Jet Lag Tips!


Don’t you just hate it when you get to your destination but feel so sluggish, all you want to do is sleep…


Jet lag is the worst, and I have had my fair share of feeling the worst of it.


After travelling during the pandemic, enduring very long flights, let’s take a look at what jet lag actually is, and some top tips to beat jet lag on the head!



 

What Is Jet Lag?


Jet lag or jet lag disorder is a temporary sleep issue when your normal sleep pattern is disturbed after a long flight.


Our bodies have an internal clock, known as our circadian rhythm, which tells our bodies when we need to stay awake, and when it is time to sleep.


Jet lag interferes with our circadian rhythm because our bodies are synced to whichever time zone we live in. The more time zones your body passes through, the more likely you will experience jet lag.


 

Causes of Jet Lag


Circadian Rhythm


As already mentioned, disrupting your circadian rhythm often causes jet lag. Because your body wakes up and sleeps at certain times in your home country, it takes a few days for your body to adjust to the new time zone.


This is why you have probably felt wide awake when you should be sleeping, or feeling sleepy when it's the middle of the day on holiday.


It’s not just our sleep-wake cycle that is affected by jet lag, but your other body functions will also likely be out of sync. These include your bowel movements and hunger.


 

Sunlight


Light influences the body's regulation of melatonin - an important hormone that synchronises our body's cells. At night, usually, the lighting is low. During the night, the hypothalamus tells a small organ called the pineal gland to release melatonin.


During the day, very little melatonin is released.


To adjust to new lighting conditions, you should expose yourself to the same daylight hours in your home country, this only works if the destination country has a sunrise and sunset.


If you live in any of the Nordic countries or have been lucky enough to visit there, you have probably experienced shorter or longer days of light.


I remember when I went to Norway, even though the flight was only 5 hours and the time difference was only 1 hour, the much shorter days of light, compared to what I was used to in London, left my body completely out of sync.


 

Cabin Pressure in the Plane


Surprisingly, some studies have found that cabin pressure at high altitudes may contribute to jet lag symptoms, even if you only travel a short distance across time zones.


In addition, humidity levels are low in planes. If you don't drink enough water during your flight, you can get slightly dehydrated. Dehydration may also contribute to some symptoms of jet lag.


 

Symptoms of Jet Lag


If you have ever felt any of the following, you have likely experienced jet lag!


The main symptoms:


  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Difficulty waking up

  • Extreme tiredness and exhaustion

  • Difficulty staying awake during the daytime

  • Poor sleep quality

  • Poor concentration and/or memory issues


Some people also experience:


  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Constipation

  • Indigestion

  • Mild anxiety

  • Changes in appetite


 

What Affects Jet Lag?


There are a few factors that can increase the chances of you getting jet-lagged:


  • The number of time zones you are crossing.


  • Flying east because you ‘lose’ time.


  • Frequently flying - you think you get jet-lagged when you go on holiday, but imagine being a pilot or flight attendant!


  • Being older - just like hangovers, the older you are, the longer it can take to recover.


 

How to Reduce Jet Lag


You cannot prevent becoming jet-lagged, but there are some things you can do to reduce the effect it has on your body.


Before your flight, get plenty of rest!


During your flight:


  • Drink lots of water!


  • Keep active - remember to stretch your legs and walk around regularly to keep your blood flowing.


  • If you are on a flight where it is nighttime at your destination, try to sleep as much as possible - wear an eye mask and earplugs to aid with sleeping.


  • Avoid too much alcohol (I know it's tempting, especially if it is free!) and caffeine.


  • Invest in a comfortable pillow - a MUST from me!


After the flight, when you arrive:


  • Try to change your sleep cycle to the time zone you have arrived in.


  • Set an alarm, so you don’t oversleep too much - if you are on holiday, obviously the odd lie in is OK!


  • During the day, go outside to get as much fresh air as possible. The natural light (if you are not staying somewhere that experiences the Polar Night) will help your body adjust to daytime.


  • Avoid sleeping during the day, again, of course, a power nap on your sun lounger is fine - just make sure you have plenty of sunscreen on if you do, and if someone else is applying it on you, make sure it is someone you trust, because, trust me, you do not want to wake up with a badly drawn shape on your back for everyone to laugh at!


 

Are There Any Treatments for Jet Lag?


As jet lag is not permanent, there are no long-term treatments. However, if you are a frequent flyer, and you struggle with jet lag, speak to your doctor. Doctors may be able to prescribe you some sleeping pills or give you advice on supplements like melatonin.


If your jet lag symptoms last longer than a week or two, it could be something else. If this happens, book a doctor appointment.



 


Written by Darby Bonner



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