What is Jet Lag?

You may have heard people complaining about jet lag in the past. The way English speakers talk about it, it sounds like an illness: I have jet lag or I’m suffering from jet lag,” are the same sentence structures we use when talking about the flu or cancer. But what exactly is jet lag?

Plane landing in a city at night

The aviation industry distinguishes flight lengths in the following way:

  • Short-haul flights – 0-3 hours
  • Medium-haul flights – 3-6 hours
  • Long-haul flights – 6 hours +

If you’ve ever taken a medium- or long-haul flight, you probably found that your sleeping pattern got disrupted. That’s all jet lag is: the disruption of your sleep pattern after crossing multiple time zones in an aeroplane.

Globe - day and night

As noted in the opening paragraph, we speak about jet lag like it’s an illness, although obviously it’s not. People talk about suffering from it, or trying to find a cure, whereas in reality, it’s no different to changing your sleep schedule from night to day.

There are lots of myths surrounding jet lag, but one premise that seems to be true is that it’s worse when travelling east. This theory has the support of some medical journals, and I’ve also found it to be true in my trips between Seoul and London. It’s much easier to go to sleep later than earlier, making travelling east much more difficult.

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