Your bags are packed, your plane ticket is ready, and you’re about to travel to some faraway land to have an adventure. When you touch down at your destination, you’ll be greeted with unique culture, food, locations, and people. Exciting right? Yes, except for one unfortunate drawback – jet lag.
Jet lag can damper your travel plans, especially when you don’t have much time to adjust to the new time zone at your destination. You don’t want to be asleep in the middle of the day instead of outside exploring.
While you will most likely experience jet lag for a while after your trip, several cures can give you an easier time adjusting to the time difference. Here are some of them.
What is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is a relatively new development in human history. It probably started when humans invented the jet airplane (hence the term). Commercialising air travel allowed humans to travel faster than ever before – with a slightly unexpected downside.
Jet lag is the phenomenon when a person’s circadian rhythm isn’t in sync with the local time zone at their destination. This tends to happen when you’ve hopped on a plane, taken and a long flight and flown too far westward or eastward of your original location that your body hasn’t had time to adjust.
While the American Academy of Sleep Medicine categorises jet lag as a temporary and fleeting sleep disorder, that doesn’t mean we can just ignore it and its pesky wrecking of our body’s circadian rhythm.
You’ll probably experience several side effects of jet lag, including excessive sleepiness or insomnia, lethargy, fatigue, and irritability. Don’t worry, though! Jet lag can be cured much faster with a few simple tips.
Bask in the Sunlight
One of the best ways to adjust your body clock to a local time zone is to take in as much natural light as possible, so you don’t feel as sleepy in the middle of the day. This method helps your body adjust to the rhythm of lightness and darkness of your new destination.
Since you can’t possibly expect to be in a window seat and get some morning light every time you’re in flight, it’s definitely necessary that you get light exposure as soon as you land in your new location! If that means waking up in the early morning in different time zones, well that’s the price you pay to combat jet lag.
You could also try light therapy to address sleep problems by some number of time zone changes. This technique involves intentionally exposing yourself to a bright light to simulate sunshine with a lightbox to adjust your circadian rhythm to the local time at your destination.
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Though some people say that drinks with these substances actually help you stay awake (caffeine) or go to sleep (alcohol), they actually interfere with your body’s natural sleep and wake patterns and its ability to adjust your internal clock to local time.
It’s also best to avoid alcohol and caffeine before and on the flight so you can start adjusting more naturally by the time you start travelling and without getting dehydrated.
Instead of looking for solutions at the bottom of the bottle or short-term perk-me-ups like a cup of coffee, there is one liquid option that works best! Namely…
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Drinking water is a long-term solution to help reset your sleep pattern during international travel. Popular health online hub Mayo Clinic suggests keeping yourself hydrated can keep adverse effects of jet lag disorder at bay.
Another reason to avoid alcohol and caffeine is that they can tend to dehydrate your body. Hydration is essential in alleviating symptoms of jet lag overall. So, skip the glass of wine or cup of coffee on the plane and drink plenty of water and healthy juices to keep you hydrated.
Plus, we all know the effects of drinking water on digestive complications like constipation, so make sure to go with H2O while travelling and eating during long-distance travel!
Shift as Soon as Possible
Many people have hectic schedules that might make this a little difficult, but even a few days before your trip, it helps to adjust your wake cycle closer to the local time at the destination.
This means sleeping a little later, a few days before your long-haul flight if you’re travelling westward and sleeping a bit earlier on several consecutive nights before travelling eastward.
The moment you land at your destination, start living as the locals do – to an extent.
Wake up when they do, adjust your eating patterns to match your new schedule, engage in activities that will keep you awake through the day, take a short power nap if you really need to, and do your best to sleep at the local bedtime to adjust your sleep schedule.
Using earplugs and eye masks can help you sleep faster and adjust better to your new schedule, especially when you’ll be doing shift work in your new address—ditto for natural sleep aids or supplements like herbal teas and essential oils.
Anticipate the unfortunate but inevitable symptoms of jet lag and take it into account when you start planning your trip. The last thing you want is to be half-asleep while going through your travel itinerary. Follow these tips, and you’ll beat jet lag and be on an adventure before you know it.