Is the clock saying one thing & your body saying another? Learn more about jet lag, from causes to symptoms

So, you’ve just touched down for your trip and you’ve got a new place to explore, new people to meet… and a new time zone to adjust to. If you find yourself feeling exhausted or generally a little out of sorts in the sleep department, you’re not alone. You could be experiencing jet lag.

What is jet lag?

In short, jet lag is when your sleep pattern is disrupted after a long flight. It’s a common occurrence, especially when crossing multiple time zones. 

You may have jet lag when you get to your destination, but it may also occur when you return home. Don’t worry though, it usually improves after a few days when your body has adjusted to the change in time zone.  

What causes jet lag?

Everyone has a natural sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythm tied to the cycle of day and night. When you arrive in a new time zone, your body needs to adjust, and your circadian rhythm may be interrupted.

In simple terms, your body clock could be saying it’s morning or afternoon, ready and raring to go, but the local clock may be saying it’s evening or time to wind down for sleep (and vice versa). You may find you can't sleep or wake up at the required times of the day or night, and even a time difference of a few hours could throw off your normal sleep pattern. 

Jet lag is thought to be worse when travelling east where you need to go to sleep earlier than usual, rather than travelling west where you need to stay awake for longer

Many people find it harder to fall asleep when they’re not tired, so jet lag is thought to be worse when travelling east where you need to go to sleep earlier than usual, rather than travelling west where you need to stay awake for longer. Everyone is different though, so you may find the opposite. 

What are the symptoms of jet lag?

The main symptoms of jet lag are:

• Difficulty sleeping at bedtime and waking up in the morning
• Feeling tired and exhausted
• Difficulty staying awake during the day
• Poor sleep quality
• Problems with concentration and memory

Sometimes jet lag can also cause dizziness, nausea, indigestion, constipation, changes in appetite and mild levels of anxiety. 

How long does jet lag last?

There’s no set time for how long jet lag lasts, it’s different for everybody. In general, symptoms usually improve in a few days once your body has got used to the new time zone. 

Medicines are usually not needed for jet lag, but there are things you can do to help reduce its effects, including getting plenty of rest before you travel, trying to sleep on the plane if it’s night-time at your destination and changing your sleep schedule to the new time zone as quickly as possible when you arrive. Learn more about ways to help ease symptoms of jet lag

We also offer a Boots Online Doctor – Jet Lag Treatment service* for help adjusting to your new time zone. After completing an online consultation, a clinician will review your answers and provide advice and prescribe treatment if appropriate.


*Treatments provided by Boots Online Doctor are subject to a consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Charges apply