How to Overcome Jet Lag
Frequent flyers know this exhausting feeling that usually takes place after a long-haul flight. Jet lag disorder happens when traveler rapidly switches time zones and results in mismatching between circadian cycle and your usual sleep schedule. It may also be accompanied by fatigue, insomnia, headache, loss of appetite and discomfort. If you don’t feel at ease after a long-haul flight there is a way to prevent jet lag. In this case, your main tool is sleep.
Leave home well rested. Abandon the farewell parties, which make you feel frazzled. Remember that your recovery period will depend on the number of time zones you cross. For example, crossing three time zones means your recovery period will last for three days. Try to avoid using sleeping pills as they just thicken your blood and disorient your body during long-haul flight.
What causes jet lag? The syndrome of jet lag is usually associated with circadian rhythm sleep disorders. When you travel across several time zones it disturbs mechanisms of sleep and wakefulness. As well as some certain brain’s pleasure centers responsible for appetite regulation, blood pressure, and mood centers. To promote wakefulness your brain needs serotonin. This hormone is triggered by sunlight, while melatonin is a hormone that helps you fall asleep and is being produced when it is dark around.
The alternation of day and night provides circadian rhythm, which might be impaired when people work at night or travel through several time zones.
The more time zones you cross the longer your acclimation period will be. In other words, acclimation period is something your body needs to set up the new boundary between sleeping and waking depending on the number of time zones you have passed.
HOW TO SPEED UP ADAPTATION TO JET LAG
Cheat the time. Change your daily rhythm depending on the time of your destination 5-7 days before the departure. This will allow you adjust yourself to long-haul flight even faster. For example, if you depart from Dresden heading for Thailand move your schedule six hours backward while leaving on New York vacation requires adjusting your schedule by 6 hours ahead.
Customize illumination. This approach is effective in the morning and evening. If you are about to change your time zone in the nearest future heading for the East, be sure to provide bright illumination in your living room in the morning, and avoid bright lamps in the evening. If you are planning a trip to Spain or Ireland, prefer dim lighting in the morning and bright lighting in the evening.
The easiest way to beat jet lag during short-term travel is to pretend there is no jet lag at all. This approach can only be applied to situations when you change one or two time zones at a time, however. Live your life and go to bed as you normally do.
HOW CHANGING TIME ZONES AFFECTS YOUR BODY
An ordinary flight within the same time zone (from south to north and vice versa) can be tolerated quite easily and cause fewer problems with synchronizing the local time. To adapt yourself fast to the new climatic conditions, it is usually enough to rest well, sleep more, not to overwork at the beginning and at the end of the working day.
But during long-haul flights, circadian rhythms are being disrupted due to the change in daylight duration. This also causes desynchronosis of our internal biological clock with the external environment, which results in health deterioration.
By changing time zones you create a duality between the desire of your body to live the life it has been accustomed to and the necessity to adapt to new circumstances.
By focusing on adaptation, the body slows down some essential functions. This may result in impaired ability to concentrate and learn new facts, weakened the immune system, loss of appetite and deteriorating digestive system.
When people fly East, fatigue and weakness usually manifest itself before lunch. On the opposite, flying West provoke these symptoms in the afternoon. Circadian rhythms are having a strong influence on adaptation degree. This means, early birds would find resetting their biological clock much more difficult when flying West, while the night owls would definitely dislike flying East.
HOW TO OVERCOME JET LAG
When you are searching for an airplane ticket consider flights that arrive at your destination in the afternoon or in the evening local time. This will allow you to have a snack, and then go to bed no later than 11 pm local time. There is a tiny tip that works fine for me: when traveling East depart early, when traveling West depart late.
Avoid working while on a plane, don’t overload your brain with information and tasks. On the contrary, do your best to unwind during the flight and relax well.
A week before your trip try to adjust your circadian rhythm to the time of your destination point. If you travel West try to finish your daily activities a bit later, wake at 9-10 am, go to bed not earlier than 12 am. If you travel East, try shifting your circadian rhythm for 2-3 hours ahead. Get up no later than 6 am, go to bed at 9 pm.
A few hours before the flight try to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages. An adaptation will take less time and be more pleasant if you prefer low-fat and easily digestible protein food like fish, cottage cheese, yogurt or steamed omelet. Skip the caffeine as well. Prefer mineral water and juice during a long-haul flight.
Long-haul flights may adversely affect the circulatory system. Be sure to consult your physician before the flight if you have any heart diseases and get the medicines you need in the cabin. In addition, it is desirable to have gastrointestinal medications.
Leave home well rested and sleep well before your trip. The impact of changing time zones will be reduced significantly. Avoid farewell parties.
Adjust the time of your destination point during the flight and stick to it. The adaptation should be started well in advance. It is always a good idea to get sleep mask that allows you to have rest and adjust your circadian rhythm to the new schedule.
Try to get some sleep during the flight if you know you will be arriving before dark, on the contrary, avoid sleeping on the plane if your flight ends during the daytime. Try to read something, do isometric exercises, raises, get up out of your seat to walk and stretch yourself.
Abandon thoughts of falling asleep as soon as you arrive. Otherwise, it will be quite difficult to fall asleep in the evening. Take a contrast shower to improve the blood flow, do some workout. Try to spend more time (especially the first few days) outdoors as natural sunlight helps to restore the disturbed circadian rhythms.
Food is another powerful synchronizer. One of the best things to do upon arrival is to have a meal depending on the time of day. Even if you do not feel hungry it is wise to provide nutrition for your body. It is essential that you drink a lot before, during and after the flight. Prefer juices and non-carbonated beverages. Drinking alcoholic beverages cause dehydration, which increases the negative effects of traveling across multiple time zones on your body and deteriorate your subsequent sleep. In the first few days after your arrival avoid overeating. Your rhythms of digestion may need time to adjust to the local time.
Start living according to your destination’s local time. That includes taking meals, going to bed and waking up from sleep. A little milk, food rich in carbohydrates like bread, crackers or cakes before bedtime can help you fall asleep. If you find from your own experience that you might experience difficulties with falling asleep upon arrival you may consider using medications and vitamins like melatonin. Even though melatonin usage is quite controversial, the research has shown that inappropriate use of melatonin makes you feel even more fatigued. It is essential to consult your physician before taking drugs.
Sleeping in a cool room improves your metabolism and helps avoid some metabolic diseases. Gymnastics workout, easy jogging or walking will help recover disturbed circadian rhythms. Consulting a physician before you hit the road might help if you are strongly willing to pick the medicine for your journey.