Jet lag is the dirty secret of travel. You can finds loads of beautiful travel magazines and brochures from travel companies all promoting various trips to fabulous places all over the globe - sparkling white tropical beaches untouched by others’ footprints, alpine lakes surrounded by majestic pines, exotic cities pulsing to different rhythms of life, and remote mountain paths running towards ancient ruins. What the articles usually fail to mention, however, is that if the travel required to reach the featured destination crosses more than 2 or 3 time zones, the traveller is likely to experience symptoms of jet lag.
Jet lag is far from the most serious medical condition one may suffer, but it is a well-known and well-documented condition that merits attention on a number of medical websites, including those of the NHS and BUPA. The list of symptoms from jet lag can be quite lengthy, but for many people, including myself, the most common is difficulty with sleeping. One may feel really tired in the middle of the day, and then be wide awake at one’s usual bed-time.
Jet lag results from disruption of our “body clock,” our body’s natural rhythm attuned to the rising and setting of the sun. Crossing times zones changes the length of time we experience daylight and darkness, and a lot of our daily functions, including appetite, digestion, mood, and sleep, can all be affected by jet lag.
Most experts agree that going from west to east increases the likelihood and severity of jet lag. Experts believe that one may experience symptoms of jet lag for up to one day for every time zone passed on a trip going eastward, and up to two-thirds of a day for every time zone crossed going westward. This means, for instance, that an American travelling from California, in the Pacific Time Zone which is eight hours behind Greenwich Mean Time, may experience jet lag for up to eight days after arriving in Britain. If their trip in Britain lasts only one week, they may be jet lagged the entire time they are here (this might explain some of the strange behaviour one might see from Americans on the Tube in London).
I think tourists should consider the effects of jet lag when planning a trip. Obviously, a short trip across a number of time zones may not make for the most enjoyable experience.
I have been back in Salisbury for 7 days now after flying back from San Francisco, and I have not yet had a normal night’s sleep. It seems like my jet lag has lasted longer on this trip than most. I am slightly reassured by the formula I noted above that my experience is in the “normal” range, but I am really looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep. It should come any time now.