Why Is Jet Lag Worse Travelling East

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As a frequent traveler, I’ve experienced the frustrating and exhausting effects of jet lag far too many times. But have you ever noticed that it seems to be worse when traveling east?

It’s not just your imagination – there is actually scientific evidence to support this phenomenon. When we travel across time zones, our bodies struggle to adjust to the new schedule, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating.

However, crossing multiple time zones in an easterly direction can exacerbate these symptoms and make them more intense than if we were traveling westward. So why exactly does this happen?

Let’s dive into the science behind circadian rhythms and jet lag to understand why traveling east can be particularly challenging for our bodies.

Understanding Circadian Rhythms

You’ve probably noticed that your body has a natural rhythm that regulates when you feel alert and when you feel tired, and this is known as your circadian rhythm. This internal clock is located in the hypothalamus region of the brain and is responsible for regulating various functions such as sleep, hunger, and body temperature. The circadian rhythm is influenced by external cues such as light exposure, which helps reset our biological clock.

When we travel across time zones, our circadian rhythm gets disrupted because our body’s internal clock is no longer synchronized with the external environment. The more time zones we cross, the greater the disruption to our circadian rhythm.

When traveling eastward, we lose hours compared to local time at our destination. For example, if it’s 10 pm in New York City but 7 am in Paris when we arrive, our body thinks it’s still nighttime due to its internal clock. As a result of this misalignment between our internal clock and external environment, many people experience jet lag symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, or difficulty sleeping at night. These symptoms can persist for several days until our body adjusts to the new time zone.

In contrast, when traveling westward we gain hours compared to local time at our destination which makes adjusting easier since it’s easier for us to stay awake later than try going to bed earlier than usual so that daytime feels longer rather than shorter than what we’re used to.

With an understanding of how the circadian rhythm works and how it gets disrupted during travel across different time zones, especially travelling eastward, let’s dive into some of its effects on health and wellbeing. However, we shouldn’t forget ways that one can alleviate these effects in subsequent paragraphs while not disregarding their significance on overall productivity, especially after long flights or journeys.

Effects of Crossing Time Zones

I’ve experienced the effects of crossing time zones first-hand, and let me tell you, it’s not a pleasant experience.

One of the main reasons for this is that it disrupts our circadian rhythms – the internal biological clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle.

When we travel across multiple time zones, our body struggles to adjust to the new schedule, leading to symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, and cognitive impairment.

However, there are several factors that can affect how severe jet lag is for each individual, including age, direction of travel, and pre-existing medical conditions.

Disruption of Circadian Rhythms

When we travel across time zones towards the east, our body’s natural circadian rhythms become disrupted. This is because our internal clock, or circadian rhythm, is based on a 24-hour cycle that is synchronized with environmental cues such as light and darkness.

When we travel eastward, we are essentially ‘losing’ time as we cross into earlier time zones. Our bodies struggle to adjust to this sudden shift in daylight hours and may experience symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, irritability, and digestive issues.

The disruption of circadian rhythms can be particularly difficult for people who have jobs that require them to work at odd hours or those who have pre-existing sleep disorders. Additionally, factors such as age and overall health can also affect how severe jet lag will be for an individual.

As we explore these different factors in more detail, it becomes clear that there are many variables at play when it comes to the impact of jet lag on our bodies and minds.

Factors that Affect Severity of Jet Lag

The severity of jet lag can vary greatly depending on a person’s age, overall health, and work schedule. Older individuals may experience more severe jet lag due to changes in their circadian rhythms and decreased ability to adapt to new time zones. Similarly, those with preexisting medical conditions or sleep disorders may find it harder to adjust their sleep patterns when traveling.

Additionally, the severity of jet lag can be influenced by the direction of travel. When traveling eastward, individuals are essentially "losing" hours as they cross time zones. This disrupts their natural circadian rhythm and can lead to difficulty falling asleep at night and feeling alert during the day.

In contrast, when traveling westward, individuals are "gaining" hours which can make it easier for them to stay awake later at night but may result in earlier morning awakenings. Understanding these factors is crucial in developing strategies for managing jet lag when travelling across different time zones.

Why Jet Lag is Worse When Travelling East

I’ve always found that jet lag is worse when travelling east. This is because of the directional differences in circadian adjustment. It takes longer for our bodies to adjust to a new time zone when we travel towards the east.

In addition, the impact of time zone differences also plays a role in making jet lag worse. Our bodies struggle to adapt to sudden changes in sleep-wake cycles.

Directional Differences in Circadian Adjustment

Adjusting our body’s internal clock to a new time zone is easier when we travel westward than when we travel in the opposite direction. This has to do with the natural circadian rhythm of our bodies. Our circadian rhythm is set based on a 24-hour cycle, and it is naturally easier for our bodies to extend that cycle than shorten it.

When we travel westward, we are essentially adding hours to our day, which allows our bodies more time to adjust. In contrast, travelling eastward means losing hours from our day, which can throw off our circadian rhythm and make it more difficult to adjust.

Moreover, research suggests that the rate at which we adjust to a new time zone depends on how much the time difference impacts our daily routine. Travelling across one or two time zones may not have a significant impact on us because there is only a small difference between the local time and home time. However, crossing several time zones can significantly disrupt our daily routine and make it harder for us to adapt quickly.

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at how different levels of time zone differences impact jet lag symptoms in the next section.

Impact of Time Zone Differences

As I mentioned earlier, our circadian rhythm adapts differently depending on the direction of travel. But what exactly causes this difference? Well, it all boils down to the impact of time zone differences on our internal clock.

When we travel eastward, we lose time and have to adjust our sleep-wake cycle accordingly. For example, if you fly from New York City to London, you’re essentially skipping ahead five hours in time. This means that when you arrive in London at 9 AM local time, your body thinks it’s 4 AM! It’s no wonder why people experience such severe jet lag when traveling east.

This impact is compounded by other factors as well. For instance, when traveling westward, we gain time and can afford to stay up later than usual without any major consequences. However, when traveling eastward, going to bed early is essential for adjusting to the new timezone. Furthermore, our exposure to sunlight also plays a crucial role in resetting our internal clock.

As a result of these factors combined with the loss of time due to timezone changes – jet lag is much worse when traveling eastwards compared to westwards.

Now that we understand why jet lag is worse when traveling eastward, let’s explore some tips for minimizing its effects so that you can enjoy your trip without feeling like a zombie!

Tips for Minimizing Jet Lag

You can beat that post-flight exhaustion and feel energized with these simple tips. Firstly, it’s important to start adjusting your sleep schedule prior to your trip. If you’re traveling east, start going to bed earlier a few days before departure. This will help you adjust more quickly to the new time zone.

On the other hand, if you’re traveling west, stay up later than usual. Secondly, make sure you stay hydrated throughout your flight. The dry cabin air can leave you feeling even more fatigued and dehydrated than usual. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol or caffeine, which can disrupt your sleep patterns.

Lastly, try to get as much sunlight as possible once you arrive at your destination. Natural light helps regulate your body clock and signals when it’s time for sleep or wakefulness. Even just 20-30 minutes of sunlight exposure in the morning can make a big difference in combating jet lag.

By implementing these simple strategies, you can minimize the effects of jet lag and enjoy your travels without feeling constantly exhausted. Other strategies for coping with jet lag include exercise upon arrival, avoiding naps during the day, and using melatonin supplements (with caution).

Other Strategies for Coping with Jet Lag

Looking for additional ways to combat the exhaustion that comes with long flights? Consider exercising upon arrival, avoiding daytime naps, and trying melatonin supplements (with caution), among other strategies.

Exercise can help regulate your circadian rhythm and boost energy levels. Even a short walk or gentle yoga session can make a big difference.

Avoiding naps during the day can also help you sleep better at night and adjust quicker to your new time zone.

Melatonin supplements are a popular choice for jet lag relief, but it’s important to use them with caution. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep and waking cycles, so taking it before bed can help reset your body clock. However, too much melatonin or taking it at the wrong time of day can actually worsen jet lag symptoms. It’s best to talk to your doctor before trying melatonin supplements.

Other strategies for coping with jet lag include staying hydrated, eating healthy foods, and limiting alcohol consumption. These practices not only promote overall health but also help your body adjust more quickly to a new time zone.

By taking care of yourself during travel, you’ll be able to fully enjoy all the exciting experiences waiting for you at your destination!

Importance of Self-Care During Travel

Taking care of yourself during travel is crucial for fully enjoying your trip and making the most out of your experiences. Jet lag can be a major obstacle to this, but there are several self-care strategies that can help mitigate its effects.

To start, make sure you stay hydrated throughout your journey. Dehydration can exacerbate symptoms like fatigue and headaches, so it’s important to drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol or caffeine.

Another key aspect of self-care during travel is maintaining a consistent sleep schedule as much as possible. This means trying to stick to your usual bedtime routine, even if it means adjusting for time differences. If you have trouble sleeping on planes or in unfamiliar surroundings, consider packing some earplugs or a sleep mask to help create a more conducive environment.

Finally, don’t forget about the importance of physical activity during long flights or layovers. Try some gentle stretching exercises or take a brisk walk around the airport to get your blood flowing and combat feelings of lethargy.

Overall, taking care of yourself during travel can help minimize the negative effects of jet lag and leave you feeling refreshed and energized for all the adventures ahead.

Looking towards future research on jet lag and circadian rhythms, there’s still much we don’t know about these phenomena and how best to manage them. However, continued investigation into these areas could lead to new insights into sleep disorders, shift work schedules, and other related issues that affect people around the world. By staying informed on these developments and incorporating self-care strategies into our travels whenever possible, we can hope to enjoy healthier bodies and happier minds while exploring all that our planet has to offer.

Future Research on Jet Lag and Circadian Rhythms

Exploring the mysteries of our body’s internal clock and how it affects our sleep patterns could lead to breakthroughs in managing sleep disorders and improving overall health. The study of circadian rhythms, which are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle, is crucial in understanding how our bodies function. Scientists have been examining these rhythms for decades and their research has led to the development of treatments for various sleep disorders.

However, there’s still much to be discovered about the intricacies of our internal clocks. Future research could focus on investigating why jet lag is worse when traveling eastward compared to westward. One theory suggests that it may be due to the fact that our body clocks have a natural tendency to run slightly longer than 24 hours. This means that when we travel east, we’re essentially asking our bodies to adjust faster than they naturally would if left alone.

By delving deeper into these concepts, scientists may be able to develop more effective strategies for combating jet lag and other sleep-related issues. This information could also help us gain a better understanding of how disruptions in our circadian rhythms can impact overall health and wellness.

In conclusion, while there’s still much work to be done in this field, the potential benefits of continued research on circadian rhythms can’t be overstated. By gaining a better understanding of how these rhythms influence our sleep patterns and overall health, we can take steps towards improving our well-being both at home and on the go.


In conclusion, jet lag can be a major inconvenience for travelers, especially when traveling east. This is due to the disruption of our circadian rhythms, which govern our sleep-wake cycles and other physiological processes. Crossing multiple time zones can throw off our internal clocks and lead to symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating.

However, there are steps that travelers can take to minimize the effects of jet lag, such as gradually adjusting their sleep schedule before departure and staying hydrated during the flight. Additionally, self-care practices such as exercise and relaxation techniques may help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with jet lag.

As we continue to study circadian rhythms and their impact on our health and well-being, it’s important for travelers to stay informed about best practices for minimizing jet lag so they can make the most out of their travel experiences.

As the saying goes, "time is money," but when it comes to jet lag, time can also be a valuable resource in helping us adjust to new time zones. By taking proactive measures to support our bodies’ natural rhythms during travel, we can reduce the negative impact of jet lag and enjoy all that our destination has to offer.

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