Jet lag is a common travel health problem. When you travel across time zones, usually three or more, it can affect your natural sleeping and waking cycles. This can make you drowsy during the day and cause difficulty sleeping at night.
The main symptoms of jet lag are feeling drowsy during the day and finding it hard to get to sleep at night.
This in turn can result in:
Jet lag is caused by arriving in a new time zone without your body having time to adjust. Your natural sleep pattern – or circadian rhythm – is interrupted and you may find you can't sleep or wake up at the required times of the day or night.
People often find it worse to travel east, where you need to fall asleep earlier than you would usually, than to travel west, where you need to stay awake for longer than you would usually. That's probably because it's easier to force yourself to keep busy and distracted and to stay awake than it is to convince your body it’s time to sleep when you're not tired.
There are several things you can do to try to avoid experiencing jet lag too severely or for too long:
Before you travel, you should always check to see whether there are any other potential health concerns to address. Visit https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/home or https://travelhealthpro.org.uk or https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for up-to-date advice and information.
Page last reviewed by: Dr. Christina Hennessey 21/06/2021