How To Cope With Jet Lag

How to cope with jet lag

Air Travel is one of the fastest means of transportation. It is your best bet if you want to get halfway across the world in less than a day. While travelling in a plane has its perks, one of the drawbacks of air travel for many people is that it results in jet lag.

It doesn’t matter if you are travelling in first-class or economy, or if you are taking a short three hours trip to a country in the same continent or 18 hours to another continent. As long as you cross a different time zone, your body must notice the change. The symptoms of jet lag are all too familiar. You find it difficult to sleep, concentrate and feel tired for a couple of days.

Although it may be impossible to eliminate the symptoms of jet lag if you are travelling a long distance, it is possible to feel a lot more relaxed when you arrive at your destination. I have taken the liberty to share with you some of the tips I use to make air travel less stressful on my body. Having had the opportunity to travel across different time zones on countless occasions, I believe you will find these tips to be highly useful.

Before I jump into dishing out the useful tips, I will like to first shed some light on jet lag. You can read more about it below.

What is Jet Lag?

Jet lag is a temporary condition suffered when you travel quickly across more than one time zone. The more time zones you move across, the longer you have to deal with the symptoms of jet lag. The symptoms of Jet lag are usually associated with a temporary sleep disorder, but your sleep schedule is not the only thing that is affected. You can also find it difficult to eat or settle down until after a few days.

For each time zone you cross, it can take up to a day for the body to adjust to the local time. This means that if you travel from Canberra, Australia to Washington, USA, it can take you more than a week to beat the symptoms of jet lag. You suffer from jet lag mostly when you lose time travelling. This is common when you travel from west to east. Also, it will take longer for older travellers to recover from jet lag.

What Causes Jet Lag?

Jet lag occurs due to the changes in your biological clock when you travel at high speed. This biological clock is responsible for controlling when you go to bed and wake up. Moving across different time zones at high speed alters the body’s predefined settings. Your body will need to adjust to the time zone of the new location to balance things out.

If you go to bed at 10 pm in the states, you will find it difficult to fall asleep at the same time when you travel to Australia. First of all, when it is 10 pm in the USA on a Monday night, it will be Noon on a Tuesday in Canberra Australia. What this translates to is that your body will need to adjust to the time in Australia.

When you fall asleep is not the only thing you will need to reset, you also need to make changes to when you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you travel a lot, you should know how difficult it can be the first few days to get used to the new time zone.

It is also worth mentioning that travelling in a pressurized cabin like in a plane can reduce the oxygen levels in the blood. This can cause fatigue and make it difficult for you to settle down as soon as you arrive.

How to Cope with Jet Lag

Now that you are familiar with the term jet lag and the causes, how can you cope with it? Here are some tips to get you started.

Start before you travel

If you will be travelling to a different time zone, it is best you begin the process of coping with jet lag before you leave. This you can do by first finding the time difference between your present location and where you will be travelling to. Once you get the difference in time, you can begin adjusting your routine. This you can do by changing when you eat and sleep. Although it will be difficult to do this if it’s already a habit, and you know what they say about “old habits”.

Try as much as possible to be well-rested before departing on your journey. Eat healthy meals and drink plenty of water. This helps your body to function properly and keeps you in the right frame of mind for your trip.

Make Adjustments While in Transit

On the day of travel, the first thing you want to do is to adjust your watch and phone to your new time zone. You can also try to get some sleep on the plane. It is completely natural to find it difficult to sleep on a plane and so you shouldn’t try to force it if you can’t. just try as much as possible to be well-rested on the plane so you don’t get too tired when you arrive.

Arrive Early

If the purpose of your travel is work-related, it is best you arrive a few days earlier. This way, you have enough time for your body and mind to adjust before you have to deal with work.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

This is one thing you need to do before your departure and upon arrival. Alcohol and caffeine can make it difficult for you to find sleep. Let’s not forget that it can also cause dehydration. Drink enough water and eat healthy food it is what the doctor ordered.

Move Around

As soon as you arrive at your destination, you should try as much as possible to move around. This is highly recommended if you arrive in the morning or afternoons. As soon as you get to your hotel room, escape into town and go sightseeing. This way, you will be exhausted once you get back at night, and shouldn’t find it difficult to fall asleep.

Consider Supplements

Supplements such as melatonin can help to fight jet lag and improve sleep. The body secretes the hormone naturally which helps to regulate sleeping patterns. You can take the supplement two hours before you sleep. This is to give the drug enough time to get into your bloodstream and take effect.

Use Light Therapy

Natural light from the sun can also be useful in beating the symptoms of jet lag. If you are travelling from east to west, try to get enough exposure from the morning sun once you arrive. This can be done the next morning assuming you arrive the previous night.

If you are travelling from west to east, you should avoid the morning sun and get exposed to the afternoon and evening sun. This light therapy can help adjust your biological clock and get you to sleep better at your destination. You can also make use of a lightbox to cope with jet lag. It is worth mentioning that lightboxes are not safe to use for people suffering from bipolar disorder or cataracts.

Take a Warm Bath Before Bed

A warm shower can help relieve tired muscles and get you to sleep better at night.

My Recommendation for Frequent Air Travelers

If you are a frequent flyer like myself, you will know how important it is to overcome jet lag quickly. This you can do by trying as much as possible not to give in to the stress of jet lag. Try as much as possible to adopt a personal travel routine that helps you beat jet lag.

You may also want to consider seeing a sleep therapist if you find it difficult to sleep at night in a different time zone.

Lastly, you must stay healthy throughout your journey. You don’t want to fall ill while you are halfway across the world.

I welcome any useful tips you have to offer that can be useful in tackling jet lag. Let me know in the comment section below.

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About the Author: Rhys Vandersyde

Traveler, Photographer, Content Creator. I've spent the last 10 years exploring all over the world, but there is still plenty more to see.

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