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Jet Lag
March 9, 2022
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Is Jet Lag Worse Going East or West?

Published on March 9, 2022 by support

Jet lag occurs when you travel to a different time zone and find yourself extremely awake at 2 a.m. or hungry for breakfast in the middle of the night. It not only clouds your mind and depletes your vitality, but it also disrupts your body’s normal rhythm and sleep cycles. The body clock can take up to four days to adjust to a new time zone, and these are the days you want to be out enjoying a new place rather than wrapped up in your hotel room with a sleep mask and earplugs.

What is jet lag, exactly?

Jet lag (also known as desynchronosis) is a transient disorder that occurs when your circadian rhythm is disrupted due to traveling across two or more time zones on long-haul flights. Your body clock, also known as your circadian rhythm, is a 24-hour cycle that tells your body when to eat, sleep, or wake up.

Your circadian rhythm is calibrated to your home time zone, so if you leave Abuja at 00:10 on January 1, travel for 23 hours, and arrive in New York at 16:00 on the same day, your body will have no idea what’s going on. Your brain will recognize the time change and be excited to explore, but your body will believe it is 23:00 and be ready to retire. Jet lag is a state of bewilderment and disruption.

Man Using His Laptop While Inside An Airplane

What does jet lag feel like?

The signs and symptoms of jet lag differ from person to person. You may feel fine after a 20-hour flight, but your travel companion may be miserable. The length of your flight and the direction you’re flying determine the severity of jet lag – jet lag is usually stronger when flying east. Because you will not be crossing any time zones and traveling north from Lagos to London, you may feel some jet lag. However, because you will be crossing multiple time zones and traveling east from Lagos to Tokyo, your jet lag will certainly be more severe.

The following are some of the most common signs and symptoms:

  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Disorientation
  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Indigestion
  • Headache
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea

Is it worse to fly east than west for jet lag?

Traveling east, according to most travelers, creates more severe jet lag. The reason behind this is that traveling west adds hours to the day and allows your body to adjust to the changing time zones, whereas flying east subtracts hours from the day and leaves your body with little time to adjust to the changes.

Note that jet lag occurs only while traveling from east to west or west to east and crossing multiple time zones. Although you may feel sleepy following a flight to Paris or Stockholm, you will not suffer from jet lag.

When it comes to jet lag, how long does it take to recover?

Experts estimate that crossing multiple time zones can take up to a day. If you travel from Nigeria to Brazil, your body may take up to four days to adjust to the new time zone. However, everyone is different, and some people will recover faster than others.

Your age, health, and stress levels can all impact the severity of jet lag. A 40-year-old adult who leads a hectic lifestyle will find it far more difficult to adjust than a carefree adolescent or youngster.

White Airplane Wing

What is the best way to avoid jet lag?

Unfortunately, jet lag is almost unavoidable on long-haul travel that covers numerous time zones. Your body will require time to acclimate to the new time zone, which can only occur once you arrive. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to decrease the effects of jet lag before, during, and after your travel. Eating cherries and getting outside in the sunshine are some of the remedies.

Here are a few tried-and-true methods for reducing the symptoms of jet lag:

Before your trip.

Make changes to your sleeping patterns. If you’re heading east, try getting up and going to bed an hour earlier the week before your flight. Also, if you’re traveling west, try getting up and going to bed a little later. It will assist your body in adjusting to the new time zone.

Plan your flight carefully. Make an effort to arrange a flight that corresponds to your typical sleeping cycles. You will only have a few hours to kill before bedtime if you arrive in the late afternoon or early evening. If you want to sleep on the plane, book an overnight journey.

Relax as much as possible. If you have demanding work and home life, try to unwind in the week preceding your trip, so you arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and at ease.

The night before your flight, get a decent night’s sleep. When you’re finally going on that dream vacation to Europe, it’s difficult to fall asleep, but you’ll thank yourself for getting enough sleep.

Man Listening To Music While Inside A Airplane

Throughout your flight

When you get on the plane, reset your watch. Setting the clock on your watch and phone to the new time zone at your destination will help your mind and body adjust to the new time zone.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol. While a cup of coffee before heading to the airport and complimentary wine on the plane are enticing, they can dehydrate you, disrupt your sleep patterns, and make it more difficult to avoid jet lag.

Take a nap. Use earplugs to filter out the noise and an eye mask to block light while sleeping on an overnight journey. It may assist you in getting a better night’s sleep.

When you should be sleeping, avoid watching TV. The glare from the computer, along with a lack of sleep, will further upset your already messed-up circadian clock. If you can’t sleep, read a book instead.

Eat during mealtimes that are convenient for you. Although many seasoned travelers recommend avoiding airline meals to alleviate jet lag symptoms, this is impossible on extremely lengthy journeys. However, if you must eat during your travel, research the meal times at your final location and eat accordingly. It is an excellent approach to assist your body in adjusting to the new time zone.

Keep yourself hydrated. In combination with the low pressure in the flight cabin, Dehydration can exacerbate jet lag symptoms. During your flight, drink plenty of water.

Avoid taking sleeping medications. Although you may be tempted to take sleeping drugs on the plane, doing so will dehydrate you and make you feel worse. Instead, try a natural sleep aid.

What methods do you use to overcome jet lag?

If you arrive feeling disoriented and exhausted, there are a few things you can do to combat jet lag.

Don’t take a nap. Avoid the temptation to close the blinds and take a power nap if you arrive during the day. Napping will further disrupt your circadian cycle and make you feel worse.

Get some sunlight. Instead of taking a nap or sleeping when you get there, go outside and get some sunshine and fresh air. It will help your internal body clock adjust to the new time zone and keep you awake. Wait till bedtime before going to sleep.

Use melatonin supplements. Melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone; therefore, taking a melatonin supplement can help your body acclimatize to the new time zone. 

If you are traveling for work, try to arrive earlier. If you’re traveling east, take it in the evening; if you’re traveling west, take it in the morning. Try to arrive sooner if you’re traveling for work. This allows you to recover from jet lag and be ready for your meeting or conference.

Is it true that exercise can assist with jet lag?

Yes. A lack of oxygen exacerbates jet lag, so obtain as much exercise as possible before, during, and after your travel. During your flight, walking around the cabin and doing some easy leg exercises is a fantastic way to get your blood flowing, and when you arrive, a brisk stroll outside is a great way to get your body moving and expose your body to sunlight. It’s never enjoyable to deal with jet lag, and it’s unavoidable on long-haul travel, but with a little planning, you’ll be able to avoid it and spend more time enjoying your trip!

What are your strategies for dealing with jet lag? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive more helpful travel advice and amazing airline bargains.