Desynchronosis (Jet Lag)

What is Desynchronosis?

Jet lag disorder, also known as Desynchronosis, has the potential to affect anyone who travels over several time zones rapidly.

It is a sleep issue that affects travelers on a temporary basis and can be avoided with proactive steps.

The circadian rhythms within our bodies run as an internal clock, and it gives our bodies signs about when to wake up and when to go to sleep. Desynchronosis occurs because the internal clock within your body is still operating according to your home time zone, not the time zone that you traveled to. Jet lag is more likely to occur for passengers who cross many time zones.

Jet lag disorder has the potential to make it difficult to remain alert and can cause daytime fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, and feelings of being unwell. This syndrome is temporary but has the ability to be a major inconvenience for your business or vacation travel. There are, however, certain things that can be done to reduce jet lag symptoms.

Desynchronosis Symptoms

Signs of jet lag disorder can differ. Many symptoms at a time or just one may be experienced.

The symptoms of jet lag are:

  • Stomach issues, diarrhea or constipation
  • Overall unwell feeling
  • Difficulty sleeping – excessive tiredness, insomnia, or early waking
  • Many variations in mood
  • Difficulty functioning at normal level
  • Concentration issues
  • Daytime fatigue

Distance affects symptoms

After crossing two or more time zones, symptoms of jet lag typically show up within one or two days. Symptoms can last longer or be more intense when traveling east. Crossing more time zones impacts the intensity and number of symptoms as well. About one day of recovery is needed for every time zone traveled.

Doctor involvement

Desynchronosis is temporary. Those who constantly have issues with jet lag or frequent travelers can likely find relief from visiting a sleep specialist.

Causes of Desynchronosis

Disturbing circadian rhythms

Crossing at least two time zones can cause jet lag. The internal clock is affected by traveling over several time zones, and the circadian rhythm disruption causes jet lag. The sleep-wake cycle needs to be regulated as it is out of rhythm with the new time that you have traveled to.

For example, if a passenger departs from New York in the evening and lands in Paris early in the morning the next day, the passenger’s internal clock still thinks it is evening time. The body is confused and is ready to go to sleep when people in Paris are beginning to wake up. It is difficult to get in sync with the other people in Paris because hunger habits, sleep-wake cycle, bowel habits, and many other bodily functions take several days for the human body to catch up.

The influence of sunlight

Sunlight has a major impact on the internal clock. Melatonin is regulated by light absorption in the body, and melatonin assists in synchronizing cells in the body. Near the back of the retina in the eye, cells send signals of light to the hypothalamus in the brain.

The hypothalamus is in charge of telling the pineal gland to release melatonin, and this occurs at night, while there is less light. The pineal gland does not produce much melatonin during the day. Adjusting to the new time zone can be done by properly timing exposure to daylight.

Atmosphere and airline cabin pressure

High altitudes and differences in cabin pressure may be factors in Desynchronosis, even if several time zones are not traveled. It is important to note that humidity levels are typically low in airplanes. Dehydration can occur if not enough water is consumed, and this can be a major contributor to jet lag.

Other influences that increase the chances that jet lag will occur are:

  • Flying eastward – Losing time while flying east can be harder on the body than gaining time when flying west.
  • Total distance flown – The number of time zones you pass through, the higher chance jet lag will occur.
  • Older adults need more time – Recovery can take longer for older adults.
  • Frequent flyers – Business travelers who fly frequently, flight attendants, and pilots have a higher chance of getting jet lag.

Treatments for Desynchronosis

Desynchronosis does not typically need treatment because it is usually temporary. It often takes just a few days for symptoms to improve, but in rare cases, they can last slightly longer.

Medications and therapy can be prescribed for frequent fliers.

Medications for Jet Lag

  • Benzodiazepines (triazolam, Halcion)
  • Nonbenzodiazepines (zolpidem, Ambien, eszopiclone, Lunesta, zaleplon, Sonata)

Prescriptions like these (sleeping pills) can help the transition on your flight be easier by helping you to get some sleep. Several nights of sleep can be improved because of these medications. Side effects of these medications do not occur often, but are morning sleepiness, confusion, nausea, amnesia, vomiting, and sleepwalking.

Desynchronosis may not be improved by these medications, however, they do seem to improve sleep quality and duration. Taking a medication should be a last resort and are typically recommended only for those who do not benefit from alternative treatments.

Light therapy for Jet Lag

Sunlight exposure impacts the circadian rhythms (or the internal clock) in the human body. Processing time for your body to allow it to reset and adjust to the new schedule is necessary when traveling far. Acclimation time will help with falling asleep and waking up at normal hours.

The transition can be improved with light therapy, which is using a lamp or other type of bright artificial light to mimic sunlight. The light therapy needs to take place during the normal waking hours that you would normally be awake.

It can be difficult to find ample natural sunlight in a new time zone for business travelers who are in meetings all day. There are various forms of light therapy, to include boxes that can be put on top of a table, light visors that can be worn on your head, or desk lamps that work well for office or meeting settings.

Melatonin for Jet Lag

The natural occurring sleep aid Melatonin is a jet lag remedy and is now accepted as effective treatment for jet lag. It was widely studied for years, and research has shown that there are numerous benefits for travelers. Melatonin makes it easy to fall asleep, even at times when you would not normally be tired.

Melatonin typically gets the opposite reaction that your body has to bright light. Melatonin is a signal for darkness and sleep.

It is important to plan what time taking melatonin will benefit you the most for your unique situation. Resetting your body to a time that is later (flying east), melatonin should be taken at the new bedtime every night until it is no longer necessary for falling asleep. When resetting your body to a time that is earlier (flying west), morning is the ideal time to take melatonin.

The size of the dosage does not seem to be important. Higher doses have demonstrated a higher ability to promote sleep, however, even tiny 0.5 milligrams doses work in a similar manner to 5 milligram doses. Melatonin should be taken half an hour before bed or according to physician instructions.

Melatonin should not be combined with alcohol. Melatonin side effects can include daytime sleepiness, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, disorientation, and headaches, but side effects are uncommon.

Other potential remedies

Diets can help the body feel like it is performing at its prime. Days of fasting, low-protein and high-protein meals can be rotated to assist with jet lag. Alternatively, eating other foods with high-protein can help with remaining alert and higher numbers of carbohydrates can assist with sleep. Exercise has also been said to improve side effects of jet lag.

Herbal supplements and other alternative therapies are available, but it is important to consult your doctor in order to avoid medication interaction problems.

Desynchronosis Prevention

Sunlight

Sunlight is a natural way to reset the internal clock in your body. It can regulate the times your body goes to sleep and wakes up.

Departure times can be adjusted to plan for optimal light exposure and can be scheduled according to your typical sleep times. Light exposure in the morning can aid in quicker adjustment to earlier time zones (heading east). Light exposure during evening hours assists in quicker adjustment to later time zones (heading west). Jogging, walking, and other forms of light exercise can assist with quicker adaptation to the new time zone.

It is also important to avoid daylight at certain times while traveling. Travelers heading west should ideally stay away from morning light during the first couple days. Sunglasses can help with adjustment during the day. During the night time, it would be wise to close the drapes or blinds, and sleep masks are also useful aids in adjustment.

Caffeine

Caffeinated beverages should be carefully consumed, although they may assist in counteracting sleepiness during the day. After midday, drinks with caffeine should not be consumed because falling asleep and sleeping well will likely be much more problematic.

The following steps will likely assist in reducing unwanted effects of jet lag, and may prevent jet lag completely:

Get extra rest before the trip begins

Sleep deprivation toward the beginning of a trip will only intensify jet lag.

Get an early start

After traveling, it will be difficult to be immediately in your best mindset and physical form. If you have important business obligations, it would be wise to arrive early to allow for adjustment time.

Normalize exposure to bright light

Adjusting to the new location you have traveled to can be done by regulating light exposure, as it is a major influence on the circadian rhythm within your body.

Adjust your schedule gradually prior to leaving

For travelers heading east, adjusting your bedtime by an hour earlier for several days prior to your departure. Travelers heading west should adjust their bedtime to an hour later for several days. Eating meals when you will likely be eating them in the new time zone will also help your body adjust.

Keep yourself hydrated

It is imperative to drink enough water before you fly, during, and afterward in order to make up for the dry air in the airplane. Consuming caffeine and alcohol while you are traveling can negatively impact your sleep and can dehydrate you.

Get used to the new schedule

Before traveling, set your clocks to the new time zone prior to actually leaving. Local times for meals should also be adjusted to the new time zone. After arrival, make a conscious effort not to go to bed until it is bedtime at your destination.

Attempt to sleep on the plane

Especially try and sleep on the plane if it is nighttime where you are traveling. Eye masks, headphones, and earplugs can be helpful on planes for keeping out light and noise. Fight the desire to sleep on the plane if it is daylight at your destination.