Jet lag: symptoms, causation and minimization

Jenny Rutten


In this literature review we provide an overview of what jet lag is, how it is caused, what contributes to a less or more severe experience of jet lag and what we can do about it. Jet lag is a misalignment of the human circadian rhythm which is regulated by our Suprachiasmatic Nucleus in the brain and caused by crossing time zones too fast for our biological clock to keep up. Main symptoms are intense sleepiness or insomnia at inappropriate times. Other symptoms can be cognitive impairments like loss of motivation and concentration, loss of appetite, altered digestive functions, diarrhea, depressive symptoms and decreased physical performance can also occur. This is defined as jet lag.  There is no aid to totally avoid jet lag, but there are ways to minimize the symptoms. Jet lag can be minimized by phase advancing or delaying the circadian rhythm before a flight with help of exposure or avoidance of bright light, melatonin and pre-adjusting the sleep schedule. The same resources can be used after arrival to reduce the symptoms.


Jet lag; biological clock; symptoms

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