Whether you’re flying to a fabulously exotic location for your dream vacation, or you’ve got to fly for business, one of the most difficult aspects of international travel is managing jet lag. Jet lag is caused when the body’s Circadian rhythms are disrupted as we cross different time zones. Our bodies need to adapt to the changes in day and night time because our first ‘day’ is shorter or longer, depending on our direction of travel. Jet lag is worse when traveling from west to east because it’s harder to handle a shorter day than a longer one.
5 Steps for Dealing With Jet Lag
No-one enjoys the feeling of fatigue and being ‘out-of-it’ that can ruin the start of a leisure trip or keep you below par in a meeting. But these simple steps will help you to minimize the impact of jet lag.
1. Try to get ahead
Studies have shown that preparing your body for a new time zone before you fly can help lessen the impact when you arrive. A few days before you travel, gradually shift your sleep pattern towards your new timetable by going to bed earlier or staying up later. Then once you get on the plane, do your best to make the change totally. Change your watch or phone to your destination time and stick to your new routine as far as possible.
2. Control your environment
Of course, there’s a limit to what you can do to adapt to your new time zone during the flight, but there are some things you can control. Choose your seat carefully, away from high traffic areas such as the toilets or the galley area, so you’re not constantly disturbed by others when you’re trying to rest. You may find that a window seat is quieter than an aisle seat, but it can be less convenient if you need to use the bathroom frequently. And remember you don’t always have to eat your meals when they’re served – delay eating if possible until it’s nearer your target time.
3. Manage your sleep
If your budget stretches, try to have a seat that reclines flat so you get a better night’s sleep. Aim for a good block of sleep as close to your destination timetable as possible, and use an eye-mask and earplugs to shut the world out. You won’t sleep well if you’re too cold, so check whether your carrier supplies blankets before you fly, and take a light fleecy one with you if they don’t. A shaped neck pillow is also handy for preventing a stiff neck; you can buy inflatable ones if space is at a premium or try a memory foam version for the ultimate in comfort.
4. Stay hydrated
Airplanes are notorious for their dry atmosphere so drink as much water as you can on the flight. Soft drinks and fruit juices are also good, although too many fizzy drinks could make you feel bloated and uncomfortable. It’s also a good idea to limit your tea and coffee intake as they both contain caffeine, which can mess with your body’s natural rhythms and may keep you wide awake when you want to be snoozing. Alcohol will have a similar effect, although some travelers believe a small glass of wine or brandy may help send you off to sleep more easily.
5. Make yourself adapt quickly when you arrive
Once you get to your destination, try to fit into the new time zone as thoroughly as possible. If you simply must sleep, avoid several short naps and aim for a minimum block of four hours to give your body proper rest. Make the most of the natural light by sleeping with the drapes or blinds open to let the sun pour in, and get up at a sensible time even if you feel tired at first. A little exercise, such as a brisk walk, will soon wake your body up, leaving you energized to face the day.
Naturally, there’s no way to prevent jet lag altogether, but by planning ahead and making a few adjustments along the way, you’ll arrive in much better shape and adjust to your new time zone quickly.