Jet lag is a condition which occurs when our bodies are thrown out of their respective natural rhythms, this process is commonly referred to as the circadian rhythms and it usually occurs when we are travelling long distances like that of different time zones. It happens because the body is used to a certain schedule, known as the “biological clock” where it is in effect synchronized to sleeping while it’s dark and awakening once it’s light out. When we are travelling, typically abroad and it can be very disastrous in what should otherwise be an enjoyable vacation, business trip or other event. So how can we cope with this less than ideal condition? Read on to learn some strategies for coping with the jet lag.
Jet lag is also commonly referred to as flight fatigue and in the medical profession is referred to as desynchronosis. Regardless of the terminology, the result is the same, either you are extremely tired through the day where you arrive or you are awake at times you would normally be sleeping in your home time zone.
Dealing with jet lag after a long international flight can seem impossible; either you’re going to have to “pull an all nighter”, or you can try to get sleep, but the issue is that many people have issues with napping once they’ve already woken up for the day, you also don’t want to stay up too long because lack of sleep can be dangerous to your health. It’s ultimately a no win situation any way you look at it and this is where many of us turn to alcohol. It’s does not help that the booze is free most of the time and we may feel the whole jet lag situation will be easier to deal with under the influence of alcohol, resist the temptation and get some rest instead, you’ll be happier and feel better, the last thing you’re going to want is a hangover in a foreign land.
Experts say to stay away from alcohol, it can be extremely welcoming to have a few drinks on your flight, but it turns out that this could do more harm than good with respect to jet lag. You’re better off staying away from the booze and getting some rest, you’re after all, going to need the rest to better deal with your jet lag.
So you want to know the obvious, how exactly can you get over jet lag; this is not so straightforward so let’s examine it further.
First depending if you are travelling East or West you can (if your schedule allows for it) start by getting into the schedule of your destination. If you are heading east you can start by adjusting your bedtime to earlier and earlier each day, if going west then you can simply do the opposite and stay up later each night. This will in essence help you to adopt the schedule of your destination before you go and you will find it being easier to adjust little by little rather than all at once. This is a great way to adjust before you end up travelling but let’s face the music, not all of us have that luxury in our busy lifestyles.
Second, you can always leave a few days earlier for your destination and in this way you have those few days to adjust to your new time zone easier. This can be especially valuable if you are for example going to an event or business meeting whereas you must be functioning at your best.
Third, a strictly psychological method to adjust to your destination would be to change the time on your watch as soon as you depart, so in this way psychologically you are prepared for the new time zone.
Fourth, you could take a hormonal supplement of melatonin, which it may help your body adjust. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is produced by the body usually in the late afternoon and evening and it’s what makes you feel drowsy and otherwise tired towards your usual bedtime. You can take a supplement during the late afternoon time of your destination and you could also take a sleeping pill along with melatonin to have the greatest effect and hopefully get some rest that will help you adjust and ultimately cope better with the jet lag.
Fifth, keep adequately hydrated. This is in part why alcohol could be a terrible choice, you are going to want to stay hydrated and alcohol make you dehydrated. Keeping hydrated is essential because otherwise you may have issues with an upset stomach and bowel movements may be impeded. You are already throwing off your body’s natural processes by altering its biological clock and travelling can make it hard to fit in proper bowel movements so keep hydrated to minimize the effects.
Sixth, sunlight is a major player in regulating circadian rhythms so you can essentially fool your body into your new sleeping schedule in the following ways: If going eastward, try to avoid bright early morning light, until late afternoon and early evening. Going westward? Do the opposite and try to get that bright early morning light earlier in the day when you arrive and avoid it during the late afternoon. This can help shift your body into the new schedule at your destination.
You may also want to bring a set of earplugs with you to your destination, this will help you to avoid anything that could potentially disrupt your sleeping pattern at your new location. Some travellers swear by bringing their own pillow with them because it helps them to have a less disruptive and restless sleep while adjusting, so consider that if you’d think it would work for you too.
Another tip is to have a nice hot bath before bedtime at your destination. It can help relax your muscles, regulate your body temperature leading to being more sleepy. Some people who fly frequently, swear by changing their diets before flying can make it easier to adjust to jet lag. Many will fast the day they travel, while others stick to a high calorie diet depending the direction of travel.