Here’s everything you need to know about jet lag

From what journeys are the worst for the disorder to how to ease its effects…

jet lag
(Image credit: rex)

From what journeys are the worst for the disorder to how to ease its effects…

What is jet lag?

Jet lag is a temporary state that occurs after long-haul travel, when adapting to a different light-dark schedule while changing time zones. Affecting people of all ages, jet lag is essentially a collection of symptoms caused by travel-related sleep disturbance and the confusion of your natural body clock.

Despite its name, you don’t have to be on a plane to get jet lag – the temporary disorder comes from simply crossing time zones rapidly.

What are the symptoms of jet lag?

Everyone is affected by jet lag in different ways and the severity of the symptoms varies depending on the amount of time zones crossed.

The most common symptom is a disturbed sleep pattern, with sufferers often experiencing extreme fatigue, drowsiness, lethargy, disorientation, lack of concentration and waking up at irregular times.

Other symptoms include nausea, anxiety, loss of appetite, irritability, headaches, sweating, muscle soreness, and for some women jet lag can also cause irregular periods.

jet lag

How long does jet lag last?

Jet lag is a temporary state and it can take anywhere between a few days and a week for your symptoms to pass. As soon as your body clock has adjusted to your new light-dark schedule, your symptoms will fade.

What are the worst journeys for jet lag?

The severity of jet lag depends on the number of times zones crossed, with some arguing that you need an additional day to recover for each. Long-haul journeys across one or two time zones cause only a few jet lag symptoms, crossing three or more causes general jet lag symptoms, but for people who have crossed about nine time zones, the effects can be extremely severe, especially when flying in an easterly direction.

How can you prevent jet lag?

Unfortunately, preventing jet lag is impossible, but there are of course ways to reduce its effects. Making sure you’re well-rested, avoiding stimulants like caffeine and changing your sleep routine a few days before you travel are the most effective.

Should I see my doctor about jet lag?

Jet lag isn't dangerous and is only temporary, but if the symptoms haven't passed after several weeks and you feel it could be related to something more serious, get in touch with your doctor.

Jenny Proudfoot
Features Editor

Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.