Coping With Jet Lag: The Essential Guide For Travelers

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Frequent fliers may be more accustomed to jet lag but no-one really escapes the symptoms. Some refer to it as flight fatigue or the more scientific term, desynchronosis, describes it even better. Travelling to a new time zone means our circadian rhythms (biological clocks) are slow to adjust which results in feeling ‘out of sync.’ Our bodies might say it’s time to sleep where in fact, it’s only midday.

For those traveling across 3 time zones, jet lag is sure to follow. The good news is jet lag generally only lasts a day or two post arrival and there are ways to ease the side effects.

What Are The Side Effects Of Jet Lag?

Besides fatigue and insomnia, travelers may experience other physical and emotional symptoms. Some of these include anxiety, confusion, headaches, irritability, nausea and even memory loss. There have also been reports of additional symptoms such as irregular heartbeats and increased susceptibility to illness but these cases are rare.

Recovering from jet lag really depends on how many time zones have been crossed. Our bodies generally adjust to a new time zone at a rate of about 1-2 time zones per day. So if you crossed 4 time zones, your body should adjust within 2-3 days.

Best Treatment For Jet Lag Is Preparation

Some behavioural adjustments before, during and after arrival can help minimise some of the side effects. Research has shown that changing your schedule according to your destination prior to traveling is very effective.

If you’re traveling east, go to sleep and get up earlier a few days before your trip. When traveling west, the opposite applies so going to bed and waking up later should be part of your pre-flight routine. Also try and plan your trip west to get at least one good hour of sunlight as soon as you arrive. This helps the body clock adjust to the new time zone as our bodies are synchronized to natural daylight.

Here are a few more handy tips to cope with jet lag:

  • Change your watch to the destination time zone as soon as you board the plane.
  • Bring earplugs and sleeping masks to help block noise and unwanted light while sleeping.
  • Move around as much as you can on the plane or bend your knees, stand up and sit down. This helps with blood flow and decreases the risk of blood clots.
  • Drink plenty of water especially during the flight. It keeps you hydrated and counters the dry atmosphere inside the plane.
  • Avoid alcohol or caffeine at least three to four hours before going to sleep.
  • Have a small snack upon arrival and avoid heavy meals. Our bodies are used to eating at set times and need to adjust to the new time zone.
  • Staying indoors only worsens jet lag so try to get as much sunlight as possible.

Get The Best Seat In The House

In an ideal world, long distance flights should only offer business class but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. So until then, at least make sure you plan ahead and grab the best seat possible.

Start off by scheduling a non-stop flight regardless of your destination. Nothing disrupts sleep more than having to disembark. Where possible, book a flight at an unpopular time like a Tuesday or Wednesday evening. You may find yourself next to an empty seat giving you more privacy and space for a decent nap.

Lastly, choose a seat as close to the front of the plane as possible as the rear tends to be bumpier. Be sure you’re at least five rows away from the lavatory and galley as they are high traffic zones and chances of a good sleep are slim.

At the end of the day, flying should be fun especially when you are well-prepared. After all, it’s part of the process and any experienced traveler will agree.

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