If you’re a frequent flier or international traveler, then you’re already all too familiar with the symptoms of jet lag. You know the feeling of stepping off a plane, filled with anticipation and excitement after the lengthy flight, only to be hit with a sudden wave of fatigue.
You’ve had very little sleep and your entire body feels as if you are hungover. You think, how nice would it be if you could curl up in bed right about this instant… except that it’s lunchtime where you are now - hello jet lag!
Understanding Jet Lag and its Causes
There are a lot of different cues that help to regulate the circadian rhythm, including light exposure, mealtimes, activities, social engagement, and so on
Working out the best ways to prevent jet lag is significantly easier when we understand the way our bodies work. As humans, we are programmed naturally to do certain things like eating, sleeping, etc. in each 24-hour period. These in-built routines are collectively known as the circadian rhythm.
. Together, they make up your biological clock that controls when you sleep and get up, and when we fly, these things are thrown into disarray, resulting in jet lag.
Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that occurs when rapid travel across two or more time zones throws off your circadian rhythm. It can occur at any time, and the more time zones that you fly across, the more likely it is that you’ll be sluggish and sleepy when you get to your destination. Your symptoms will also be longer and much more intense.
Jet lag affects different individuals in different ways, depending on their age, health, and stress levels. This means that it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly how long it takes to recover from it.
Symptoms of Jet Lag Include:
- Extreme daytime fatigue
- Disturbed sleepIndigestion
- Bowel problems
- Memory issues
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of appetite
All of this sounds rough, right? Well, there’s good news. Although you may not be able to completely rid yourself of all the symptoms of jet lag that wreak havoc with your body, it’s possible to help lessen the confusion on your body’s biorhythm. Listed below are some of the most effective strategies to help make your travel less tiresome.
7 Practical Tips to Help You Overcome Jet Lag
1. Start Preparations at Home
If you know that you’re going to be traveling over a long distance, it’s vital to have as much time to get ready as possible - particularly for those prone to experiencing jet lag. A great tip is to start preparing at home, way before you even get close to an airplane.
Adapt the rhythm of your body a few days before departing by starting to sleep progressively earlier than usual and waking up earlier so you can match the time zone you’re going to. One or two hours will make all the difference in the world when it comes to lessening the effects of jet lag.
2. Get a Restful Night’s Sleep Before Your Flight
Whether it’s due to excitement, anticipation, or deliberate attempts to tire themselves out so they’ll sleep through the entire flights, most people tend to sleep for just a few hours before long flights. This is not good for reducing jet lag symptoms. Always make sure that you get good quality sleep before your long flight so that you arrive better equipped to deal with jet lag.
3. Don’t Set a Rigid Schedule
It’s important to relax your schedule during your travel. You obviously need time to adjust, and while a half-day or full-day period is ideal, it’s not always possible. The next best thing you can do for yourself is to do your best to allow time for relaxation so you can help your body adapt your sleep-wake cycle, blood pressure, body temperature, digestion, and all other body functions to the new time zone.
A rigid schedule will make it harder for you to adjust so be flexible in order to give yourself a major advantage.
4. Don’t Arrive at Night
If you can avoid it, try to not arrive at your destination at night. If possible, opt for a flight that arrives during the daytime, so it’s easier for you to stay awake. Just make sure it’s not too early in the day because the longer you have to keep your body from sleep, the harder it will prove to be.
Ideally, book a flight that arrives in the afternoon or early evening. You can then find ways to stay awake until it’s time for bed, such as moving around the city or exploring (if the sun is still out), having something to eat, and then heading to bed.
5. Choose Your Planes Wisely
Not all planes are created equally, which is why it’s important for you to be plane savvy when it comes to booking your long flight. For instance, the A350 and A380 planes are among the best forms of transport for anyone crossing timezones.
They boast features to help you beat jet lag, such as the hi-tech humidification systems that help to retain moisture in the air. They also have LED lighting systems that are capable of simulating natural phases of daylight. These and more features help to stave off most jet lag symptoms.
6. Split Up Your Trip
Whenever possible, build a stopover into your trip. This will give your body a lot more time to adapt - not to mention the fact that it can slash your airfare price. Use online tools like Skyscanner’s Multi-City flight search to find the ideal one-day break to make your trip more bearable.
7. Say Bye to Alcohol and Coffee
If you’re prone to jet lag, one of the most important things for you to avoid during your trip include alcohol and coffee. Although it’s tempting to make a beeline for the bar to get that pre-flight drink, the effects of alcohol at flying altitudes will only serve to cause dehydration and increase your tiredness. This will make it even harder for you to beat the jet lag.