Our sleep and wake cycles are regulated by a complex system of hormones and neurotransmitters operating in close association with ambient brightness or darkness.
These delicate mechanisms, dubbed the “internal clock,” allow us to wake up in the morning and fall asleep at night. While traveling through several times zones, either eastbound or westbound, the body’s internal clock falls out of sync with your surroundings. This results in jet lag, the classic symptoms of which include drowsiness during the day and an inability to fall asleep at night. These symptoms can also be accompanied by gastrointestinal problems, loss of appetite, headaches, mood swings and can be significant enough to disrupt your daily activities. There is no way to fully prevent jet lag. Thus, making changes to your routine as much as possible a few days before your departure, like getting up a bit earlier in the morning or staying up a bit later at night, depending on the direction of your flight, staying hydrated, starting your trip well rested and getting some sunlight from the very first day of your trip can all help resynchronize your internal clock and minimize the symptoms of jet lag. It is estimated that the body usually requires one day per time zone crossed in order to adapt to its new schedule. For more advice on jet lag, talk to your healthcare professional before your trip!