You’ve packed outfits for all weathers, sunscreen, sunglasses, a good book to read and a long list of places to explore. But then you arrived and BAM...Jet lag hits you like a ton of bricks. Your skewed body clock has an insatiable hunger for sleep at all the wrong times
Now although you can’t completely prevent jet lag, you can certainly mitigate the effects, making it far easier to jump in and enjoy your holiday. Jet lag is caused by an abrupt switch to a new time zone and new daylight hours. It causes disorientation, and fatigue - well known enemies of a good time! But fear not, you needn’t take it lying down. We have some great tips to help you get over your jet lag and back to life.
A long haul nightmare
Studies into jet lag have shown that it can take a full day to recover from each of the time zones you travel through. So for each hour the clock moves forwards or backwards, you will need a day to recover from the jet lag before you feel at your peak again. That means travelling from New York to London in the summer - five hours difference - will take five days before you feel your best again.
Added to which, travelling eastward takes more work for your body to adjust than if you are travelling west. This is because going east means falling asleep earlier than you’re used to - a herculean feat that is difficult for many to will into action. Travelling west and moving the clocks forward, however, means willing yourself to stay awake later, which is usually easier than trying to force sleep. Another reason for west being best is that your natural circadian rhythm is slightly longer than one day, at about 24 hours and 15 minutes, making westward travel a little easier to adjust to.
Tick tock, it’s jet-lag o’clock
Most people who get jet lag usually face some increased tiredness, daytime fatigue, and difficulty sleeping - and all the joys that come with those, including difficulty concentrating or functioning at your normal levels. However if you’re really unlucky you might face stomach problems such as constipation or diarrhea, a general feeling of sickness, and - to the further detriment of any travel partners - mood changes.
Added to which, travelling on long flights mean that you’re exposed for an extended period of time to any germs your fellow passengers may be harbouring as they circulate through the aircraft’s air conditioning unit.
So what’s the best way to deal with jet lag? We’ve put together some simple steps you can take to ease the effects of or stop jet lag in its tracks entirely.
Best tips to avoid jet lag:
- Before you board your flight, change the time on your watch and your phone to the time zone your travelling to. This will help you understand whether you should be awake or asleep.
- Sleep early on in the flight. If you don’t feel tired enough to sleep then try brushing your teeth and using a sleep mask - both are helpful triggers telling your brain that it’s time to get some rest.
- When you’re awake, stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, both are anathema to good sleep.
- Avoid sleeping pills - they are not the answer! They will negatively impact your sleep and leave you feeling drowsy after.
- Get up and walk around every hour when you’re awake. Movement will increase mental alertness and help you to adjust, as well as reducing the risk of DVT and similar.
- Once you arrive, get into some natural light as soon as you can, if possible. The sun on your skin will help to anchor your circadian rhythm to its 24-hour cycle - significantly easing jet lag.