Being considered as one of the circadian rhythm sleep disorders, jetlag is a physiological condition that resulted from a rapid change in the body’s (more or less) 24-hour cycle in the biochemical, physiological or behavioral processes called the circadian rhythms or the body clock. Such circadian rhythms can easily be upset by external forces or circumstances and they take time to readjust or realign themselves. Some people do not experience disruptions when crossing one or two time zones while others may need days to recover. On the average, however, the recovery from jetlag usually takes an entire day per each time zone that was crossed.
The Most Common Cause of Jetlag
Traveling by jet plane is the most common cause of jetlag but it does not depend on the time in flight but rather on its direction. Even twelve hour flights that are bound north or south will never cause jetlags because no time zones are crossed. On the other hand, either eastward or westward (trans-meridian) bound flights do cause jetlags even if they are as short as three or four hours because the east-west destinations cross time zones. There is evident which points to the fact that traveling from west to east contributes to jetlag more than traveling from east to west and the symptoms tend to be more pronounced.
The crossing into different time zones brings the body’s clock into disharmony with the time zone of the end destination. In other words, the body suddenly experiences day and night that does not coordinate with the pattern it has become accustomed to. As a consequence, the cadence that determines when it is time to eat and to sleep as well as the regulation of hormonal processes and the gauging of the body’s temperature variants becomes inconsistent with the surrounding environment and with each other. Since the greatest possible disruption is approximately twelve hours, crossing the International Date Line does not add to the effects of jetlag.
The Most Often Reported Symptoms of Jetlag
The symptoms of jetlag vary from one person to another as does their severity and duration the following are the most common ones:
• Digestive problems that may lead to loss of appetite, nausea and irregularity of bowel movements.
• Headaches, stuffiness of the sinuses and pain as well as general body aches.
• Disturbance of sleep patterns and insomnia which then cause weakness and fatigue.
• Mental disorientation, wooziness, irritability and easily triggered bouts of anger.
• Depression and reduced energy.
Remedial Cures for Jetlag
The best and time proven cure for the symptoms of jetlag is to allow the body to do its own synchronizing in an effort to catch-up or to fall-back to the local time zone. Some say that melatonin, a hormone, speeds up this process but it has not yet been tested or approved by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration or by any other official agencies. Sildenafil (Viagra) has been tried on hamsters with a 50% rate of success but no human subjects have been tested and, therefore, sildenafil is not yet recognized as a remedy for the symptoms of jet lag.