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Until recently, people didn’t often travel very far, and when they did, they traveled slowly, taking days to cross multiple time zones.

The phrase “jet lag” obviously arose from the age of fast air travel becoming popular, but presumably before this others had experienced crossing time zones and being out of sync with local time / the sun, causing the symptoms of jet lag

I’m interested to know when this was first observed.

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    This relates. Apparently Willy Post wrote about it in 1931. Interestingly, he anticipated it before experiencing it. Nov 6, 2020 at 23:31
  • Welcome to History:Stack Exchange. Thank you for your question; please consider revising it to be more in line with our community expectations. Like many other stacks, we expect questions to provide evidence of prior research. That helps us to understand the question, and avoids our repeating work you've already done. Our help center, and other stacks provide additional resources to assist with revisions.
    – MCW
    Nov 7, 2020 at 3:30
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    AirSpaceMag, "It's hard to say with certainty who coined the term, but according to a quick newspaper database search, "jet lag" was first used in a Los Angeles Times article on February 13, 1966." (@Gort wins, the FGITW)
    – MCW
    Nov 7, 2020 at 3:32
  • You may be assuming a lot in this question. Has a condition known as "jet lag" ever been medically defined? It may be one thing to ask when the term was first used, another to ask when it was first experienced. In my experience people employ the term to describe a pot pourri of symptoms, involving time disorientation, sleep deprivation, stiffness in the joints, dehydration, anxiety, tummy infections etc.
    – WS2
    Nov 9, 2020 at 16:19
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    @WS2 I think is has been medically defined, yes: nhs.uk/conditions/jet-lag
    – Tim
    Nov 9, 2020 at 16:27

2 Answers 2

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A paper from the Federal Aviation Administration appears to be the first rigorous examination of the pesky phenomenon of jet lag. It's titled Time-Zone Effects on the Long-Distance Air Traveler, and is remarkably readable for its genre. It tells us quite confidently that the first recorded instance was in the 1930s.

Circadian rhythms became a matter of importance to travelers with the evolution of the airplane and the feasibility of long-distance flights. Wiley Post, the record-setting global flier of the 1930's, was the first to recognize the adverse effects of time-zone displacement on the sleeping and eating cycles of air travelers. Prior to his 8-day global flight of 1931 and his 7-day solo global flight of 1933, Post determined the effects of altered sleep-wake cycles on his flying proficiency. He also experimented with an irregular schedule of meals and worked out a conditioning program designed to break his habitual sleeping and eating patterns. As indicated in his book, Post felt that the time-zone effects were significant and that the steps he took to adjust to them were beneficial.

The next published discussion of time-zone effects in global flying is a 1952 report by Strughold. Since then, and especially since jet-powered air transports were introduced in the late 1950's, the literature on aerospace medicine has contained many papers on "jet age" time-zone effects. Crew members and passengers have repeatedly reported adverse physiological and psychological consequences of rapid long-distance flights-of east-to-west or west-to-east flights in particular.

The report cites Post's 1935 book, Around the World in Eight Days, though I've been unable to find an online version to quote the original recounting. But it seems to be the earliest recorded instance.

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Propeller driven planes flew for decades before the first commercial jets. Jet lag is merely travel fatigue, a common circumstance on long distance travel. a Los Angeles Times article on February 13, 1966. "If you're going to be a member of the Jet Set and fly off to Katmandu for coffee with King Mahendra," wrote Horace Sutton. COined the term jet lag.

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