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Jet lag is an unpleasant feeling of generally having lost your rhythm, and feeling tired or confused. It comes on when a traveler crosses several time zones, especially from west to east. It is more frequent in people over 60 years, and with very long flights. Its symptoms vary, but are due to the disruption of the body’s natural patterns of activity.
Biological or Circadian rhythms are 24-hour patterns of bodily activity. They regulate vital functions, including digestion, sleep, memory, heart rate and blood pressure. These depend upon the settings of the biological clock, which is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus, deep in the brain.
This part of the brain is also the part which receives light signals from the retina, in the eyes. Thus it regulates the diurnal variation in the secretion of melatonin and other brain chemicals. These in turn set the rhythm for the daily patterns of nerve stimulation and endocrine secretion, which finally control all the other body processes.
When you have jet lag, you may:
With frequent fliers who travel long miles by air, the disturbances can become permanent. The sequelae of jet lag include:
Not all people experience jet lag to the same degree or for the same duration. The factors which determine the severity of jet lag may include:
Since jet lag symptoms affect a person’s peak mental, physical and emotional performance, it can cause undesirable effects which reduce athletic fitness and negative affect peak performance. Similarly, jet lag can result in impaired judgment, leading to poor decision-making and strategic skills during the recovery period, which could affect international relations. The same applies in the financial and business world. Thus the symptoms of jet lag are far from being a trivial affair.