Our bodies love structure and routine. Nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to sleep. A regular, consistent sleep cycle forms the foundation for good energy levels and positive wellbeing. When it’s disturbed, it can take several days for us to shake off the feeling of fatigue.
One of the biggest causes of disruption in our sleep cycle comes when we travel. Flying across several time zones can suddenly turn your day upside down, leaving your body in need of a few days to recover. This process, known as jet lag or jet lag syndrome, can severely disrupt a holiday or business trip away – so how do we beat it?
To help you overcome jet lag, as well as avoid it altogether next time you gear up for a long-haul flight, we’ve put together this guide.
What Causes Jet Lag
Your body works off its circadian rhythms. These are physical and mental behaviours that trigger at various points throughout your daily cycle. These rhythms are often orchestrated by light and darkness, helping us know when to sleep at night and wake up in the morning.
When you travel across multiple time zones, these rhythms are disrupted. The usual signals of light and dark that trigger your sleep cycle come at different times to when your body is accustomed to. This leads to jet lag. Most common symptoms include:
- Difficulty sleeping at night and waking up in the morning
- Fatigue and exhaustion during the day
- Inability to focus and a drop in alertness
- Poor sleep quality
- Indigestion and loss of appetite
How to Overcome Jet Lag: 4 Tips
The more time zones your travel across, the more likely it is you’ll suffer from jet lag and the longer it’ll take to adjust to your new time zone. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to the question of how long it takes to recover from jet lag. The symptoms are often unavoidable, but there are steps you can take to reduce the damage and recover faster.
Here are four tips for overcoming jet lag:
1. Adjust to your new time zone
It might be easier said than done but adjusting to your new time zone as quickly as possible is essential. You might be finding it tough to sleep at night, but don’t lay awake in bed watching Netflix on your laptop or staring at your phone. As much as possible, head to bed at the normal time for that time zone and try to get to sleep.
2. Get up in the morning
That applies to the morning too. It’ll be tempting to stay in bed and try catch up on some sleep when the morning comes around but doing so will make it that much harder to adjust. Set your alarm and drag yourself out of bed to make the best of the day ahead.
3. Get plenty of sunshine
Natural light is a major contributor when it comes to regulating your body clock. During the day, sunshine will help you wake up and during the evening, the lack of sunshine will help you fall asleep. Get outside and enjoy some fresh air.
4. Avoid coffee and alcohol
If you’re struggling to stay awake in the day or drop off at night, artificial stimulants like coffee and alcohol might seem like a sensible thing to reach for. However, an afternoon caffeine injection could leave you staring at the ceiling all night, and an alcoholic night cap is proven to disrupt your sleep. Try to avoid both until you’ve fully acclimatised.
How to Avoid Jet Lag: 4 Tips
If you know you’ve got a long flight ahead and jet lag has been a problem in the past, follow these five pre-and-in-flight steps to help reduce the symptoms.
1. Get plenty of rest beforehand
A sure-fire way to make your jet lag a whole lot worse is to be tired in the first place. You might be tempted to limit your sleep the night before your flight so you can sleep on the plane, but this would be a mistake. Get a good night’s rest in your own bed the night before; it will leave you better equipped to deal with the problem of jet lag when you touch down at your destination.
2. Make minor adjustments
In the days before your flight, you can begin to make small adjustments that will put you in a good place when you’re in a new time zone. In the days leading up to your flight, head to bed an hour or two earlier, or wake up at a slightly different time. It might seem minor, but it could help alleviate jet lag when it sets in.
3. Select better flight times
When looking at flight bookings, consider how the arrival time could affect your sleep pattern. Late evening arrivals might be the best for adjusting to a new time zone. That way, you can avoid in-flight naps and head straight to bed when you get there. Similarly, you could arrive early morning, catch some in-flight sleep then tire yourself in the day.
4. Drink plenty of water
Dehydration can exacerbate the effects of jet lag. Before and during your flight, keep taking on plenty of fluids to ensure you’re fully hydrated when you land. A sensible purchase would be a reusable water bottle – just make sure you wait until after you clear security before you fill it up.
Jet lag is in often an inevitable side-effect of travelling long distances. Without careful planning, it could leave you feeling sluggish and off the pace for a good chunk of your time away. Thankfully, there are things you can do to recover quicker and ensure you remain at your peak throughout your holiday or business trip.