Jet lag is a frustrating experience, particularly for those who travel regularly, and over long distances. The effects of jet lag are wide ranging, and can have a profound impact on the health and productivity of those experiencing it. From exhausting to general ‘brain fog’, jet lag can be difficult to manage, and this article seeks to provide some tips and ideas on how to beat jet lag, and provide you some solace after long journeys.
Jet Lag – The Root Causes
In order to effectively beat jet lag, requires firstly that it is understood, and a little bit of information about how your body and internals systems function. Firstly, it must be understood that our bodies have natural circadian rhythms and cycles that regulate our sleep/wake cycles, and effects our energy levels. These natural rhythms are deeply effected by long distance travel, and adjustments to time zones, sunlight and other changes. This disruption of our natural rhythm lead to feelings of exhaustion and fatigue, and also effects our memory, appetite and digestion, and of course, our ability to focus and concentrate as we normally would. In general terms, the root cause of jet lag is the disruption of these natural rhythms in the body, through the changes in time zone, daylight, eating habits and associated changes as a result of long haul travel.
Directional Jet Lag – is it Real?
There is a well known statement by those who travel regularly, that the effects of jet lag are more profoundly felt when traveling in an easterly direction. Alternatively, traveling westward is thought to result in fewer, or less intense, symptoms of jet lag. The question is often posed – is this a reality, or just a myth? In fact, there is some evidence that suggests this observation has some merit. The statements “west is best”, and “east is a beast” may have something to them, in as much as the standard time of arrival is often more in line with standard sleeping hours when traveling west, whereas eastward flights often result in arrival times that turn your sleep/wake cycle into reverse. Meaning, arriving when it is morning and your body is expecting it to be time to sleep, versus arriving in the night, as your body expects. Basically, traveling west results in something more like a longer day, as opposed to the eastern flights, which turn your daytime clock upside down.
How Long Does it Take to Recover from Jet Lag
The general guide for jet lag recovery, is that you should expect one full day of recovery for each hour of time difference between your home time zone and your destination.
How to Beat Jet Lag – The Tips
The following tips are provided to help you beat jet lag, and combat the symptoms that result from long-haul travel, and disruptions of your sleep cycle, and natural rhythms in general. They are intended as individual tips, but making use of as many of them as possible, will assist you in your to know how to beat jet lag.
Tip #1 – Get a Good Sleep Before You Travel
It is important NOT to disrupt your normal sleeping patterns prior to travel, as a means of trying to pre-adjust your clock prior to leaving. This technique, while seemingly logical, actually has a negative effect overall, and will actually make your jet lag worse when you arrive. It is actually more important that you have a great sleep before you travel, and do not make any major adjustment to your regular routines and patterns prior to departure. A good night’s sleep prior to traveling will leave you in a far better position to beat jet lag when you arrive.
Tip #2 – Arrive during Daylight Hours
It is a great idea to choose flights that will ensure you arrive at your destination while there is remaining daylight. Doing so will ensure you remain awake, and are more likely to be active and adjusting appropriately to the day/night cycle of your destination.
Tip #3 – Avoid Alcohol while Traveling
While alcohol may seem like a great idea, and enjoyable way to pass the time during your travel, it will ultimately effect your sleep, and have an adverse effect on intensity of jet lag when you arrive at your destination. Additionally, the effect of alcohol on the body in the compressed air environment while traveling, increases the effects of alcohol on the body. Finally, alcohol will increase dehydration in your body, and exasperate the effects of jet lag.
Tip #4 – Use your Destination’s Time Zone When You Leave
In order to get yourself adjusted more quickly, it is a great idea to set all of your phones, clocks and other devices to the time of your destination as soon as you have taken your seat on your flight. This helps to get your mind properly in tune with your destination’s clock, and will assist you in your efforts to beat jet lag.
Tip #5 – Don’t Use Medication/Seditives
Many people believe that popping a sleeping pill or other sedative is a great way to get through a long haul flight. The truth is, using sedatives is actually going to have a negative effect on you, and increase the effects of jet lag when you arrive. In fact, sedatives and sleeping pills may provide you with some sleep while you travel, but will often mean you wake feeling “cotton head”, or otherwise generally lethargic upon arrival. If you are considering supplements for sleep, then perhaps consider melatonin, or a herbal supplement to help you through. Additionally, try using an eye cover to provide you with darkness, or noise cancelling headphones or ear plugs to assist you in finding sleep. These natural methods will do a far better job of helping you beat jet lag, than sedatives or sleeping pills.
Tip #6 – Remember to Exercise
While you are traveling, be sure to take some time to stand up and move around. This will ensure your body is getting sufficient blood circulation, and provide a much needed stretch.
Tip #7 – Sleep While Traveling
This is obvious, but getting rest while you are enroute to your destination is an excellent way to catch up on sleep, and keep your body well rested and ready for the adventures on the other side.
Tip #8 – Don’t Skip Meals, and Eat Well
It is recommended that you try and continue your eating schedule, as if you were at your destination. Try to eat foods that aren’t too heavy, and fruits, salads and greens are highly recommended – also, consume plenty of water while you travel, to avoid dehydration.
Tip #9 – Avoid Caffeine
This one is a no-brainer. Simply avoid colas, coffees and energy drinks during travel. Not only will they stimulate your system, but they also exasperate dehydration, and have a number of adverse effects on your system. It is better to drink water, or herbal teas, and find yourself much more hydrated and relaxed when you arrive.
Tip #10 – Create a relaxed Pre-flight Schedule
Prior to traveling, take the time to be prepared, so you are not rushed before you leave. Additionally, don’t make your pre-travel scheduling so tight and hectic that you are stressed, and feeling high levels of anxiety. Preparing well before hand will ensure you are not fatigued even before you leave. Relax your eating habits prior to leaving, so you can allow your body to adjust slightly to the time-zone you will be entering.