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Flying across time zones means the sun comes up sooner or later than your body is used to. This difference causes a disruption of your body’s natural clock, often called the circadian pacemaker, a cluster of neurons in the pineal gland. It runs on a 24-hour cycle and regulates feelings of hunger and tiredness, among others. Disruption of this cycle caused by air travel is called jet lag.
As with many of your body’s natural processes any interruption can weaken your immune system, opening you to infections you would normally be able to fight off. Other effects are drowsiness, irritability, depression, and difficulty concentrating.
Flying for long distances, especially through several time zones, is very stressing to the body. The plane's environment will probably be lower in oxygen than the regular atmosphere and also quite dry, which may cause your sinuses to dry out and your body to become dehydrated. Those travelers who drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages will worsen the dehydration problem. In addition, radiation will cause free radical activity.
Quite possibly because the level of the hormone melatonin decreases with age, people over the age of 50 are more susceptible to jet lag.