Is Jet Lag Worse When Coming Back From Japan to The USA?


Jet lag, the big bad J word that can ruin a great part of your holidays. We all know that jet lag gets us sleepy and all that, but what do you know about the other symptoms, and the things that can impact jet lag making it worse? Or, on the other hand, what are the things that can make it easy and save your holidays? Let me show exactly what you need to know to give you the possibility of having a great trip to Japan.

So, is jet lag worse when returning from Japan? Yes, jet lag is worse when returning to the United States, as it is an east-direction flight. Jet lag is due to the high number of time zones crossed and the body’s inability to adapt immediately to the new time zone, specially when advancing circadian rhythms.

OK this seems a little complicated, so let’s break this information down into different parts, and explain in detail all you need to know about jet lag.

Jet lag: definition, symptoms, causes and recovery

Definition

Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder which impacts the circadian rhythm. All the biological rhythms are controlled by the body’s circadian clock, so if you suffer from this disorder, you will show several biological disruptions.

Symptoms

Here’s a list of the most common symptoms you can experience during jet lag:

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Confusion
  • Increased irritability
  • Digestive problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • General malaise
  • Dizziness

You can experience other symptoms, but these are the most frequent.

Causes

Now that you know how to identify jet lag, let’s move on to what causes this disorder. Yes, you will say that long-distance flight are the cause – and you’re right – but there are other factors to consider.

So first we have the distance. Since the human body wasn’t designed to move across many time zones at high speed, this means that the farther you travel, the more time zones you’ll cross and the worse jet lag will be.

Second, if you travel to the east, this will also make your jet lag worse. With a 14 hours difference time between New York and Japan, you can imagine the fatigue and all the other symptoms as you restart your day without sleeping.

Let me help you better understand with a flight example. Imagine your return flight to the United States takes off at 11am (Japan time) and lands at New York at 10am the same day (US time). This means that when you land in the US after a 13 hours flight, you have to restart your day, while your internal clock thinks it is already midnight. I’ll bet you’ll be exhausted. A tiring long flight plus a huge time difference equals tremendous jet lag.

Last but not least, the airplane can also make your jet lag worse due to lower air quality, lower humidity and uncomfortable conditions.

Recovery

All these three causes together can create a huge jet lag that impacts your life for a long time. But how long does jet lag last?

You must know that the average recovery is of one to two time zones each day, so when returning from Japan you will have a hard time getting your internal clock right. I would say that you can prepare yourself for at least 7 days of jet lag if you manage to advance your internal clock by 2 hours each day. If you manage to advance only 1 hour each day, it will take you twice the time to get rid of jet lag.

The first days are the worst, but you will get better over time so don’t worry that much about it. Still, if the fear of jet lag is haunting your thoughts, you must know that there are a few things you can do to minimize the effects.

Let’s take a took at what you should and shouldn’t do.

What can you do to minimize jet lag effects?

jet lag

OK, you got it: jet lag is a terrible thing that can ruin the end of your holidays in Japan with a long-distance eastward return travel. Luckily, with all the studies that have been made to understand jet lag, we now have the answers to minimize the effects.

The most important thing to do is to adapt your schedule accordingly. This means that before traveling to Japan you must start to got to bed later and wake up later. Start this practice a few weeks before your travel. By doing this, it is as if you crossed less time zones and therefore jet lag will be less severe.

Try to be as well-rested as possible before your departure. The flight will be very long and exhausting so don’t add extra fatigue before the travel. Getting plenty of rest will allow you to manage jet lag better.

While on the plane, change your clock to the destination local time, as it will help you in adapting faster to the new time. If it is nighttime in your destination, try to get a long sleep on the plane, but if it is daytime in your destination, avoid sleeping during the flight. Exceptions can be made to 20 minutes naps as they don’t interfere with the sleeping time, but don’t sleep for more than 20 minutes.

Once you arrive at your destination, get as much sunlight as possible. This is very important as bright light is the main factor to reset your internal clock. If you arrive in the morning don’t go to sleep even if you’re tired and try to get the most out of daylight. However, if you arrive in the evening or at night, try to start a relaxation process and go to bed as soon as possible.

There are other small easy things that can help a lot to minimize jet lag like drinking a lot of water to avoid dehydration (one of the jet lag symptoms) and moving around while in the plane and after landing. Also avoid caffeine and alcohol before the flight, during the flight and even a few days after. These two substances can really affect your already disturbed sleep.

And if you’re having a hard time to get to sleep, try taking a hot bath before bedtime. Since the temperature will drop right after, that can help you get sleepy.

Some people also take medication to help, but I honestly don’t think it is the best idea. If you do all the things I’ve mentioned above, you already have good chances of taking care of your jet lag. Anyway, always talk to your doctor about medication if you really feel that you will need it.

To help you with jet lag, you can try homeopathic jet lag prevention pills (they don’t interfere with your eventual medication) or a supplement for hydration (also natural). If you’re like me and have a hard time drinking water just for hydration, the supplement option can be of great help. These products are easily found online in shops like Amazon. I’ll give you two links if you want to have an idea of the natural products that can help you with jet lag:

Conclusion

Now that you’re an expert in jet lag, I hope your flight will be very pleasant and your travel amazing. Don’t forget that jet lag is inevitable in a long-distance flight, like when you travel from Japan to the United States, but you can apply what you learned in this article to reduce the jet lag effects and make your trip easier.

Before I end this article, I just want to share with you this nice video with 14 tips to help you avoid jet lag:

I hope all this helps and if you have any other tips to deal with jet lag, just leave your ideas in the comments below.

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Ana Costa

Hi everyone, my name is Ana. I'm currently living in France, but I've always been passionate about Japan and it's culture. I love drawing manga, watch anime, eat sushi and all things related to Japan ;)

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