Just hopped out of the plane with excitement and anticipation to see a new place? But along with the excitement, you start feeling lethargic, disoriented, and tired. Don’t worry, it is just the jet lag and you will recover soon but sometimes it might not be soon enough.
In a 7 day trip, what if it takes 5 days for your body to get back to the rhythm? It will obviously ruin your trip. To add, we can always get compensation in the case of delayed or canceled flights. However, if you suffer from jet lag once you reach your destination, there is no refund or returning back and it can be difficult for us to beat jet lag.
What is jet lag?
Jet lag is a temporary sleep problem that can affect any traveler who quickly travels across multiple time zones. Our body has its circadian rhythms that signal when to sleep and wake up. This rhythm disrupts when we travel from one time zone to another. Traveling disrupts the measures our body uses to manage its internal clocks, such as our temperature, light, mealtimes, and hormones. Therefore, the more time zones we cross, the intense and extreme the symptoms tend to get.
In short, jet lag is a confusion between the local time and our internal body clock which makes us tired, confused, irritable, insomniac, and stupid and it takes time for our body to get on the rhythm of the new time zone.
What are the causes of jet lag?
Now that we know what jet lag is, we must also understand the causes and there are several modulators that contribute to it. Some of which are:
-Light: Our body rhythm is associated with the daylight and that is why our body’s internal clock can easily be influenced by the timing and quantity of daylights.
-Airline cabin atmosphere and pressure: Often the disruption of our circadian rhythm is caused by the changes in cabin pressure and high altitude.
-Dehydration: We must know that humidity levels are low in planes so, if we do not drink enough water during our flight, we might get dehydrated. Since dehydration also contributes to jet lag, remember to constantly hydrate yourself.
What are the risk factors for jet lag?
By now we have understood that the main factor that contributes to jet lag is our circadian rhythm which gets disrupted when we travel across different time zones. However, there are other additional factors like light and mealtime that contribute to jet lag. In addition, certain risk factors may result in symptoms being severe or long-lasting. Those risk factors are as follows:
-Travel across more time zones: The more time zones we cross the severe the symptoms tend to get.
-Age: Older age group tend to get severe symptoms that recover slower than in adults.
-Traveling from West to East: Since traveling from West to East is all about losing time that is why it gets all the more difficult for travelers to adjust.
-Traveling frequently: Pilots, cabin crew, businessman, and other travelers who travel frequently in different time zones may face difficulty in adjusting.
-Having preexisting conditions: People with poor eating habits, sleeping habits, and sleep disorder may face extreme jet lag symptoms.
What are the symptoms of jet lag?
Jet lag symptoms vary as per the number of time zones that you cross. In addition, the symptoms are intense when you travel from West to East. Similarly, considering the factors mentioned above, you may experience only one or many symptoms. Here are some of the major symptoms of jet lag:
-Difficulty in sleeping such as insomnia, waking up in the middle of the night, or excessive sleepiness due to tiredness.
-Difficulty in concentrating or functioning due to decreased alertness.
-Daytime fatigue and lethargy.
-dizziness and drowsiness.
-Mood changes and irritation.
-Lack of appetite.
-Constant feeling of unsettled and not being well.
-Gastrointestinal conditions such as diarrhea and constipation.
-Mild depression in some cases.
How to beat jet lag?
1. Prepare ahead of time
For people who are used to facing jet lag, the best tip is to take actions way before boarding the flight. We now know that the more number of time zones we cross, the extreme the jet lag symptoms tend to get. We have also understood that flying to the East from the West creates greater difficulty. That is exactly why we need to schedule our routine in order to adjust our body’s rhythm.
The best idea is to sleep a few hours earlier than your usual time if you are traveling to the East. In a like manner, if you are heading towards the west, you need to stay awake for a few more hours than your usual routine. What this does is, it lets our body gradually start adjusting to the new time zone way before we even board our flight. You can similarly shift your meal times for better results.
2. Set your watch to the new time zone
You need to adjust to your new time zone way ahead of time. In this case, get used to physically and mentally on your flight itself. You should set your watch to the local time of the new destination as soon as you board the planes. Along with that, when you arrive at your destination you need to forget your old time zone as soon as possible.
Also, eating and sleeping as per the time of your previous time zone will create trouble for you. Therefore, quickly get your body to the rhythm of the new time zone and eat and sleep accordingly. Easing into the new schedule gradually will save our body the shock of adjusting to the new environment all at once.
3. Customize your sleep-wake up rhythm
This is another great tip that has been proven effective to beat jet lag. Wear your most comfortable clothes on the flight with earplugs and an eye mask so you don’t get disturbed. Now, go to sleep if you are traveling to the East. If you can find a few empty seats then you will be able to lie completely horizontal and get better and easier sleep.
On the contrary, if you are traveling to the West, ensure that you stay awake and in order to do that, you will need some entertainment so, plan ahead of time. Your favorite movies and TV series can come to your rescue here. The alternative to this could be booking an airline with good entertainment programs.
4. Stay overnight in layover destinations
This tip works best when you are traveling to the East from the West. As we have discussed that our body finds it a lot more difficult to adjust to the time zone when we fly to the East. Don’t you worry as this tip will help you fight that problem. If you have enough time in your hand and you can afford a stopover in a destination then you will get some time to gradually cope-up with the new time zone.
Asia anyway offers a lot of stopover destinations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai, and Kuala Lumpur which might be rather helpful in beating jet lag. These destinations can anyway be visited in two to three days so, explore these places, try some delicious food, and get that energy back before your board your next flight. The best thing is you adjust to the new environment and along with that, you get to see another great destination on your way!
5. Pick the right arrival time
The idea is to pick a flight ticket in such a manner that you arrive at your destination around the evening. What this does is, it allows us to quickly fall asleep and have rest to wake up in the morning as per the local time. While arriving in the morning tends to cause fatigue as the day is dragged for a longer time period.
If you have enough time, try short stopover for two long haul flights. It will help your adjust better to the new time zone. It can also be a chance to wander around the airport to stretch your legs.
Likewise, it is always good to arrive a few days early to your destination if you are heading for an important event. This way, your body, and your mind will get adequate time to adjust to the local time.
6. Take things easy for the first few days
After a long flight, our body definitely requires some time to get back to the track. It is always a great idea to rest for 2 days upon arrival at a new destination as this will allow our body to slowly adjust to the environment and beat jet lag. You will additionally need some days to acclimatize if you are flying from a cold area to a hot area and vice-versa.
It is anyway not advised to go on a long trek or hop into an outdoor adventure immediately after landing in a new time zone. A healthy mix of the light workout will help you relax however, in any case, it is beneficial to let your body rest for a few days.
7. Try natural light therapy
Exposing our body to the sunlight can help regulate our circadian rhythms. The two most important factors for the light exposure causing a phase-shift in our circadian rhythm are the intensity of light and the timing of exposure. So, if you are feeling tired during the day or in the evening before hitting bed, make sure you got enough exposure to the light.
While light suppresses the Melatonin hormone production, darkness cues our body to secret it. This is why if you wake up too early, keep your room dark in order to make your body believe that it is still nighttime.
If you are flying to the East, avoid light exposure in the morning instead, get as much light as possible in the afternoon. Similarly, apply the same technique if you are flying to the West. What you do in this case is, get bright morning sunlight in your new destination and avoid afternoon and evening light exposure. This is one of the best natural technique to beat jet lag.
8. Time your meals with the right food
You need to slowly transition your eating times. Also, it is advised to not eat a heavy diet for a few days before travel. Processed oils and additives additionally make us feel rough so, avoid such foods on your flight. Along with that, eating high carb or fatty diet before bedtime is a big no as it disrupts sleep.
Research has proven that working out can help beat jet lag effects and people who are physically fit can fend off jet lag much faster. Light workout in bright sunlight has proven to be a good tool for readjusting our biological clock. Also, during the first few days in our destination, working out can boost energy levels and take away potential daytime exhaustion.
You can also start gradually working out by periodically getting up and walking around during your flights itself. This will ensure the blood circulation in your body and reduce the risk of headaches. You could additionally stretch your body and try some static exercises on your flight. However, bear in mind to avoid heavy exercises before bedtime upon your landing as this will disrupt your sleep.
10. Avoid alcohol and caffeine
While alcohol helps you sleep on the flight, it has adverse effects in the long run with serious tiredness, nausea, and discomfort. Alcohol dehydrates us even more on our flights and also creates difficulty in adjusting to a new time zone. The same goes for caffeine-containing beverages. So, it leaves you to drinking water and juices.
11. Hydrate yourself
Airplane cabins are pressurized to 6900ft above the sea level which puts us to dehydration and dry skin before we even realize it. In order to combat dehydration, it is suggested to have a glass of water every now and then. Likewise, drink water before, during, after, and throughout your trip.
12. Consider Melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone produced by our brain that informs our body when it’s time for us to sleep. While we all might not be a great fan of supplements, Melatonin has been proven helpful to beat jet lag as it helps regulate our circadian rhythm thus, allows us to sleep easier. 5 milligrams of Melatonin 2 hours prior to hitting the bed does the job!
If taken short term with an adequate amount, Melatonin works great for jet lag. However, the long term effects are still unknown. Regardless, if you want to consume Melatonin check with your doctor first. Similarly, there are certain foods that are concentrated in melatonin and can work as an alternative. These include walnuts, almonds, oranges, bananas, and pineapples.
13. Take a hot shower before you hit the bed
Taking a hot shower before bedtime helps us relax and fall asleep faster. The reason is that the drop in our body temperature as we get out of the shower makes us sleepy. Also, a hot shower will help us relax and ease our sore muscles from long flights.
Here are additional tips on how to beat lag?
-Try deep breathing exercises on your flight to deal with the drop in blood oxygen levels.
-Minimize any sort of sleep distraction by using earplugs, comfortable pillows, blankets, and an eye mask.
-Get enough sleep or rest before your trip.
-Avoid white and blue light before hitting the bed.
It’s a wrap!
So that is it! I hope you enjoyed my tips on how to beat jet lag. What do you think of the list? Also, do let me know in the comments below if you have additional tips on how to beat jet lag.