Can You Get Jet Lag From Driving? (Plus 4 Tips)

Can You Get Jet Lag From Driving

On long-haul travels and road trips, while jet lag is commonly associated with air travel, many people wonder if it is possible to experience jet lag from driving. As a company with expertise in jet lag, we'll disclose the research we've done to show you if you can you get jet lag from driving.

What Is Jet Lag?

Jet lag, also known as desynchronosis or flight fatigue, affects travelers who cross multiple time zones during flight. When we travel across time zones, especially through air travel, our internal clock gets out of sync with the new time zone, leading to a range of symptoms collectively known as jet lag.

While most sources contribute jet lag to only time zone crossing, in the research we've found it can be related to a combination of the following causes.

Causes Of Jet Lag:

  • Crossing Time Zones
  • Dehydration
  • Airplane Pressure (Altitude)
  • Sun Deprivation
  • Lack Of Movement (Sedentary)

Now that you know the key causes of jet lag with the combination of these factors — including crossing time zones, dehydration, airplane altitude pressure, sun deprivation, and lack of movement — let's look into if and how jet lag could be caused by driving.

Can You Get Jet Lag From Driving?

Prepping for a long-haul driving, road trips, or an RV adventure — many have you wondering if you can get jet lag from driving.

From our research, yes science has shown there's a correlation and likely a causation for a mild form of jet lag from long-distance driving. Technically, there's a term coined “road lag” for the effects of driving similar to jet lag.

Read further, where we explain why you can get jet lag from driving with science-back details.

What Causes Jet Lag (Road Lag) From Driving?

Although the symptoms would be much less mild than airplane travel, we find there are still many causes of jet lag from driving. These symptoms are more often categorized as road lag.

These road lag symptoms from long-haul traveling by car are likely less than jet lag by airplane, nevertheless it can still have a negative impact on your body and how you feel.

5 Causes Of Road Lag From Driving:

1. Dehydration

Up to 75% of people are already dehydrated, and when driving on the road many people either prefer sugary drinks instead of water or drink less to minimize stops. Dehydration can lead to feelings of tiredness, headaches and dizziness.⁷

2. Lack Of Movement (Sedentary)

Possibly the most significant factor in jet lag from driving is the similar effects of being sedentary from sitting for long periods of time.[⁴][⁵] With exercise important for energy levels, stress levels, melatonin production, and sleeping — lack of movement can lead to the opposite such as fatigue and decrease in sleep quality.

3. Crossing Time Zones

Crossing time zones is the least of factors at play since you aren't traveling nearly as fast as a plane nor passing through as many time zones, but it could still have a minor effect in some circumstances. For example, driving from Los Angeles to Atlanta consists of traveling through three time zones and can be done in 1-2 days.

4. Motion Sickness

The most overlooked negative factor in driving can be motion sickness. With similarities to jet lag, it has many overlapping symptoms including nausea and dizziness.⁸

5. Disrupted Sleeping Schedule

Long distance driving usually requires night driving, unless you're staying somewhere overnight. In the case of driving at nighttime, you're disrupting your normal sleeping pattern and schedule, which can have similar effects than jet lag on your body's circadian rhythms.

The combination of three factors can contribute to road lag from driving, similar to jet lag — including dehydration, lack of movement, crossing time zones, motion sickness, and disrupted sleeping schedule.

Symptoms Of Jet Lag From Driving

When it comes to experiencing jet lag from driving, or road lag, the symptoms can be similar to those experienced during air travel. While driving long distances across multiple time zones doesn't involve all of the same factors as air travel, a few factors can still lead to a negative impact on how you feel.

In addition, motion sickness that approximately 25% of people experience can play a big role in your driving experience.

Symptoms Of Jet Lag From Driving:

  • Fatigue
  • Sleepiness
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Lack Of Focus
  • General Discomfort
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

One or a combination of these symptoms are a risk when driving during long-distance driving. They usually develop within 1-2 of driving, or sometimes upon your destination arrival.

4 Tips To Avoid Jet Lag From Driving

To minimize the impact of jet lag from driving, or road lag, consider the following tips from the years of research we've done when it comes to traveling.

Here's 4 Tips To Avoid Jet Lag from Driving:

1. Increase Hydration

Most people are dehydrated when driving especially as you try to avoid too many bathroom break pit stops. This can lead to fatigue and even headaches.

Staying hydrated is crucial when driving long distances, most experts recommend drinking half your weight in water per day. Furthermore, avoid sugary drinks as they can be dehydrating.⁹

TIP: To increase hydration, you can add sea salt to your foods which contains electrolytes, and take Zaca hydrating chewables which can enhance water absorption.

2. Adequate Rest Stops

Plan your trip with regular rest stops along the way. This allows you to not only break for the bathroom, you can get some stretching, exercising, and a breathe of some fresh air.

Make quick stops every 2-3 hours. This can help alleviate muscle stiffness, improve blood circulation, and keep you more alert during the drive.

3. Short Exercise Sessions

On some of your rest stops, you should in Incorporate short exercise sessions. Do a few quick exercises such as stretching jumping jacks, push ups, in-place running, and body weight squats will invigorate your body to counter sitting sedentary in your car, truck, or RV.

Exercise can help lower stress levels, increase energy levels, aid melatonin production, and improve sleeping.[⁴][⁵] Getting just 5-15 minutes on a few pitstops can make a world of a difference in how you feel.

4. Take Travel Supplements

Travel supplements that boost your immunity and help hydration can aid in your travels, especially during long driving distances.

Glutathione for example, is the body's master antioxidant, can boost your ability to fight oxidative stress from traveling and recycle nutrients including vitamin C.

In conclusion, for those worried if you can you get jet lag from driving (or road lag), follow these travel tips to help avoid it — including increasing hydration, making adequate rest stops, and taking travel supplements.

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1. Up in the Air: Evidence of Dehydration Risk and Long-Haul Flight on Athletic Performance
2. Can You Get Altitude Sickness from Flying?
3. How Sun Exposure Affects Sleep and Melatonin Production
4. The Benefits of Exercise while Traveling
5. Influence of Aerobic Exercise on Sleep and Salivary Melatonin in Men
6. Adult Dehydration
7. Driving Dehydrated Can Be as Dangerous as Driving Drunk
8. What's to know about motion sickness?
9. Dehydrating drinks: Caffeine, sugar, and other ingredients
10. Can You Get Jet Lag From Driving? (Road Lag) – and How to Avoid It