In its simplest form jet lag occurs when you are traveling and the time recorded by your body’s internal clock is out of balance with local time at your destination. For example, if you leave London at 9 pm and fly to Bangkok you will arrive approximately 13 hours later at 10 am London time the following morning. However, because you have flown across several time zones, local time at Bangkok airport is now 4 pm that same afternoon.
Having traveled to your hotel, checked in and taken a shower your body will now tell you that it is time to eat. Now, your body clock thinks that it is time for lunch and, although everybody else will be eating dinner, your internal clock doesn’t mind what you call the meal, it only cares that you eat. So far so good, however, a couple of hours later when everyone else starts going to bed your problems will begin as your body clock still thinks it is only late afternoon.
A time difference of 6 hours, such as that shown here, is significant and even the best of us will be feeling the effects of jet lag. Indeed, while an hour or two will hardly be noticeable, anything over about 4 hours will produce the symptoms of jet lag in most of us.
There are of course various things that you can do before your journey, during your flight and at your destination to help to reduce jet lag but one problem which researchers have noted recently is that when your internal body clock experiences a large shift in time it often overcompensates when adjusting and thus leaves you suffering a double dose of jet lag before it eventually settles down. So, how do you compensate for this?
Well, it is possible to take this into account to a certain extent and reduce the effect by starting to adjust your internal clock in advance of travel, but circumstances may make this difficult. One alternative therefore is to simply break your journey whenever you are traveling across more than four or five time zones.
In the case of our journey to Bangkok this might mean breaking your journey half way and relaxing for a day before continuing on. Today’s air travel may have made the world smaller but it is going to take the human body a little longer to catch up with technology.