Do you experience headaches or feel dizzy and unsettled after a long overseas flight? Is international travel a source of worry because of the insomnia and fatigue you experience at the end of it? If these are true, then you are experiencing jet lag. In this article, we will discuss five amazing tips to get rid of jet lag!
What is jet lag?
Jet lag, also called as desynchronosis is the feeling of tiredness that you feel after travelling a long distance by flight across different time zones, say from one country to another. It is caused due to the disruptions in the circadian rhythms of the body.
Jet lag generally occurs when you cross one or two time zones, and the severity of it increases with the number of time zones you cross.
How long does jet lag last?
Jet lag generally lasts for three to five days. It is temporary, and most people tend to recover within a few days.
The older a person is, the more likely it is for him or her to suffer from jet lag because the body takes more time to sync with the new surroundings. Children, on the other hand, have less severe symptoms and generally can adjust very quickly.
What are the causes of jet lag?
Jet lag is caused due to the disruption of your internal body clock or circadian rhythm. When we travel to a new time zone, our body is still aligned with the time of our old location. So, our sleep wake cycle, hunger and bowel habits — all are out of sync with the time-zone of our new surroundings. This is why we are often jet-lagged.
It takes a few days for the body to get adjusted to the new time-table. The more time zones we cross, the more severe jet-lagged we are.
It has been reported by WHO that having alcohol and caffeine during your journey can worsen the symptoms of jet lag, primarily because both of these will cause dehydration of the body, leading to uneasiness, insomnia and stomach upsets.
Jet lag might also occur due to changes in cabin pressure and oxygen levels at high altitudes, regardless of the number of time zones we have crossed. It has also been observed that travelling from west to east induces more jet lag than travelling westwards. This is because staying awake till late to help adjust to the new time zone(as happens when travelling eastwards) is more difficult than forcing the body to sleep earlier.
Generally people who stretch, lie down or sleep during a flight, are less likely to experience jet lag.
What are the symptoms of jet lag?
Symptoms of jet lag are generally noticed about 12 hours after arriving at our new location and include:
- acute disturbances in sleep patterns-insomnia or excessive sleepiness
- tiredness, headache, fatigue and drowsiness or lethargy
- gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhoea, constipation or stomach upsets
- irritability, confusion and difficulty to concentrate or focus properly
- loss of appetite
- mood swings
Complications caused due to jet lag are very rare. Only acute sleep deprivation combined with the stress of travel may cause a stroke or a heart attack in a heart patient or elderly travellers.
5 Amazing Tips to Get Rid of Jet Lag
Strategize and plan your flight timings
You can plan and schedule your flights such that they arrive at the early evening local time. In that case, you would not have to stay up till long to adjust your sleep according to the new time zone. If you have an important meeting or event, try arriving a day or two earlier, to give your body time to adjust to the new schedule.
If you are travelling a long distance, say across 10-12 time zones, try and break up your trip into shorter flights. This will help the body adjust to the changing time zones more easily.
Also, keeping active during the flight by doing exercises, stretching or walking up and down the aisle helps reduce jet lag.
Try to sleep on the plane
Aim for strategic napping on the flight. Take ear plugs, headphones and eye masks to block out noise and light. Try to compensate on your sleep by snoozing during the flight, especially if you are travelling eastwards into a new day. However, if you are heading into a place where it’s daytime, try and resist the urge to sleep on the flight.
Also, instead of taking long naps, take shorter naps of 20-30 minutes at other times of the day, to avoid sleeplessness at night.
Do not start sleep-deprived on your journey, as this adds to the jet lag later. Try and get enough rest before your journey.
Prepare for the change beforehand
Try getting adjusted to the new time schedule a few days prior to your departure. If you are travelling eastwards, go to bed an hour early each day, and wake up early too. If you are travelling westwards, try going to bed and waking up late. This will help the body to gradually adapt to the new time-table and will reduce the jet lag once you have reached your destination. If possible, also try and have your meals an hour early or later, according to the time schedule of your destination.
Nowadays, there are online jet lag calculators available that can help calculate when to reset your sleep schedule, in order to help you adjust to a time change before you depart.
Easing into the new schedule gradually is better for the body than the shock of having to adjust at it all at once.
Keep yourself hydrated
Drink plenty of water before, after as well as during your flight. Keep yourself adequately hydrated as this will help the body counteract the dry atmosphere inside the cabin of the plane. This will reduce your uneasiness, headache or stomach upsets and help you rest more easily.
Avoid consumption of caffeine and alcohol during your flight as well as prior to your departure. These drinks tend to dehydrate your body, disturb your sleeping patterns and lead to general discomfort and nausea.
Regulate exposure to sunlight
Sunlight has a huge impact on the body’s circadian rhythm, primarily because it affects the production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone of the human body. Exposure to sunlight will prevent the production of melatonin because the body associates sunlight with daytime or the time to stay awake. Reduced exposure to sunlight, on the other hand, will promote the production of this hormone and thus, induce sleepiness.
You can ease yourself into your new schedule by exposing yourself to daylight at proper timings in your new time-zone.
In general, exposure to light during the evening will help induce wakefulness in the late hours of the day, and thus help adjust to a later than normal time zone i.e. when we are travelling westwards. In contrast, exposure to light in the morning will help adapt to an earlier time zone such as when we are travelling eastwards.
Often, when crossing eight or more time zones, people tend to take melatonin as a dietary supplement or over-the-counter (OTC) pills, to help reduce their jet lag. However, it should be taken only in specific doses (0.3-5 mg) under the consultation by a physician.
In general, staying physically fit and having proper meals and rest is very essential for the body to quickly adapt any change. If you are having any medical issues like stress disorders or heart ailments, consult your doctor before taking a long haul trip.
While jet lag is not dangerous, it does take a toll on your comfort during your vacations or even, business trips. So, being prepared for jet lag and possibly preventing it by following the tips given above, can help ensure that it does not disrupt your next trip!