Whether you’re a frequent flyer, or about to embark on an eagerly anticipated holiday – I’m sure you’re eager to know how to get over jet lag. There’s no way to completely avoid the effects of flying into new time-zones, but the good news is there are ways to minimise them. So read on and find out how to get over jet lag!
What is jet lag?
Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder caused by our internal body clocks being disrupted by flying across multiple time zones. Our bodies are accustomed to sleeping and eating at certain times, and when these cycles are broken it can lead to some unpleasant symptoms.
Symptoms of jet lag
Most of you are no doubt familiar with jet lag, and know that it leaves you feeling pretty lousy. The most common symptoms of jet lag are fatigue, insomnia, irritability, dehydration, headaches, loss of appetite and nausea. Some people may also experience slight confusion, dizziness, mild depression, constipation and diarrhoea.
How long does jet lag last?
How long does jet lag last really does vary from person to person, and the number of time zones you are flying through. Obviously the more time zones you cross, the more your body clock needs to readjust – and therefore the symptoms of jet lag will be worse. As a general rule of thumb however – if you’re flying a long distance, jet lag can last for up to 4-6 days.
When travelling eastwards, you can expect your jet lag to be more pronounced, and also to take longer to recover from. This is because when you travel eastwards, the days are shortened. This is more difficult for our internal body clock’s to catch up with and adjust to.
Learn how to get over jet lag with these 10 top tips
1. Adjust your body clock before you fly
Its really helpful to start gradually shifting your sleeping and eating times to more closely align with the cycles of your intended destination before you fly. If you do this for a number of days before departure, it will mean your body does not experience such a drastic shock to the system.
2. Start your trip well rested
Its often the case that people will be boarding a flight exhausted after trying to make sure everything is ready for the trip. If you’ve had a good night’s sleep prior to taking your flight, you’re more likely to cope with the changing of time zones.
3. Steer clear of caffeine and alcohol
Its hard to say no to free alcohol and caffeine on a flight, but both of them are bad news for jet lag. Caffeine will make it more difficult for you to sleep on your flight, which is not going to help. Nor is the fact that both of these will leave you feeling dehydrated. The effects of alcohol can be increased when flying, and a hang over added onto your jet lag is hardly going to help you feel any better!
4. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your flight – and remember nothing beats good old H2O! This will help avoid dehydration due to the dry air in airplane cabins. Your body will thank you for it. Many people avoid drinking fluids whilst flying – as they don’t want to have to get up to go to the bathroom in flight. However, getting small amounts of exercise during your flight can be really beneficial.
5. Try to sleep on your flight
The more rest you get on your flight, the more prepared your body clock is to cope with the stresses of crossing multiple time zones. Obviously if you can afford business or first class seats your chances of sleeping are greatly increased. A much cheaper way to sleep on your flight is to get a travel pillow for airplanes. A good quality travel pillow will help increase your comfort on the flight. It will also help reduce pain in your neck, back and shoulders. You can read here about the best airplane travel pillows for your next trip.
6. Get a little exercise
Getting up and walking down the aisles every now and again can be a good way to get a little exercise during the flight and help you not feel quite so exhausted at the trip’s end. Its also an excellent way to help reduce the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. This video shows you some simple exercises that anyone can do in flight.
7. When possible take an overnight flight
If you take an overnight flight, then your chances of actually sleeping on the flight are greatly increased. Having had dinner at a regular time, your body clock is naturally prepared to rest.
8. Try to arrive during the day
Its always better to arrive during the day, as it makes it easier to adjust to the local timezone by getting out and exploring (rather than going straight to sleep).
9. Sync to the local time
Its important to start trying to adjust to the local time cycle once you reach your destination. For instance if you arrive in the morning, its better not to go to bed and sleep. Rather to go out and explore a little, and try to go to sleep at night time – as the locals do. If you’re completely exhausted, a short nap is a better option – rather than a long sleep. Setting your watch/phone’s time to sync to your destination at the beginning of your flight can also be a good strategy to help you mentally adjust.
10. Get some sun in your life
Once you’ve arrived in your destination its a great idea to head outdoors and get some sun. The natural day light helps your body adjust to the new time zone.
So there you have it, now you know how to get over jet lag. As mentioned previously, there are no magic bullets which will completely prevent jet lag. However, by following these guidelines you can go a long way to minimising the symptoms of jet lag.
I also created this fun infographic to illustrate the top ten tips for how to get over jet lag.