While the scientific explanation for jet lag seems pretty straightforward (it’s just a physical reaction to a rapid change in time zones), the reality is a bit more challenging. In its mildest form, jet lag will cause a touch of sleepiness, but depending on how you look after yourself, it can also trigger extreme fatigue, indigestion, loss of appetite and disrupt your ability to concentrate as you normally would.
Fear not though, because these simple hackswill ensure you’re well equipped for coping with another time zone.
1. Get some rest
Sleeping well before a long flight is a must.
While it’s natural to assume that staying up all night before you fly will result in a peaceful snooze on the plane, it’s actually not always a great idea. A good night’s sleep can work wonders. If you’re travelling overnight however, try to get some sleep on the plane – it’ll help you stay up later at your destination.
1. Get some excercise
Take the stairs instead of the escalator.
If you’re struggling to adjust your body clock and you’re determined to get some sleep on your flight, try doing a spot of light exercise at the airport itself. For example, avoid using the escalators and stick to the stairs when walking around the airport itself. During the flight, get up and stretch – or even do gentle exercises in your seat such as toe raises or shoulder shrugs. At the very least, make sure you get up and stand for several minutes to keep your blood flowing. The message is simple – look after your body.
3. Bring some props for the flight
An eye mask will help get you off to sleep.
To help get you off to sleep during a long haul flight, bring some things that will enhance your comfort. An eye mask and some ear plugs (or noise-cancelling headphones) are a must, as is wearing loose fitting clothes and comfortable shoes. Also, remember to pack an extra jumper – to avoid getting a chill – and some moisturiser to combat your skin drying out – a nasty side effect of flying.
4. Arrange a stopover
Break up your travel arrangements.
If possible, arrange a stopover on the way to your destination. By breaking up your travel, you’ll be preparing your body for the change in time zones. Have a look at the facilities available during your transit too. Airport lounges are, by their nature, very relaxed areas – some even have spas and showers to help keep you fresh.
5. Avoid booze and caffeine
Stay away from alcohol and caffeine.
The humidity levels inside an aircraft are unnaturally low, so play it safe and stick to drinking plenty of water. Alcohol and caffeine will disrupt your sleeping pattern (as will energy drinks), and dehydration will intensify the effects of jet lag.
6. Don’t take sleeping pills
Sleeping medication is not recommended.
Sleeping pills won’t help your jet lag because they don’t actually assist your body in adjusting to a new, regular sleeping pattern. Tempting as they are to help you nod off during a long flight, it’s possible they’ll leave you feeling a little fuzzy when you land.
7. Train for a new time zone
Set your watch to the new time zone before you fly.
To adapt yourself mentally, set your watch to the time zone you’re entering before you get on the plane plane. If possible, wear two watches for a day or so before you fly – one with your current time zone and one with the time zone you’ll be entering. It will get you used to the idea of the difference in times.
8. Get regular shut eye
‘Anchor sleep’ will help you adjust once you land.
Once you’re settled in at your destination, try to get as much sleep every 24 hours as you normally would. You must get at least four hours sleep each local night (this is called anchor sleep) to help you adapt to the new time zone you’re in. If necessary, try to take power naps during the day to make up the total sleep time.
9. Stay in the light
Soak up plenty of daylight
Once you land, it’s important to do all you can to adjust your body clock. The best way to do that is by getting as much exposure to daylight as possible. The cycle of light hours and dark hours will help set your body’s internal clock – and you’ll feel a whole lot better for it. The video below explains the science behind balancing those light and dark hours.
Published 1st June 2016