Whether you’re flying for business or pleasure, jet lag can seriously impair your performance and holiday fun for days.
Jet lag occurs when the body’s rhythms are out of sync with your destination time the body operates on a 24-hour cycle, and travelling to another time zone alters the body’s natural rhythm causing jet lag. The more time zones you cross the worse it can be and travelling east generally has a greater affect on jet lag than travelling west. It is easier on the body’s biorhythms to say a few extra hours to the day, as in travelling west, than the reduction in the number of hours in a day when travelling east. The speed with which your body can realign itself to your new time zone, adjusting its body rhythm to daylight, darkness, eating and sleeping under the new time zone, affects the period of time you experience jet lag for.
The world is organized into 24 time zones that each represent 1 hour of the day. These time zones are broken up by 15 degree intervals of latitude that correlate to 1 hour. So, the more you travel in either direction from your local time zone, the more your rhythms will be out sync. The body’s circadian rhythm actually operates on a 25-hour cycle. This is why it is not difficult to stay up an hour late, but harder to go to bed an hour earlier. This results in a more severe effect when traveling west to east. Therefore your body’s timekeeping center, the hypothalamus, will trigger activities that the end of your body isn’t ready for in your current time zone.
So what can you do to minimize the affects of jet lag? The following tips are intended to help you avoid the worst of jet lag and realign your body clock as soon as possible.
Looking Deeper In Jet Lag
Drink plenty of water, avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Water is best but, if you find drinking large amounts of water difficult or just plain boring, fruit juice and herbal teas will do.
If you’re due to ground in the morning at your destination, try to sleep during the flight. Sleeping on board a plane in cramped conditions is not easy but take off your shoes and to attempt to get comfortable. Take an eye mask and ear plugs with you to help block out cabin distractions and a blow up neck rest should add to your comfort. Even if you’re unable to sleep throughout the flight, just try to rest, close your eyes and try to ‘switch off’.
If you’re due to land at night, try to stay awake throughout the flight. Read a book, listen to some music but try to resist sleeping as this will involve you’ll be unable to sleep destination time and take longer for your body clock to adjust.
Set your watch to your destination time as soon as you get on the plane and to attempt to live by it straight away. Try to eat at times appropriate to your destination time not departure time.
Some people reduce the effects of time zone changes by gradually adapting their routine by an hour or so a few days before they travel. By getting up an hour earlier or staying up later for a couple of days prior to departure in accordance with their destination time.
Change your sleep pattern! If at all possible, try adjusting your sleep pattern a few days prior to your departure. For example, if you’re traveling to a site a few hours ahead of your time zone, then start going to bed earlier to help offset the missed sleep you will experience once you get there. Most people do not experience a problem if the time zone is a couple hours behind, as this allows them to ‘catch up’ rather than fall behind on their sleep.
Set the time on your watch. You will want to get used to your future time zone before you actually get there. This will help you eat, sleep, and perform other operations on the same schedule as your destination.
Sleep or stay awake according to your destination’s time zone. It may sound confusing, but though it is night at your destination while you are flying, then you should sleep on the flight. If it will be daytime when you land, then you should stay awake. One of the main causes of jet lag is lack of sleep or too much sleep in one particular time zone.
If you arrive in the daytime, try to prevent the temptation to sleep, get outside in the sunshine. Daylight, or any light, is a key factor in resetting your internal clock. If you’re exhausted and have to sleep try to limit a nap to one hour set an alarm clock or your mobile phone to wake you.
Alternatively, if you have not been able to sleep on the ‘plane, have a few hours sleep at your destination but set an alarm clock so that you do not have too long. This will prevent you sleeping later. Once again, dine and go to bed at your normal time.
If you arrive at night and do not feel sleepy, try a warm bath and a cup of warm milk a natural sleep inducer.
Resist the urge to party all night during the first couple days and get a pair of good nights’ sleep. This should help you get you adjust your body clock to your destination time and make for a more enjoyable stay.
There is no miracle cure for jet lag, but by following the above tips you should minimise the impact of the jet lag at your destination, and do not forget to utilize the above tips for your return too.