Jet Lag: What is it, Causes and How to combat it

Jet Lag: What is it, Causes and How to combat it

Jet lag is a process that significantly affects the performance of athletes. Some supplements can help to relieve its effects

Definition of Jet Lag

Jet Lag is a sleeping disorder that happens when a person crosses several time zones in a short period of time. Some people will experience sleeping problems after a transatlantic flight.

This jet lag has negative effects on health and it will affect the physical and mental state of the traveller.

Taking a nap on a plane

The most common symptoms are waking up too early, morning somnolence, general discomfort and a worse performance.

This phenomenon occurs due to a desynchronization of our biological clock due to a change in the external cycles of light-darkness. If we travel, we normally take some time to adjust our biorhythm and get used to the new time zone.

What is Jet Lag

The circadian rhythm

The circadian rhythm (also called “biorhythm“) is the internal cycle of the organism, something like a “biological clock”, and it matches the hours of the day, and it helps the body to adapt to the rhythm and cycles of light and darkness.

The biorhythm is controlled by the hypothalamus, which is responsible for regulating the basic factors of the organism, such as the temperature and sleep-wake cycles.

Sleep-wake cycles

The sleep-wake cycle depends on the perception of the light, and it is produced by the secretion of melatonin that is released through the pineal gland, which causes drowsiness

Jet lag and the direction of the flight

Passengers travelling on flights heading East have more pronounced jet lag symptoms than those travelling West, due to the fact sunrise happens earlier which makes it more difficult to adapt.

How to cope with jet lag?

Jet lag occurs when the body’s biological clock is not synchronized with the light-dark cycle of the destination, causing drowsiness or insomnia at the worst moments. The effect is even worse when there are different time zones between the place of departure and destination of a trip. The body may need from two to three days to recover.

Research has shown that people who have strict sleep habits tend to suffer more pronounced symptoms than those who have more flexible sleeping hours. Moreover, people who are early risers have less problems when travelling to the East, while those who usually go late to bed have less problems when travelling to the West.

We can use different strategies to combat jet lag and stimulate the circadian cycle to adapt to the time difference.

There are different methods to adjust the circadian cycle, some of the main techniques are:

Causes of Jet Lag

Jet lag occurs when the body’s biological clock is not synchronized with the light-dark cycle of the destination, causing drowsiness or insomnia at the worst moments.

The effect is even worse when there are different time zones between the place of departure and destination of a trip. The body may need from two to three days to recover.

Sleeping at the airport

We can use different strategies to combat jet lag and stimulate the circadian cycle to adapt to the time difference

Duration of Jet

The body may need two or three days to recover. Research has shown that people who have strict sleep habits tend to suffer more pronounced symptoms than those who have more flexible sleeping hours.

It has also been proven that Jet Lag is not so bad in flights that go to the west, since the day is longer in this direction and the circadian rhythms can adapt better; the same happen when travelling during the summer.

Symptoms of Jet Lag

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • morning somnolence
  • Frequent naps during the day
  • Excessive yawning


Jet Lag triggers a desynchronization of the circadian rhythm, which is the reason why we have problems to sleep at night

Supplements as a Natural Alternative against Jet Lag

Many people who suffer from jet lag, try to fight it by taking sleeping pills. However, these types of medicines should be avoided because they have harmful side effects for our health and they can cause addiction.

Moreover, the sleep that is caused by pills is not as restful as natural sleep.

Supplements against Jet Lag in capsules

Therefore, it is better to overcome jet lag by taking natural supplements and following healthy habits

This will accelerate the adaptation to the new time zone, providing a restful sleep, reducing the somnolence during the day while improving our physical and mental health.

Benefits of Supplements to Reduce Jet Lag

Every year, thousands and thousands of people travel all around the world, either for work or pleasure. Long trips cause fatigue during the daytime and difficulty to fall asleep at night.

Additionally, it also produces a physical and mental deficit, which affects the productivity or the capacity to enjoy and relax during a holiday.

Plane flying

Dietary supplements help to overcome the time changes and provide energy throughout the whole day, which supports the natural recovery of our sleep rhythm

Supplements for Jet Lag

Dietary supplements help to overcome the time change that happens when we travel and the make it easier to adjust to the new time zone.


What is it?

Melatonin is a compound produced by the pineal gland of the brain that acts as a neurotransmitter and which is closely related to the circadian rhythm and the regulation of sleep.

Clinical studies have proven that there is a strong connection between the release of melatonin and falling asleep. For this reason, those supplements that include this compound will contribute to the adaptation of our biological clock to the new time zone.

How does it work?

Melatonin supplements are used, in principle, to normalize irregular sleep, adjust sleep and wake states, and increase the quality of sleep. They are extremely useful especially for those who take flights that go through more than five time zones in one go.


  • Contributing to regulating the sleep biorhythm
  • Helping to adapt to jet lag and time differences
  • Improving the quality of sleep and reduce insomnia
  • Increasing the quality of sleep in certain cases of insomnia that are related to depression
  • Regulating the sleep-wake cycle in people who suffer narcolepsy
How to take it?

It is advisable to take the recommended dose, between 1-3mg, before going to sleep


What is it?

5-hydroxytryptophan, 5-HTP, is a compound that is obtained from the synthesized amino acid and tryptophan. It is a precursor of serotonin and melatonin, which are in charge of regulating the sleep rhythm.

How does it work?

Although the 5-HTP amino acid is not directly connected to the circadian rhythm, it has been proven that it improves the sleep-wake cycle and reduces the drowsiness. This effect occurs due to a change in the temperature of the brain just before sleeping.


  • Improving the quality of sleep
  • Reducing the anxiety and panic states
  • Encouraging the balance and peace
How to take it?
The dose is between 200-500mg daily, distributed in two servings


What is it?

L-tryptophan is a natural amino acid that increases the levels of serotonin and melatonin in the brain. These neurotransmitters help you to sleep better.

How does it work?

The biorhythms adapt to a new cycle when we take L-tryptophan, which reduces the fatigue during the day and improves the sleep at night. It enhances the synthesis of serotonin, which is the main substance related to the feeling of relaxation and well-being.


  • Favoring the quality of sleep
  • Relieving jet lag
  • Reducing physical and mental stress
  • Improving the sport performance
How to take it?

The dose can range between 500-2000mg and it is advisable to take it with the last meals of the day


What is it?

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is native to the lakes of Africa and Central America. It has important nutrients, such as vitamins, essential fatty acids, and trace elements, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium. In addition, it is also rich in proteins and has the complete eight essential amino acids.

How does it work?

Spirulina is highly nutritious, provides energy and endurance, and promotes wellness overall. A recently published clinical study has found that spirulina supplements help to reduce physical and mental fatigue. Because of this, spirulina contributes to reducing jet lag-related fatigue.


  • Relieving fatigue
  • Providing energy and vitality
  • Stimulating the body and mind
How to take it?

It can be purchased in capsules or powder. The latter can be mixed with shakes or natural juices. The dose ranges between 1-5g daily that can be taken at any time


What is it?

Guarana (Paullinia cupana) is a climbing plant native to Brazil. It grows mainly in the Amazon basin, and it has been traditionally used as a powerful stimulant and antioxidant. Guarana contains natural caffeine and other phyto-nutrients which reduce fatigue and have a stimulating effect.

How does it work?

Guarana extract has four times more caffeine than coffee beans. In addition, clinical studies have shown that guarana contains other ingredients that are much more stimulating than caffeine. Guarana supplements release energy gradually which is why they are very useful to counteract jet lag. Guarana does not alter the biorhythm, rather, it stimulates the organism throughout the whole day, resulting in a better sleep at night.


  • A natural stimulant, much more effective than caffeine
  • Intense psychoactive effects
  • It does not alter the cognitive abilities or memory
  • Reducing fatigue
  • Increasing the state of alertness
  • Improving the physical performance
How to take it?

It is advisable to take between 200-800mg daily, specially to start the day off since it will keep us active throughout the day

Who can benefit from taking Supplements Against Jet Lag?

  • Those who travel long distances by plane
  • Those who do business travels
  • Athletes who usually participate in international competitions
  • Tourists who travel to international destinations

Athletes and jet lag

This is the “typical” situation in any terminal…

Contraindications of Supplements against Jet Lag

It is not advisable to combine sedatives with supplements, because it can produce severe somnolence.

Dietary supplements encourage sleep and can interfere with other medicines

Love travelling

On the other hand, the consumption of stimulants such as caffeine and tobacco can reduce the effects of the supplements.

How to Combat Jet Lag

Before reaching your destination…

  • Travelling during the night and reaching your destination at night can be difficult to overcome. It is advisable to sleep as little as possible during the flight if you plan to land during the evening, which means that it will be easier to fall asleep when you reach the destination.
  • If you are going to spend some time in a far away country you can get used to their pace and rhythm. But this is only possible if you are doing business trips that allow to you travel.
  • A trick to adapt better and gradually to your destination is to set the clock with the time of the destination country, this will help you to prepare mentally to the new time zone.

The effects of jet lag

It is advisable to drink a lot of liquid before the flight, as well as following an easy-digestion diet

Upon reaching your destination…

  • Go for a walk outdoors once you have reached your destination, since it will help your body to adapt to the change
  • Upon reaching your destination, you should avoid taking sleeping pills, since they will alter the sleep-wake cycle even more
  • You should avoid drinking alcohol or too much caffeine
  • It is advisable to protect the eyes with a sleeping mask if you are going to sleep during the day
You have to start adapting to the new time from the moment you arrive to the hotel. It is important to adapt to the new rhythm immediately after waking up in regular flights to the West.

General tips during long flights

  • Do not drink alcohol and/or coffee since they increase the loss of fluids. Make sure that you are constantly hydrated with water.
  • Plan stretching exercises to avoid muscle numbness.
  • Avoid eating because you are bored: find things to do during the flight (readings, games, music…)


  • WRIGHT, JE et al., “Effects of travel across time zones (jet lag) on exercise capacity and performance”, Aviation, Space, and environmental Medicine, 54, 1983, pp. 132-137.
  • PICKETT, G. F., y MORRIS, A. F., “Effects of acute sleep and foot deprivation on total body response time and cardiovascular performance”, Journal 01 Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 15, 1975, pp. 49-53.
  • HILL, DW; HILL, CM; FIELDS, KL; SMITH, JC, “Effets du decalage horaire sur les facteurs reliees a la performance sportive. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology 1993: Vol. 18 Issue 1. p. 91-103
  • Samuels, CH. “Jet Lag and Travel Fatigue: A Comprehensive Management Plan for Sport Medicine Physicians and High-Performance Support Teams”. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine May2012, Vol. 22 Issue 3, p268.
  • Schobersberger, W; Schobersberger, B, “The Traveling Athlete: from Jet Leg to Jet Lag”. Current Sports Medicine Reports (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins) Sep/Oct2012, Vol. 11 Issue 5, p222.

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Melanie Ramos
Melanie Ramos uses the HSN Blog to share the latest information and content, so that all those readers who want to learn.
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