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Jet Lag | 8 Practical Ways to Beat Time Zone Fatigue

airplane cabin

You have finally landed on your destination after a long journey. Then you step off the plane, really excited to have arrived and are ready to start your trip. And suddenly an extreme fatigue hits you. We’ve all been there, at least once. When we feel that we’ve gotten little sleep and our body feels just as if you are hungover. And while thinking about how nice it would be to lie down and get some sleep, you realize it’s only midday at your new destination. Yes, jet lag is awful, and you can never get used to it, no matter how often you travel.

airplane travel jet lag

Jet lag can sometimes be as damaging to our travelling vibe as flight delays are. The difference being that if you claim for a delayed flight, you can actually get compensation. For jet lag there is nothing you can do, and that’s why you should do everything in your power to prevent it. That’s why we have gathered a list of 8 tips to help you avoid or cure jet lag in order to enjoy your trip to the fullest!

What is jet lag and what causes it?

In medicine, the term ‘jet lag’ is described as a physiological condition that appears as a result from alterations to the body’s circadian rhythms. It is caused by fast change of time zones, and occurs by traveling long trans-meridian distances (a fancy term for long-haul flights!).

If we want to learn how make jet lag easier, we must understand how our bodies function. As we already know, our bodies are already naturally ‘programmed’ to do several things during the 24 hours of the day, such as eating and sleeping. So, when we fly, these routines, known as circadian rhythms are disarrayed. Let’s picture it as a kind of chaos happening in our body. This chaos can cause fatigue, along with a loss of appetite, bowel problems and even problem focusing.

If this sounds familiar, you must be wondering how long it takes to recover from jet lag. The answer to this question isn’t very simple, as there is no one exact answer. This type of condition affects different people in different ways. Moreover, its effects depend on the person’s age, stress levels and state of health.

8 practical tips to help you with preventing or curing jet lag

When you travel and your time zone changes for more than a few hours, especially when travelling east, jet lag is bound to happen. And the more time zones we cross, and the more stops we make, the worse it gets. This can mess up the body’s biorhythm. So, since it’s the reality of modern life, it’s worth learning how to handle it without relying on sleeping pills.

airplane cabin

1. Drink a lot of water and avoid coffee and alcohol

Anyone who has ever flown knows that the air inside the airplanes is quite dry. You can even notice your skin stretch and dry up a bit during and after a long flight. However, you can easily avoid this by simply staying hydrated. Not drinking enough water can cause a headache or nausea, or make you feel tired. Not to say that airplanes are the perfect environment for draining you of all moisture. Get a glass of water every once in a while, and try to avoid caffeine-heavy drinks and alcohol. Coffee, cola and energy drinks contain artificial stimulants which can affect your ability to fall asleep. They increase jet lag recovery time, as well.

Even though you might find that having a glass of wine helps you fall asleep, the actual effect alcohol has is only brief. Eventually, it can dehydrate your body even more and make it harder for you to adapt to the new time zone later. So, stick to water and your body will thank you afterwards!

2. Avoid stuffing your body with tons of food on the plane

Just think about how much airplane food can affect jet lag. It’s often the case, since both in the air and on the ground, food rich with carbohydrates can make you feel heavy and tired. Depending on your travel destination and the time of arrival, try eating food that will help you recover the normal biorhythm of your body instead of obstructing it.

When flying east, again depending on the time you arrive, having rice, pasta, potatoes or burgers during a stopover will increase your need for sleep, which can be very helpful if you land on your destination in the evening. 

If you are travelling west, on the other hand, you should opt for lighter, protein-rich meals which will help you stay awake. For example, fish, eggs or meat will satisfy your need for food, but not too much, so your body can use the energy and still stay awake.

3. Change your watch to the destination time zone

As soon as you board the plane, set your watch to the time of your destination. This will get you mentally prepared for the new rhythm. Try to keep yourself awake if it’s still daytime at your destination of arrival. It might be a bit difficult to eventually stop yourself from falling asleep on the plane, since the lights are often dimmed. On the other hand, you can use this as an advantage it it’s nighttime in your destination, so you can sleep on the plane.

A piece of advice: Don’t change your watch before boarding the plane. This is how you can avoid ending up with the silliest excuse for missing your flight.

4. Minimize the sleeping distractions

The unpleasant sound of airplane engines, the buzz of other travelers chatting and lights can make sleeping while travelling more difficult. An eye mask or earplugs can come in handy and help you sleep on the plane. Avoid using your phone or watching films, as the blue light emitted from the screens can prevent sleeping. 

5. Have you ever tried Melatonin?

Melatonin has been found to help while dealing with jet lag. So, if you like taking supplements, consider this as an option to help you cure jet lag. This is a natural hormone produced by our brains. Its function is to tell the body to go to sleep, so this supplement can help you get to the sleepy phase easier.

6. Adapt to the daily rhythm of your travel destination

This is especially important if you get off your airplane during the day. Getting some sleep seems like the perfect thing to do after a long flight. However, try to resist the temptation to take a nap. It’s only okay to give your body a couple of hours to sleep if you arrive really early in the morning.

Being outside in the daylight once you get to your destination is very important. You will help your body adapt to the new environment. Jet lag is very often a mind game, so try not to think about it too much. Just enjoy being in the new time zone! For example, even though it’s actually dinner time at home, and it is breakfast time where you are, go have breakfast!

7. Hot bath before bed time to help you relax

A bath can ease sore muscles from the long flight and help you relax both physically and mentally. The drop in the body temperature once you get out of a bath signals the body that it’s time for sleep. Bonus points if the bath is spiced up with some essential oils, as it has been found that it can improve the quality of sleep.

8. Prepare before the trip

If you are aware that you are prone to experiencing jet lag on your trips, try getting yourself ready a whole week before your flight. Those who fly east experience the symptoms of jet lag a lot more than those why fly west. This happens because flying west causes the body to think that the day is getting longer, while going east makes it think that the day is shorter.

So try getting up and going to bed earlier than usual several days prior to a flight east, and later if you are flying west.

Ready for your next flight? Now jet lag doesn’t have to be so difficult to cope with!

As more and more people travel by plane nowadays, extreme fatigue sounds like no news. For international travelers and those who travel frequently, the symptoms of jet lag are very familiar. Trouble falling asleep, daytime tiredness, difficulty concentrating and functioning and even problems with stomach. These are the results of change of time zones. And even though we may not be able to eliminate jet lag completely, we can lessen its effects in our biorhythm by implementing some simple strategies. So, use these tips to cope with jet lag and enjoy your travels!

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