Traveling across different time zones can be an exciting adventure, but it can also leave you feeling tired and disoriented due to jet lag.
Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that affects people who quickly travel across multiple time zones, causing fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
What’s good for you, is that there are several proven strategies to help you avoid, or at least minimize, the effects of jet lag and make the most of your trip.
How to Avoid Jetlag?
Before going on your journey, it’s crucial to prepare your body for the time zone shift.
One effective method is to gradually adjust your sleep schedule to align with the destination’s local time.
For instance, if you’re traveling eastward, start by going to bed a little earlier each night for several days before your trip.
Similarly, if you’re headed west, do the opposite and go to bed later.
This will give your body a head-start in adapting to the new time zone.
In addition to adjusting your sleep schedule, it’s also crucial to stay well-rested and maintain a healthy lifestyle leading up to your trip.
Ensuring proper sleep, eating healthy meals, and staying hydrated can make it easier for your body to cope with the challenges of long-haul travel and jet lag.
Remember that starting your journey well-rested and in good health will set the foundation for a smoother transition and more enjoyable travel experience.
Understanding Jet Lag
Jet lag occurs due to the disruption of your body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm caused by traveling across time zones.
When you travel long distances, your body needs time to adjust to the new time zone. This could result in symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, and having a hard time concentrating.
Your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that controls many of your body’s functions, including sleep and wakefulness.
It is influenced by daylight, so when you travel to a different time zone, your circadian rhythm has to synchronize with the local time.
This process can take some time, leading to the symptoms commonly associated with jet lag.
Some factors that can contribute to jet lag include:
- Number of time zones crossed: The more time zones you cross, the more significant the disruption to your circadian rhythm, and the more severe the jet lag may be.
- Travel direction: People generally find it more challenging to adjust to eastward travel compared to westward travel because it shortens the day, making it harder for your body to adapt.
- Age: The older you are, the longer it takes to recover from jet lag, as your circadian rhythms is less flexible.
- Individual factors: Some people may be more prone to jet lag due to their genetics, sleep habits, or overall health.
Understanding jet lag and its causes can help you better prepare for your trip and implement strategies to minimize its effects on your body and overall wellbeing.
Planning Your Travel
Adapting to the Destination Time Zone
To reduce the effects of jet lag, you can start adjusting to your destination’s time zone before your trip.
Gradually move your mealtimes and bedtime closer to the schedule of your destination.
For example, if you’re traveling from the East Coast to Europe, go to bed a half-hour earlier than usual for several nights before your departure.
While on the plane, try setting your watch to the local time of your destination.
This can help your brain start acclimating to the new time zone.
Make a conscious effort to align your activities, such as eating and sleeping, with the local time as soon as you arrive at your destination.
Selecting Suitable Flight Timings
Choosing the right flight timings can significantly help in reducing jet lag.
Look for flights that arrive in the late afternoon or evening, as it will be easier to stay awake until the local bedtime.
You’ll also benefit from overnight flights or red-eye flights, as they allow for more extended periods of sleep when traveling to a different time zone.
When selecting layovers, consider giving yourself sufficient time between flights to relax and adjust before boarding the next flight.
If possible, break up a long journey with a stopover to minimize jet lag symptoms and help yourself to adapt to the new time zone.
Utilizing Melatonin Supplements
Melatonin supplements can be a useful tool to help reset your internal clock when adjusting to a new time zone.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by your body to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
Taking melatonin supplements can aid in shifting your sleep schedule and reducing jet lag symptoms.
However, it’s very important to use melatonin correctly. Be sure to take the appropriate dose at the right time, usually a couple of hours before your intended bedtime in the new time zone.
The supplement can help you fall asleep more quickly and better.
Always consult with a healthcare professional before using melatonin supplements, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking medication.
There may be potential side effects or interactions.
One of the most important things you can do to avoid jet lag is to stay hydrated during your flight.
Mild dehydration is common when traveling by air, and it can worsen the feeling of jet lag.
Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your flight.
It’s best to avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can contribute to dehydration and disrupt your sleep patterns.
Consider carrying a reusable water bottle and filling it up before boarding the plane.
Minimizing Exposure to Blue Light
Electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops emit blue light, which can negatively affect your ability to fall asleep.
To reduce the impact on your sleep cycle, consider minimizing your exposure to blue light during the flight, especially in the evening.
You can use specialized blue light filtering glasses, enable night mode on your devices, or simply turn off your devices at least an hour before your planned bedtime on the plane.
Performing Light Exercises
Performing light exercises during your flight can help prevent muscle stiffness and reduce the risk of blood clots.
This can also help you feel more refreshed and energized, making it easier to adjust to the new time zone.
Here are a few exercises you can do on the plane:
- Take a walk up and down the aisle
- Do gentle neck stretches
- Rotate your ankles and wrists
- Perform seated marches
- Stretch your calves
Remember to stand up and move around every couple of hours, and be sure to adjust your activities based on your level of comfort and the available space on the plane.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, there are several steps you can take to minimize jet lag and adjust to the local time faster:
- Get sunlight exposure: Spending time outdoors during daylight hours helps regulate your body clock. Aim for at least 30 minutes of natural light exposure, especially in the mornings.
- Stay active: Engage in light to moderate exercise to help reset your internal clock. A good walk or jog can help fight fatigue caused by jet lag.
- Avoid napping: Try to resist the temptation to nap during the day, especially after arrival. Staying awake until an early local bedtime helps your body adjust to the new time zone.
Focusing on taking care of your body can also minimize jet lag symptoms:
- Hydrate: Drink plenty of water throughout your journey and upon arrival, as proper hydration can help manage jet lag symptoms.
- Eat healthily: Choose lighter meals made up mostly of fruits and vegetables to prevent gastrointestinal disturbances.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol: Both substances can worsen jet lag symptoms.
Finally, adjusting your routine and mindset can help you adapt more quickly:
- Adopt the local schedule: Begin eating, sleeping, and engaging in activities on the local time zone as soon as possible upon arrival.
- Ignore the time back home: Reminding yourself of the time difference can prolong adjustment, so try to focus on the local time and leave your ‘home time’ behind.