Jet lag disorder

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By Baruch El-Ad MD

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

Dr. Baruch El-Ad of the Sleep Medicine Center, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology explains the pathophysiology and treatment of this extremely common, self-limited, modern-age circadian rhythm sleep disorder. As almost anyone crossing 3 or more time zones by jet can testify, jet lag can be annoying and may spoil a business trip or vacation. Jet lag may be partially preventable or treatable by understanding the basics of the circadian clock and its interactions with the sleep-wake cycle. Traveler’s advice as to the recommended schedule of sleep, wake, and light exposure and avoidance is outlined in this review according to the 2007 Guidelines of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Key Points

  • Jet lag is the newest, entirely “man-made” circadian rhythm disorder, which was introduced to medicine with the invention of commercial jet flights.
  • It is a self-limited, partially preventable disorder.
  • Jet lag is usually more severe and prolonged when flying east.
  • 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.
  • Timed melatonin and scheduled exposure to light at certain times while actively avoiding light at other times are the best strategies for longer stays.