. If there’s nothing to come up, I get the “dry-heaves.” My ears close up and “pop” but without relief. It takes about six hours for the nausea and deafness to resolve on a short flight, 2-4 hours. When flying NY-London, I have to schedule about 15 hour’s recovery time. When going to Mumbai or Manilla, it takes two-three days for the ear pain and nausea to ease enough for me to be a functional human. The same is true on return trips, so jetlag isn’t my main problem. I’ve been to several ENTs who tell me there’s nothing wrong, I simply have very sensitive ears and sinuses.
    Any suggestions?

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