Jet lag is a plague experienced by travelers all over the world.
According to the American Sleep Association, roughly 93 percent of all travelers will experience it. If you’ve ever flown across two different time zones then you understand why it’s an issue. Its symptoms can be hard to shake and may last for days after arriving at your new destination. Some people are severely affected, however, while others barely at all.
While it’s a bane for many travelers, you can lessen the annoying effects of jet lag with some preparation.
What Is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is actually considered a temporary sleep disorder, medically termed desynchronosis. Shift work and traveling across two or more time zones disrupts your body’s circadian rhythm of sleep, or your internal clock. This causes insomnia and fatigue while your body functions strugle to adjust to a new time zone.
We’ll focus on air travel in this post.
The planet has 24 different time zones, one for each hour of the day, and the rule of thumb is that it takes one day to recover from each time zone that you cross.
Whether you are flying eat or west, your eating, sleeping and digestive rhythms will be temporarily disrupted.
Also keep in mind that some symptoms you may suffer are because of the conditions of being on a plane, and thus are contributors to jet lag, although not the direct cause.
For example, altitude of the flight and cabin pressure affect how seriously you are impaired. When you are traveling in a cabin pressurized aircraft your blood oxygen level lowers and you become dehydrated, contributing to fatigue and headache.
Another factor is traveling to a part of the world that has more light or dark in its day. Your body’s melatonin, or sleep hormone, production is affected by how much light your eye senses, causing you to feel sleepy at night and alert in the morning. This is why it's recommended to avoid exposure to electronic screens before going to bed. This "blue light" has a dark side, as the Harvard Health Letter puts it.
Alleviating Jet Lag Symptoms
The most common complaints are insomnia and fatigue. Others include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
Before You Fly
Although jet lag is not completely avoidable by those susceptible to it, certain things can definitely aggravate it:
- A lack of sleep before the flight, so make sure you are well rested before the flight.
- Try adjusting to your new time zone before the flight. A week or two before the flight, you can try gradually going to bed earlier or later--depending upon the direction you’ll be traveling in, which will reduce the severity of the effects. Also try to shift your meal times accordingly.
- You can build in a stopover—if convenient--into your flight to help yourself acclimate.
During The Flight
- Lack of hydration is worsened by drinking alcohol onboard the flight. Stick to water as much as possible. Caffeinated drinks are also dehydrating and too many of them can keep you awake longer than you intended.
- Sitting still for long periods of time is hard on your body. During the flight, take a few short walks around the plane. Even doing some simple stretching exercises can help.
- During the flight, change the time on your watch and phone immediately. If it will be night time at your destination, then try to sleep a little to help your body naturally acclimatize.
- Earplugs and eye masks are provided by airlines and can help you get through the night flying east. Alcohol is used by many people to sleep, but it typically creates more dehydration and interferes with sound sleep.
- Melatonin or other sleep aids can help one to sleep earlier on eastbound flights, and also after you arrive at your destination.
Travel Agents Say to Get It Over With
One agent’s advice is not to sleep at all the first day at your destination. Avoid the temptation by getting outside and staying active. Being in the sun helps reset your clock and staying awake forces you to get on the local schedule. Another agent allows himself a brief 20 minute nap to recharge on the first day in a new place, but no more.
All agree that delaying the adjustment only drags it out and makes your trip more difficult. Dealing with the change once you arrive is the way to go. Then you can enjoy your trip, wherever your destination.
Bella Vista Tours specializes in Mediterranean travel, with trips to Italy, Greece and Turkey. Call us at 877-723-0802 to talk to a travel expert or subscribe to our blog at right.