Anyone that’s flown across multiple time zones knows just how powerful jet lag can be against travelers. We’ve talked to our in-house experts to find out how all of us can vanquish this bane of frequent flyers.
So… why do we get jet lagged?
The human body can adapt to almost any environment, but we’re hardwired to do some things in a 24-hour period. We all need to sleep and eat something – this is known as circadian rhythms, which is destined to be an answer to a trivia question. These rhythms go out of whack when we travel long distances, switching time zones at high rates of speed. Common issues from jet lag are extreme fatigue, indigestion problems, lack of appetite, memory and concentration problems. You can even feel sickly altogether.
Which direction is best?
Head west, my friends! Many consider travelling to the west a lot easier to handle than going east. We gain hours of daylight, which is much easier for our bodies to handle. Travelling east means you have to force yourself to sleep when your body still thinks it should be awake. There have been studies that suggest we need a full day to recover from each time zone we go through to our destination.
Now we know what jet lag is and which direction is best to go. So how do we combat this beast?
Before your flight
1. Be flexible with your eating and sleeping schedules. You’ll have a rough go of it if you eat at the same time and go to be 11:30 sharp.
2. Resist the temptation to go onto your long haul flight as tired as possible. It doesn’t work, and could hurt more than you’d think. Get a full night’s rest before the trip.
3. Alter your sleep schedule two or three days before you’re supposed to fly. Mimicking the times of where you’re heading will help a great deal. Just try not to hit snooze when your alarm starts chiming in at 3 in the morning.
4. Try planning your flights so it’ll be daylight when you arrive. You’ll feel like staying awake more and makes it a lot easier to keep the new schedule.
5. Layovers can be your friend. Allow time for a stop and use it to adapt to the routine. Just getting out of the plane will be gift enough.
During the flight
6. Do your best to turn down the drink service. A beer or glass of wine might sound like just the thing to calm the nerves, but odds are better that you’ll feel a lot sleepier at high altitudes. Plus, booze will dehydrate you and not what you want.
7. Avoid caffeinated beverages if you’re schedule to land at night. Coffee, soda and energy drinks will mess up sleep patterns. Just stick to water to keep you hydrated on the plane.
8. Don’t bother with sleeping pills. They don’t work and not worth the money you spend on them. Just get a cup of chamomile tea on the flight to nod off for a bit.
9. Rely less on your cell phone clock and more on your watch to check the time. Just change your watch to the local time of where you’re heading. Mobile phones change times automatically (unless you leave it on airplane mode during international vacations), but won’t help when you want to know what time it is where you’re visiting.
10. Try to get out of your seat for a walk about the cabin. It’ll keep the blood flowing, making you feel better. And it can keep you from getting antsy in the middle of an eight-hour flight.
Once you’ve arrived
11. Get your eating habits in line with the new time zone. Three meals a day is a must. Even if all you have for dinner is a bowl of cereal or half a box of Oreos. May not be healthy, but it’s better to get on the schedule.
12. Soak up daylight. Sunshine makes us feel better, unless you’re a vampire.
13. Stretch out a bit to work out the joints after sitting in that airplane seat for such a long time.
14. Get your usual amount of sleep in as quickly as you can. If that means you need to take an afternoon nap, then so be it.
15. Take a hot bath before bedtime. Nothing will soothe aching muscles after long travel like a dip in hot water. Should make you sleepy and ready to tackle the world the next day.