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Diseases & Conditions

Jet Lag

Are you looking forward to your cruise vacation? Chances are good that you’ll have to endure an airplane flight before boarding your cruise ship. To help start your cruising vacation full of energy, here is some information to minimize any jet lag problems you may encounter.

What exactly is jet lag?

Jet lag is a disturbance in one’s body clock. The most common symptoms of jet lag are fatigue, digestive problems, pronounced reaction to alcohol, change in mood and/or judgment, and a general inability to function.

What causes jet lag?

Many factors contribute to jet lag, including long periods of sitting, oxygen deficiency during flight, decreased air pressure in the cabin, warm cabin temperature, and low humidity.

Are there steps I can take to prevent jet lag?

Yes. The following are preventive measures that you can take to reduce the severity of your jet lag:

  1. Readjust your sleep schedule:
    • Before traveling from east to west, go to bed later and wake up later for several days before departure.
    • Before traveling from west to east, go to bed earlier and wake up earlier for several days before departure.
    • Get a good night’s sleep the evening before your flight.
  2. Schedule layovers instead of straight-through flights when crossing four or more time zones.
  3. Exercise in your seat or stand and move about the cabin whenever possible. Some suggested exercises include:
    • Breathing deeply
    • Rolling your feet
    • Raising your knees
    • Turning your head
    • Swinging your arms overhead
    • Contracting (tensing) and relaxing your leg muscles
  4. Before you leave, gradually adjust your meal schedule to a new time zone and be sure to drink plenty of fluids.
  5. Try to avoid tension and stress before departure; avoid taking sleeping pills, if possible.
  6. Do not overeat during the flight, and keep alcohol intake to a minimum.
  7. When you arrive at your destination, get some sunlight to help yourself adjust to your new surroundings.
  8. After you arrive, get plenty of sleep, eat only food to which you are accustomed at first, and drink plenty of clear bottled fluids until the jet lag has resolved.

Does taking melatonin really help combat jet lag?

There has been interest in melatonin since it does appear to affect the body clock of many animals. However, its use is not recommended. Despite its widespread availability in food stores, there is no evidence that melatonin works, and a record of safety has not been established.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 12/15/2011...#12781

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