Fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, irritability, confusion and poor co-ordination; jet lag is something many of us are all too familiar with. Once thought to be merely a state of mind, studies have shown that the condition is actually due to ‘an imbalance in our body’s natural “biological clock” caused by travelling to different time zones’ .
Our bodies run on circadian rhythms which are influenced by our exposure to natural sunlight and determine when we sleep and wake. When we travel to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms take a while to adjust and so remain on their original biological clock for several days. This is why our bodies tell us we want to sleep in the middle of the day or wake in the middle of the night. Below are some practical ways to help you overcome some of the effects of jet lag and get your sleep back on schedule.
1.Pre-flight preparation is one of the most important factors when tackling jet lag. Depending on how long your trip is going to be, try and start adjusting your body to the new time zone you will be entering.
2. If you are travelling east, try and move your bedtime half an hour earlier in the nights leading up to the flight. It is also thought that it could be helpful to stay in the dark for at least three hours after arriving in order to reset your circadian rhythm
3. If you are travelling west, do the opposite.
4. Once on the flight, change the time on your watch to match your destination and try and stay awake if it’s a daytime flight and sleep if it’s a nighttime flight.
5. Adapt to the routine of your new destination as soon as you can. Going to bed and waking up at your regular times will certainly help in achieving this but make sure you are listening to your body. If you do wake up a little later or head to bed a little earlier, it doesn’t matter.
6. If your trip is shorter than four days, it can be better to remain on ‘home time’ to minimise disruption to your sleep and wake cycle.
7. Keep hydrated. Try sticking to just water on the plane and avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol before going to bed when you land. They can dehydrate you and act as a stimulant, neither of which will help you in achieving your desired night’s rest.
8. Try and get out into the sunshine whenever possible. Direct sunlight is the most powerful stimulant for regulating your biological body clock, staying indoors will only worsen your jet lag.
9. Avoid heavy exercise close to bedtime but try and do some light exercise earlier in the day.
10. On the day you arrive, stay busy and have a firm plan. If you’ve got your first day planned with activities booked in advance, you’ll be more motivated and excited to head out and explore and less likely to curl up in your hotel room.
What are your best tips for dealing with jet lag?