Long and Short Term Effects of Jet Lag


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Jet lag is a fairly prevalent condition in the modern world because of the popularity of long distance travel. A product of moving across more than two time zones, jet lag occurs when our body clock is out of synch with the day/night cycle at the destination to which we are travelling. In this article we look at both the short term and potential long term effects of jet lag, both of which are naturally a concern to people travelling large distances, and particularly those who travel frequently.

Short term effects of jet lag

The short term effects of jet lag are fairly well documented, with many people from different walks of life often experiencing the conditions when travelling on holidays or business trips. Jet lag is closely associated with tiredness and fatigue, and these are often compounded by the condition’s characteristic disruption of sleep.

Jet lag can make it difficult to get to sleep despite your fatigue, and in some cases cause you to wake up repeatedly throughout the night or awaken particularly early. Jet lag also some effects on our cognitive function, causing a lack of concentration and coordination as our brain struggles with changes in our body chemistry and fatigue.

The condition can cause short term bowel issues, and some people can experience a reduction in the frequency of their production of faeces, and changes in the consistency and texture of those faeces. Some people also find that they experience a reduced appetite and may not enjoy food as much while they suffer from the condition.

Fortunately these effects are short lived and will typically only linger for a few days. The severity of jet lag in terms of how long these effects last depends on the distance travelled, and more specifically, the number of time zones crossed. These time zones need to have been crossed in an east-west or west-east fashion for jet lag to occur, and the further you travel in these directions, the longer your jet lag can be. Your body’s unique reaction to jet lag is also a factor, some people, particularly those in good physical condition, will often find that their jet lag may not be as long lived as it is for others.

Long term effects of jet lag

The long term effects of jet leg are only now being investigated. Widespread global travel is a relatively recent innovation, and in the timeframe involved our understanding of the long term effects of jet lag is only now taking shape.

At present there are indications that repeated jet lag may have long term effects on our learning abilities and long term memory. Research into this area is not yet conclusive, however there is some evidence to support the theory that repeatedly subjecting our bodies to the hormonal changes involved in jet lag can cause these effects.

Jet lag involves disruptions in the natural function of key hormones with many important regulatory roles. Some of their effects can alter our sensitive brain chemistry, and repeatedly exposing ourselves to such changes can potentially cause longer term damage.

While it may be some time before the long term effects of jet lag become clear and fully understood, it is clear that the area does warrant further study. If you are worried about either the long or short term effects of jet lag, there are a number of sources that offer excellent information on steps you can take to minimise the effects of the condition and preserve your health in the long run. These measures can also help you enjoy the first few days of your trip as well!


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