Jet lag disorder

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By Anna Monica Fermin MD

Jet lag disorder is also known as or subsumes Transmeridian dyschronism. -ed.

In today’s society air travel is a common mode of transportation. Individuals crossing several time zones can experience jet lag disorder, which is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, general malaise, and somatic complaints. Jet lag may be partially preventable or treatable by understanding the basics of the circadian clock and its interactions with the sleep-wake cycle. Dr. Anna Monica Fermin of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York provides an update on the current understanding of jet lag disorder, including diagnostic criteria based on the ICSD-3, pathophysiology, and therapeutic approaches to prevent and minimize symptoms.

Key Points

  • Jet lag disorder is caused by a temporary mismatch between the timing of the sleep and wake cycle generated by the endogenous circadian clock and that of the sleep and wake pattern required by a change in time zone.
  • Symptoms include difficulties in initiating and maintaining sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, decrease in subjective alertness and performance, impairment of daytime functioning, and somatic complaints.
  • Jet lag symptoms are more severe when flying eastward.
  • The best strategy for brief stays (2 to 3 days) in the new time zone is to keep the original sleep-wake schedule, if at all possible.
  • For longer stays, timed melatonin with strategic exposure to light and avoidance of light at particular times are the best strategies.


In This Article

Historical note and nomenclature
Clinical manifestations
Clinical vignette
Pathogenesis and pathophysiology
Differential diagnosis
Diagnostic workup
Prognosis and complications
References cited