Skip to Content
UW Health SMPH
American Family Children's Hospital
DONATE Donate
SHARE TEXT

Jet Lag and Sleep Problems

Jet lag is caused by flying in an airplane and crossing one or more time zones, such as traveling east to west or west to east. Crossing time zones disrupts the body's biological "clock," or 24-hour rhythms (circadian rhythms). Sleep patterns are one of these rhythms. Jet travel across time zones may make it hard for you to fall asleep or stay asleep at night and stay awake during the day. Jet lag also can cause fatigue, irritability, and indigestion.

The symptoms of jet lag may take from one to several days to go away. Jet lag usually lasts longer when you fly east than when you fly west.

Melatonin is a hormone the body makes that regulates the cycle of sleeping and waking. It is not known if taking melatonin to help "reset" your sleep and wake cycle helps with jet lag.

There are other things you can do to decrease the effects of jet lag. Be rested before you leave, and try to walk around during the flight so that you are not confined to cramped spaces for long periods of time. Do not drink alcohol, but drink lots of water, because the air in airplanes tends to be dry. Vitamins and herbal remedies that can be bought without a prescription can also be tried to help reduce jet lag. Going outdoors during the day may help fight jet lag by resetting your circadian rhythm.

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
David Messenger, MD
Last Revised November 27, 2012

Last Revised: November 27, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.