What Is Jet Lag?
Here's Why You Feel It

We love to travel, and 2020 was supposed to be a big travel year for us. Like the rest of you, that didn't happen. 2021 hasn't been so good either!

We're still dreaming about travel, reading about new destinations, and making (tentative) plans for the future. We hope all of you are well and staying safe... and that you find some inspiration here for YOUR future travels.

Let's hope we can all be traveling again in 2022! 

Jet lag is something that every traveler has to deal with.

It's one thing to change your wrist watch by six or nine or twelve hours...

It's whole different thing to get your body to change the same number of time zones.

All those feelings you have... tired and grumpy, puffy, headachy...

They're all part of a real physical reaction.

Your biological clock is upset when you travel rapidly across many time zones.

You're body produces certain hormones to tell it when you normally sleep, when you wake up and when you're hungry...

Now your watch and your brain are trying to tell it something different.... your body is lagging behind.

What Doesn't Cause Jet Lag

Crossing one or two time zones usually doesn't cause jet lag.  At least we haven't experienced it with short flights.

There really isn't enough of a time change there to really disrupt your biological clock.

And it's not linked just with the length of the flight.

Long North-South flights may cause fatigue, but not usually jet lag

Long north-south flights that don't cross time zones may leave you tired, but not jet lagged.

Flight fatigue is caused by the dry cabin air and the fact that the cabins are pressurized to 8000 feet so that you get less oxygen when you breath....

That makes you tired and grumpy, but those long north-south flights won't disrupt your sleep pattern.

Jet Lag Disrupts Your Sleep Pattern

Long flights can cause jet lag and fatigue

You know it if you've experienced it...

Jet lag is more than just flight fatigue.

Besides feeling grumpy and irritable when you get off the plane...

...now that you've crossed all those time zones...

You're supposed to eat and sleep on a whole different schedule.

What Do You Feel?

You may find that your feet and face feel puffy...

You have a headache.

You may have digestive upsets.... and that can be either constipation or diarrhea.

And you will definitely have problems with your sleeping patterns the first day or two or more depending on how susceptible you are.

If you went by a slower means of transportation, it would be easier.... a horse drawn wagon maybe? OK, that's not realistic, but if you went by ship, you would cross those time zones more slowly and your body could catch up gradually. Your body will catch up with that plane ride too... it just takes a few days.

Travel By Horse? OK... By Boat or Train...

If you went by a slower means of transportation, it would be easier....

A horse drawn wagon maybe?

OK, that's not realistic...

But if you went by ship, you would cross those time zones more slowly, and your body could catch up gradually.

We took the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Saint Petersburg, through Mongolia and to Beijing. 

It was a long trip... lots of fun... and NO jet lag.

Your body will catch up with that plane ride too... it just takes a few days.

What Can You Do To Counteract It?

We really haven't tried any of the over the counter remedies.  And we haven't tried to reset our biological clock before a trip. 

We just try to be sensible on the flight and get into action as soon as we can once we arrive... get out into the fresh air and stay away from museums for at least the first day.

Basically we do what we tell you to do on our page about fatigue after flights

Briefly, here's what we said, and what you'll read in all the health magazines and inflight magazines...

  • Try to stay hydrated.
  • Try to avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Try to eat balanced meals and avoid high fat.
  • Do exercises in your seat...  Check the back pages of those airline magazines in the seat back.
  • To counteract that dry aircraft cabin air... I don't know if anyone else will tell you this, but I get a damp paper towel and breath through that.

How Long Does It Last?

We've heard it can take up to a day per time zone crossed to completely readjust your biological clock...

...but we think with a little effort you can be functioning well enough to have a great time after only a day or two...

...and even in those first couple of days, you can be out and about and having fun.

Everyone feels that jet lag to some degree, even professionals and seasoned travelers... don't let them tell you otherwise.

You can't fight it completely, but learn how your body reacts and what works best for you to recover, and soon you'll be on the right time zone and having a great time.

Happy travels... even if you don't travel the world... just remember that life is a journey... embrace and enjoy it! Judy and Mark

Curious about what else we've written about?  Search our site for a destination or travel tip.

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Thanks, Judy and Mark

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Fall foliage in shoulder season

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