What causes Jet Lag?
Jet lag is a condition that affects your energy and state of alertness. It’s caused when your body’s natural clock, or circadian rhythm, is disrupted by traveling to different time zones.
Your body is aligned on a 24-hour cycle or body clock. Your body uses this clock to perform specific biological functions, like releasing hormones that promote sleep, or increasing your body temperature to help you wake up at the start of your day.
Jet lag, also called desynchronosis or circadian dysrhythmia, is temporary, but it can interfere with your day in many ways. It can cause tiredness, drowsiness, lethargy, or even upset stomach.
These symptoms aren’t dangerous, but they can impact your well-being. Preparing for jet lag, and possibly preventing it, can help you ensure this common disorder doesn’t disrupt your next trip.
Causes of jet lag
Your body is naturally set to a 24-hour cycle. This cycle is known as your circadian rhythm. Your body’s temperature, hormones, and other biological functions rise and fall according to this internal time gauge.
When you travel, this clock may no longer align with the time in your new location. For example, you may fly out of Atlanta at 6 p.m. local time and arrive in London at 7 a.m. local time. Your body, however, thinks it’s 1 a.m. Now, just as you’re possibly reaching peak fatigue, you need to stay awake another 12 to 14 hours to help your body adjust to the new time zone.
You could help prepare your body to the new time zone by sleeping on the plane, but several factors make that task difficult. These include temperature, noise, and comfort level.
One factor works in your favor, however. The barometric pressure on planes tends to be lower than air on the ground. This is similar to being on a mountain that’s 8,000 feet above sea level. While there’s just as much oxygen in the air, the lower pressure may result in less oxygen reaching the bloodstream. Lower oxygen levels may make you lethargic, and this can encourage sleep.
written by Kimberly Holland