Air travel that involves crossing different time zones may result into jet lag. If you are travelling from India to United States chances are that you will feel jet lagged. The phenomenon of jetlag occurs when we fight 'our biological clock'. Our body needs rest at certain times and crossing different time zones may cause an interruption in our 'normal resting pattern'.
Jet lag leads to fatigue, dehydration and disorientation, accompanied by a lack of concentration and motivation, especially for activities that require cognitive skills such as reading, negotiating a business deal, or reporting to work.
According to various studies, you require one day per one-hour of time zone crossed to regain normal rhythm and energy levels. For example, a five-hour time difference means you will require five days to recover.

Why Does Jet Lag Occur?

Crossing time zones is the major cause of jet lag. The more time your body takes to adjust to changes in your sleep-wake cycle, the more you are affected.

  • Travel sickness, travel stress can make your jet lag worse. If you are nervous or hung over during the flight you may take some time to recover from jetlag.
  • Drinking coffee, tea and alcoholic drinks in-flight may also affect the jet lag.
  • Remaining seated for a long while may cause excessive tiredness and irritation. This will also affect jet lag symptoms.
  • Other factors that may affect you are irregular bowel movements, airline food and monotony of the long travel.

Tips to avoid jet lag

The following tips will help you to avoid jet lag and enjoy long flights.

  • Drink lots of water. Avoid coffee, alcohol, juice, and other beverages.
  • Sleep during your normal sleeping time. You may use blankets, pillows, and earplugs. If you are taking a midnight flight, try to sleep as soon as possible so that your sleep-wake cycle remains unchanged.
  • Position yourself in a comfortable sleeping posture.
  • Eat lightly.

Other strategies to avoid jet lag

There is no sure shot remedy for preventing jet lag. The following strategies will help you to travel comfortably. Jet lag often multiplies the problems caused by travel-related stress.

  • Catch up on your sleep BEFORE the flight.
  • Try to take a daytime flight.
  • Once onboard, set your watch to match destination time.
  • Sleeping pills are not a good idea. They can induce a comatose state and make you more prone to developing blood clots in your legs. However, these pills work well for some people. Consult with a doctor to take the right medication, if need be.
  • Stretch your legs and walk around as much as possible. Try to freshen up during stopovers. Look out for lounge facilities and restrooms before you take a connecting flight.
  • Once you reach your destination start eating and sleeping according to the new schedule.

Melatonin to prevent jet lag

Yes, you have the option of taking Melatonin to prevent jet lag. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. It is believed that air travel disturbs the balance of this hormone by disrupting sleep patterns. Remember that Melatonin is not regulated by drug control agencies and is not the medical remedy for jet lag. However, it does work for most people.
To prevent jet lag you must sleep during the normal sleeping hours of the place you are flying to. Melatonin helps you sleep at the right time at the right place. A small dose (0.1 to 0.5 mg) helps most people sleep.

Flying eastward

If you are flying eastward, take one dose of Melatonin, between 6 and 7 p.m. On the day you arrive, and for the next four days, take one dose of Melatonin at destination bedtime (between 9 and 10 p.m.).

Flying westward

If you are flying westward, take one dose of Melatonin at bedtime (destination local time) on the day you arrive. You must continue this for the next four days. Side effects of Melatonin
  • Remember that Melatonin does not help much if you are crossing more than five time zones.
  • There could be minor side effects with Melatonin such as daytime drowsiness, headaches, and unusual dreams. Very rarely, major complications such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and headaches can occur, especially with high doses.
  • Do not take it if you are pregnant, breast-feeding or taking any other medication regularly.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking Melatonin to prevent jet lag and ask for a suitable dose.
Long distance travelling can cause jet lag. However, if you follow the right strategies to prevent jet lag you may not be affected at all.