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Why does one suffer from jet lag?

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What is jetlag? 


Jet lag, also known as desynchronosis, is a physiological condition that occurs as a result of a disruption in the body’s circadian rhythms, also known as the body clock. Disruptions include rapid crossing of multiple time zones or when one’s sleeping pattern is disrupted, such as when the individual performs shift work. Jet lag is also known as  circadian rhythm disorder. 

There are many side effects of jet lag, which includes an individual feeling drowsy, tired, irritable, lethargic and slightly disoriented. The more time zones one crosses in a short period, the more severe the symptoms are likely to be and age also plays a part in the severity of jet lag on each individual. 


What is circadian rhythm? 

Circadian rhythm are 24- hour cycles that form part of the body’s internal clock in the background running to carry out many essential functions and processes such as coordinating the digestive system to produce proteins to match the usual meal timings of an individual. 


Different systems of the body will follow circadian rhythms that are synchronised with a master clock located in one’s brain. This master clock is directly influenced by one’s environmental cues such as the presence of light, which is why circadian rhythms is related to the day & night cycle. 


When properly aligned, a circadian rhythm can promote consistent and restorative sleep, but when the rhythm is thrown off, it could create significant sleeping issues for an individual such as insomnia. 




What are the causes of Jetlag? 


To understand jet lag and what causes jet lag, we need to first understand the theory behind circadian rhythm. Other factors that can make symptoms of jet lag worse includes alcohol and caffeine, altitude sickness, oxygen levels and dehydration. 


Body clock & the brain 

Jet lag appears to be a result of a disruption in two separate but linked groups of neurons in the brain and these neurons are part of a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN is located below the hypothalamus at the brain’s base. 

One of these groups of neurons is commonly associated with deep sleep and the effects of physical fatigue while the other group manages and control the dream state of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. 


The second group of neurons, or those commonly associated the control of REM sleep, finds it harder to adjust to the new cycle and hence the 2 groups become out of sync and the individual will suffer from jet lag. 

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