We all love travelling but hate jet lag – it messes up your body rhythm and disrupts your holidays. While many suffer from it, there are easy ways we can beat it to ensure the maximum enjoyment in the new time zone.
Jet lag happens because rapid travel throws off our circadian rhythm -- the biological clock that helps control when we wake and fall asleep. Cues such as light exposure, meal times and daily activities regulate our circadian rhythm. When you cross time zones, your daily activities are disrupted and your internal clock and the external time are desynchronised. Your body thus needs to adapt to the rhythm of the new time zone.
Jet lag is essentially a temporary sleep disorder and may take more than a week to fully recover. Symptoms are generally worse when you “lose time” traveling west to east.
Five Easy Tips to Beat Jet Lag
1. Simulate your new schedule before you leave.
Try to slowly shift your daily activities towards the timezone you are travelling to. For instance, if you’re travelling east, start moving your bedtime earlier. If you’re going west, do the opposite. Instead of just moving your sleep schedule, adjusting your meal times will help as well.
Change the timing on your watch to the new timezone when you get on the plane to prepare yourself psychologically. Try to sleep on the plane if it’s night-time where you’re going or stay awake if it’s daytime.
Drink water before, during, and after your flight to counteract dehydration. Avoid alcohol or caffeine as they can disrupt sleep and dehydrate you further.
4. Consider melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in our bodies to help regulate our circadian rhythms so that we sleep at night. Taking melatonin supplements may be effective for jet lag, especially in preventing daytime sleepiness when taken to fall asleep earlier at night.
5. Get some Sun!
Getting some sunlight is probably the best way to naturally tune your circadian rhythm as it triggers the hormonal cycle to make you sleepy at the appropriate night hour.
Starting to adjust your daily schedule to the time zone of your next travel a few days before your journey will help your body and your mind cope with the disruptions that will most probably occur. It should thus be possible to make a smoother transition between time zones.