Travelling sure is fun, but moving quickly across different timezones can bring on the pain-in-the-butt sensation that is jet lag. We’re all familiar with the feelings—extreme fatigue that can be accompanied by indigestion, bowel issues, insomnia, loss of appetite, and problems with memory and focus.
Jet lag is classified as a temporary sleep disorder. The effects of jet lag can linger on for hours, days and even more than a week, depending on the person’s age, overall health and stress levels. It can take up to a day for each time zone crossed for your body to adjust to the local time. Its effects are generally worse when you “lose time” traveling west to east.
People are affected by jet lag in multiple and unique ways; in fact, some claim to never feel jet lagged at all.
It’s all about our bodily routines of sleeping and eating. When we cross timezones, the changes in time throw our bodies into disarray and disrupt those inner cycles, which are called circadian rhythms.
Our circadian rhythms, or biological clocks, take their cues from things like light exposure, mealtimes, social engagement, daily activities and sleep routines.
Tweak your before-flight schedule
If you’re someone who follows extremely strict schedules for sleeping and eating, try to be more flexible in the days leading up to your long-haul flight. If your destination is “ahead” of your current timezone, try sleeping a little earlier every day so that the adjustment won’t be a huge shock to your system. If you’re going somewhere that is “behind” your current timezone, try sleeping a little later to slowly adjust.
Get some solid rest prior to the flight
Most of us find ourselves rushing to complete tasks and pack last minute items in the days and hours leading up to the flight. In fact, sleep tends to take a back sleep. I myself I have thought on many occasions, “I’ll just sleep on the plane.” This is a mistake you do not want to make. Getting a good night’s rest before the flight is important to starting the journey fresh and well-rested.
Adjust your in-flight schedule
Focus on adjusting to the timezone you will be arriving into. Find out what time it is in your destination and tweak your snoozing times accordingly. If you’re really tired and need a longer sleep, set an alarm for the “morning” in the place you’re going to.
Get a flight with a stopover
Breaking up a long-haul flight with a few hours’ stopover is a good way of giving your body time to adjust to the new timezone. You can walk around, stretch and eat. Make sure not to choose a flight with a stopover that’s too long, because that extends the overall trip time and can lead to extreme tiredness.
Choose a flight that arrives during the day
If it’s possible, select a flight that arrives in the daytime. That way, your body can adjust to the sunlight. You’ll be more keen to try to stay awake and will feel properly tired by bed time, but at least you’ll start your trip off sleeping at the right time. If you’re really exhausted, try to at least wait for the sun to set before sleeping.
Enjoy a drink or two only
A drink or two on the plane to calm the nerves and get into a relaxed state isn’t bad, as long as it’s followed up by a lot of water. Getting overly excited by the free in-flight alcohol and drinking a lot will dehydrate you and contribute to fatigue and sluggishness.
Chuck out the sleeping pills
Some people like to pop a sleeping pill and just drift off into dreamland for the duration of the flight. While this might sound like an ideal solution to avoiding the discomforts of flying, it will interfere with your natural body clock and will leave you feeling groggy and sluggish on arrival.
Stay hydrated and eat well
Try to keep hydrated and eat properly during the flight and when you arrive at your destination. Your body, which will feel exhausted by the changes in timezones, will thank you for keeping it fed and watered.
Look for the sun
When you arrive, try to spend some time in the sun the first chance that you get. You can top up on your vitamin D while your body adjusts to the natural light and time of day.
When I recently arrived in London after flying from the Philippines, I was exhausted. I felt the jet lag hit me hard when I looked at the cloudy, grey London sky and could not figure out what time it was. It looked, and with its crisp wind felt, like it could be late afternoon or dusk, but the local time told me it was only mid-morning. I was confused and instantly felt a wall of jet lag hit me like a heavy fog.
It was the sun that saved me—it finally came out in full force a few hours later, as I sat on a seven-hour bus from London to Newcastle. Soaking up its rays from the window, I felt better, and my body could finally tell that it was daytime. Needless to say, I was out like a light that night!
Besides all its bodily side effects, jet lag can also make one feel funny, weird or out-of-place. Combatting it from the onset of your journey can ensure you get the most out of your trip. Happy travelling! /TISG