From overcrowded airports and flight cancellations to excess or lost baggage fees, the hassles of travel by plane can seem endless. But the last thing you expect is to be hit by a bout of jet lag after successfully arriving at your destination.
What is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is defined as a sleep-wake disorder that you may experience after traveling a long distance and rapidly changing time zones. The body’s biological clock (or circadian rhythm) needs to adjust to the new geographic location for sleep and other bodily processes to return to normal.
People tend to experience jet lag more when traveling east or west across three or more time zones. But not everyone who travels long distances experiences this disorder.
In addition to the number of time zones you cross, there are a number of factors that can influence the likelihood and severity of jet lag, such as the total travel distance, number of stopovers, local daylight hours, and the length of your stay at a destination.
Other evidence such as poor sleep before travel, stress, alcohol or caffeine use, and even arrival time can increase a person’s likelihood of experiencing jet lag.
Symptoms and duration
The most common symptoms of jet lag include daytime sleepiness and trouble sleeping at night, lack of attention or memory, irritability, digestive issues such as reduced appetite, nausea or constipation. Fortunately, jet lag is only a temporary condition and can improve within a day or two of travel, though it certainly has the potential to derail your vacation.
Tips to prevent and minimize jet lag
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to prevent, minimize, and remedy any jet lag you may experience along your travels. From setting your internal clock ahead of time to staying hydrated while traveling, here are the best tips to avoid this discomfort:
Book a night flight.
The sooner you start plan your vacation, the more options you will have when it comes to flights. If an overnight flight is available, go ahead and book it. You will have a chance to have dinner at a normal time, fall asleep during the dinner trip and will likely arrive in the morning or afternoon at your destination. With this, your body will have an easier time resetting the internal clock.
Set your internal clock in advance.
A few days before departure, you can gradually change your sleeping and eating schedule to match the typical times of your travel destination.
Reduce your caffeine intake.
At least 12 hours before your flight, as well as during, try to avoid coffee or any caffeinated beverage. This substance, in addition to making it difficult to sleep, can also make you wake up more often during the night.
Sync your watch to the new time zone.
On the day of your flight, consider moving your clock forward or backward to synchronize it with your destination’s time zone. This will help prepare you mentally for the time difference.
Avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water during the flight.
According to experts, dehydration can contribute to the severity of jet lag symptoms. As humidity levels are low on planes, it’s important to drink plenty of water during the flight to help with hydration, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Sleep on the plane.
Sleeping during the flight can be beneficial for overnight travelers, particularly if you are traveling from west to east. This rest will prepare you to deal with the symptoms of jet lag that may come later. Consider bringing noise-canceling headphones or earplugs and a sleep mask.
Exercise at your destination.
Find some time to walk or do another physical activity at your destination. Exercising outside during the day can help “recalibrate your circadian rhythm.”
Enjoy the sunlight.
If your destination is sunny, enjoy exposure to sunlight in the morning – the sun is a powerful natural remedy for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. To adapt to your new time zone even faster, try combining light exposure with exercise.
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