Whether it’s a work-related trip, a leisurely vacation, or an adrenaline-pumping athletic competition, the prospect of a significant voyage is always exhilarating. Nonetheless, the process of travelling can come with its own set of challenges. Particularly, when extensive air travel is involved, the infamous jet lag tends to rear its head.
Commonly associated with international air journeys, jet lag can appear on any flight that traverses three or more time zones, regardless of its destination. The disruption in sleep patterns caused by jet lag can throw your body’s internal clock out of sync with the natural day-night cycle at your arrival point.
Understanding how to both prevent and recover from jet lag is crucial for maintaining your sleep routine and overall well-being during your travels, thus allowing you to make the most out of your trip.
What Is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is a phenomenon that can strike when you rapidly cross two or more time zones. The extent of sleepiness and lethargy typically correlates with the number of time zones crossed. It’s a transient sleep disorder, albeit not transient enough for many travellers. For instance, if you’re embarking on a ten-day voyage from San Francisco to Rome, it might take you somewhere between six to nine days to fully readjust. This is because your body may require up to a day for each time zone crossed to adapt to the local time. Moreover, if your journey takes you from Rome to San Francisco, a west-to-east trip, jet lag could linger for about four to five days – approximately half the number of time zones crossed. The discomfort of jet lag tends to be more pronounced when you find yourself “losing time” by travelling west to east.
If you’re in the older age bracket, brace yourself for potentially more impactful jet lag symptoms and a prolonged recovery period.
Common symptoms include:
Jet lag manifests through a range of symptoms, including:
- Sleep disturbances encompass difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, and maintaining sleep until morning.
- Daytime drowsiness that clouds your alertness.
- Reduced attentiveness, making it harder to focus.
- Fluctuations in appetite lead to odd-time hunger pangs.
- Digestive irregularities.
- Episodes of low mood and irritability.
- Diminished mental and physical performance.
8 Tips To Get Over Jet Lag
Jet lag is a common adversary, yet there are numerous strategies you can employ to navigate its challenges more effectively. While your body will eventually acclimate to the new time zone, these tips can be invaluable when you’re on a swift trip or require immediate functionality after your flight.
1. Swiftly Embrace Your New Time Zone
Upon reaching your destination, make it a mission to abandon your previous time zone swiftly. While modern technology often updates clocks automatically, manually set watches and travel clocks need immediate resetting as you embark on your journey. To smooth your transition, align your meals and bedtime with the local time at your destination.
2. Mastering Your Sleep Schedule
Adhering to an appropriate sleep schedule is paramount. Given that your flight may coincide with nighttime at your destination, seize the opportunity to catch some shut-eye during the journey. Equipping yourself with noise-cancelling headphones, white noise, eye masks, earplugs, and cozy travel pillows and blankets can significantly enhance your chances of resting. On arrival, resist the temptation to nap during the day to avoid complicating your sleep cycle.
3. Stay Hydrated
Long-haul travel often leads to dehydration, and although you might limit water intake to avoid bathroom breaks during the journey, this strategy can backfire. Optimal hydration can alleviate jet lag symptoms and travel-related fatigue. Carry an empty water bottle through airport security and refill it once you’re in the terminal. Continue drinking water upon landing.
4. Harness the Power of Light
Jet lag disrupts your internal clock due in part to the altered exposure to light that accompanies changing time zones. Basking in natural sunlight can reawaken your body and suppress the production of sleep-inducing melatonin hormones. Embrace morning light if you need to kickstart your day earlier, and immerse yourself in evening light if your goal is to stay awake longer in your new time zone. Special light devices, such as lamps, light boxes, and headgear, can assist in this process.
5. Caffeine: A Strategic Ally
Although caffeine doesn’t possess magical powers to banish jet lag, it can be a handy tool for maintaining alertness and concentration during daylight hours. Scientific studies have demonstrated that around 300 milligrams of slow-release caffeine can heighten wakefulness, especially for eastbound travellers. Beverages like coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate contain caffeine, but be cautious of other constituents like sugar. Remember to moderate caffeine intake in the afternoon and evening to avoid sleep disruptions.
6. Crafting Your Sleep Sanctuary
Ensuring your sleeping environment is conducive to rest is essential. Make certain the room temperature is comfortable and cool by adjusting the thermostat. Banish potential disturbances like ringing phones or clocks to guarantee uninterrupted sleep. Consider packing portable comfort items from home, such as a white noise machine, a cherished throw blanket, or a familiar scented lotion, to facilitate slumber.
7. Exploring Melatonin
Melatonin, a naturally occurring sleep-inducing hormone, can be a helpful supplement when combating jet lag. It’s available as an over-the-counter option, aiding in promoting sleepiness. Employ melatonin at night if your body isn’t prepared for sleep or during early morning hours to sustain sleep if you’ve travelled westward. Ensure that you don’t exceed a dosage of 5 mg at a time. Since melatonin is a supplement not regulated by the FDA, it’s prudent to consult a healthcare professional before using it.
8. Conversations About Medication
Engage in a dialogue with your doctor to determine if sleep aids could alleviate jet lag-induced insomnia. These aids can support rest during nighttime hours as you adapt to the new time zone. When considering such aids during air travel, consider their potential side effects and consult your doctor for a comprehensive assessment.
It’s worth noting that while sleep aids might mitigate nighttime symptoms, they may not effectively counter daytime jet lag effects.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you adapt to jet lag?
A: Adjusting to jet lag is a challenge that lacks a straightforward solution. Rather than fully getting accustomed to it, consider it a phase in reclaiming your usual energy levels. While you can alleviate symptoms and shorten their duration, jet lag remains an unavoidable aspect of travel.
Q: What steps can I take to avoid jet lag symptoms?
A: Jet lag often brings along symptoms like nausea, headaches, and muscle pain. To combat these, your trusty companions should be anti-nausea pills, melatonin, and pain relief tablets. These should find a place in your travel kit for effective jet lag management. And don’t forget, maintaining proper hydration can significantly impact your jet lag experience.
Q: How long does it take to recover from jet lag?
A: The recovery period from jet lag may vary based on both your destination and individual factors. Curiously, some individuals are more susceptible to the lingering effects of jet lag. Consequently, the duration of the experience is subjective and unique to each person. However, on a general note, it might take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours for the biological impact of jet lag to subside.
Q: Is jet lag harder when travelling in a specific direction?
A: Jet lag tends to be more pronounced when travelling eastward. This can be attributed to the intrinsic workings of our biological clock, which is synchronized with the 24-hour day cycle. Adjusting to a longer day while travelling westward is usually easier, as opposed to the challenge of adapting to a shorter day when journeying eastward, leading to earlier sunset.
Q: How do you manage jet lag upon return?
A: Overcoming jet lag upon your return is generally a more manageable endeavour for both your body and mind. However, fatigue may persist. The same principles apply here as well. Stay well-hydrated, synchronize with the local time zone, make the most of natural daylight, and gradually readjust to your routine.
Travelling across time zones is inevitably accompanied by jet lag, but with these insights, you can navigate its effects and make your journeys more comfortable and enjoyable.