Whether you are a frequent flyer or a first time traveller, jet lag can make the first days of your journey unfairly difficult. The symptoms are all too familiar; your sleep patterns are all out of sync, you feel fatigued, find it difficult to concrete and even feel sick in your stomach.
Although eliminating jet lag altogether is not yet possible, there are some precautions and steps you can take to minimise the effects.
Before we get into the best practices to do to avoid bad jet lag when travelling, it helps to understand what jet lag actually is.
Technically it is a temporary sleep disorder. It usually occurs if you travel across two or more time zones particularly quickly. The more time zones you travel past, the worse your jet lag is likely to be and the more intense the symptoms.
The general rule of thumb is that it takes one day to adjust from every time zone you cross. It is also suggested that jet lag is worse when you travel West to East.
It happens because the rapid travel, caused by catapulting yourself around the planet in a plane, screws with the body’s Circadian Rhythm. This is the biological clock that tells the body when to wake up or fall asleep.
So how can you reset the alarm and make the most of your holiday?
Here are a few tips you can use to keep jet lag at bay.
Get into your new time zone before you go
Move your bedtime earlier or later, depending on where you are going. Change your sleep pattern gradually in the weeks leading up to your flight so that you are more closely aligned with the time zone you are travelling to.
Change your watch the day of the flight
So that when you get on the plane you know what the time is at your destination. Try not to sleep during the daytime hours and do the opposite if you are arriving at a late hour. Don’t force it though, you will only make yourself more tired if you deprive yourself of too much sleep.
Arrive with plenty of time to adjust
If you have an important event, meeting or function to go to when you get to your travel destination, then plan to arrive a few days before. This will give you time to adjust, so you are at your best when the big day comes round.
Consider taking Melatonin
Some travellers swear by it. You can buy Melatonin in pill form to help you adjust to irregular sleep patterns and jet lag. Melatonin is naturally produced by the body to regulate or Circadian Rhythm and can be bought as a supplement. However, always check with your doctor before taking medication and always take it as prescribed.
Be mindful of lighting and sunlight
Exposure to sunlight is a pretty big factor in our sleep cycle. Use natural light to your advantage. Try to get into the morning sun once you arrive at your destination. It might be difficult at first but it will help your body adjust.
Cut out unnecessary distractions at bedtime
Pack an eye mask, ear plugs and draw the curtains. Try to eliminate anything that will wake you up in the middle of the night.
Fight the urge to sleep at the wrong time
If you keep sleeping at the same times you used to, then you will take longer to get into your new cycle. Try as hard as possible to stay awake till after dark. An early bedtime is okay; just make sure it isn’t still the middle of the day.
No one has yet to come with a magical and instant cure to jet lag. If anyone manages it, they would undoubtedly become very rich. But with a little knowledge, preparation and willpower you can speed up your recovery and start enjoying your holiday sooner. Make sure you leave home in a well-rested state, eat well and drink plenty of water.