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Busted! 8 Myths About Jet Lag — And Why They’re Wrong

Written by Going Places

This blog post was updated on September 20, 2023.

Nearly every traveler at some point has encountered jet lag. When you travel quickly across several time zones, jet lag can be paralyzing. Because jet lag is such a common travel problem, there are many myths about how to cure it or prevent it. Here are some of the most commonly held myths as well as some explanations about why they’re wrong.

MYTH: Jet lag is caused by a lack of sleep

Fact: While sleep disruption is common with jet lag, it’s not the sole cause. Jet lag results from a misalignment between your body’s internal circadian rhythm and the external time zone you’re in. This misalignment affects various bodily functions, including sleep, digestion, and energy levels.


MYTH: It takes one day to recover from each time zone crossed

Fact: There is no fixed formula for how long it takes to recover from jet lag. Recovery time varies from person to person and depends on factors like age, individual resilience, and the direction of travel. It can take several days or more for some people to fully adjust.

MYTH: Jet lag is worse when traveling eastward

Fact: Jet lag can be equally challenging when traveling east or west, but it often depends on the individual. Eastward travel usually means losing time and adjusting to an earlier time zone, which can be difficult for some people. Westward travel involves gaining time and adjusting to a later time zone, which can also disrupt your circadian rhythm.

MYTH: Melatonin supplements prevent jet lag

Fact: Melatonin supplements can help alleviate the symptoms of jet lag and aid in adjusting to a new time zone, but they may not completely prevent it. The effectiveness of melatonin can vary from person to person, and it should be used in conjunction with other strategies like adjusting your sleep schedule before traveling.

MYTH: Flying first class eliminates jet lag

Fact: While flying first class may provide more comfortable seating and better amenities, it doesn’t eliminate jet lag. The primary cause of jet lag is the rapid change in time zones, and this affects passengers in all classes of travel. However, first-class passengers may have an easier time getting quality sleep during the flight.

MYTH: Alcohol and caffeine can help overcome jet lag

Fact: Alcohol and caffeine can actually exacerbate the symptoms of jet lag. Both substances can disrupt your sleep patterns and make it harder for your body to adjust to a new time zone. It’s best to limit or avoid these beverages, especially close to bedtime, when dealing with jet lag.

MYTH: Younger travelers don’t experience jet lag

Fact: Jet lag can affect people of all ages. While it’s true that older individuals may experience more severe symptoms, younger travelers can still struggle with adjusting to new time zones, especially if they have irregular sleep patterns or pre-existing sleep disorders.

MYTH: Jet lag only affects long-haul travelers

Fact: Jet lag can affect travelers on both short and long flights, depending on the direction of travel and the number of time zones crossed. Even a relatively short flight with a significant time zone change can lead to jet lag.

To minimize the effects of jet lag, especially on international travel, it’s important to plan ahead, stay hydrated, adjust your sleep schedule gradually, and follow strategies that work best for your individual needs and preferences.

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Q: Are there any natural remedies to help with jetlag? 

A: Yes, several natural remedies can assist with jetlag, such as adjusting your sleep schedule before your trip, staying hydrated, and exposing yourself to natural light at your destination.

Q: Can I rely on melatonin supplements to combat jetlag? 

A: Melatonin supplements can be helpful for some travelers, but their effectiveness varies. Consult a healthcare professional before using them, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.

Q: How can I recover from jetlag more quickly? 

A: To recover from jetlag faster, focus on maintaining good sleep hygiene, staying hydrated, and gradually adjusting your sleep schedule to match your destination’s time zone.

Q: Is it a good idea to drink alcohol to help with jetlag? 

A: No, alcohol can disrupt your sleep quality and worsen jetlag symptoms. It’s best to avoid alcohol, especially during or immediately after your flight.

Q: Can young and healthy travelers still experience severe jetlag? 

A: Yes, even young and healthy individuals can experience severe jetlag. The intensity of jetlag symptoms can vary based on factors such as the direction of travel and individual susceptibility.

Do you have any tips for avoiding or overcoming jet lag? Tell us about them in the comments below! 

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Going Places

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