Rapid changes in time zones can disrupt our natural circadian rhythm. This is the cycle to which many of our bodily functions such as blood pressure, heart rate and sleep are regulated.
Jet lag can make travellers feel tired, irritable, easily confused and unable to fully concentrate. Other side effects can include insomnia, headaches, dizziness, and feeling uneasy.
Unfortunately jet lag can not be avoided, but there are ways to minimise the effects.
Sleep before you depart
Ensure you have plenty of sleep in the lead-up to travel, since an existing sleep deficit will worsen the effects of jet lag. Even being relaxed can make a positive difference. Try adjusting your sleep pattern in the week before you leave. For example, if the destination you’re travelling to is six hours ahead of your home time, try going to bed two hours early the first couple of nights, then three hours the next few nights. This will help reduce the adverse effects to your circadian rhythm and reduce jet lag – before you leave.
Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine and Eat right
A couple glasses of wine may make you fall asleep sleep easier. A cup of coffee may kick start a tired traveller. However, alcohol, caffeine and time zone changes can make the adjustment process much more difficult.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol when on a flight and drink plenty of water. Instead of coffee try a herbal tea in transit and upon arrival. Small, frequent, light and nutritious meals and regular physical activity such as walking around the cabin may also be beneficial.
Talk to you doctor
Talk to your doctor about herbal options, such as melatonin, which can help you adjust your sleep schedule faster but try to avoid using sleeping tablets as they tend to disrupt normal sleep cycles and may prolong jet lag.
Use the sun to your advantage
Your body helps set its internal clock based on sunlight. That’s part of the reason you wake up naturally when sun comes streaming in your window. Though you might feel like holing up in the dark when you are suffering a bout of jet lag, the best thing you can do for yourself is get out there and soak up those rays. The fresh air and exercise will help, too.
Upon Arrival, Stay Awake
Depending on what time your plane lands, it may be best to stay awake as long as possible. Even if you’re exhausted, go outside and expose yourself to daylight, as daylight activity will help reset your body clock. Although you may feel like going straight to bed, try to stay awake until it is dark.
Also, set you watch to your destinations local time and use your time in transit to sleep . For example, if you’re taking an overnight trip from Sydney to Los Angeles, and you leave Sydney at night and arrive in LA in the morning, try to sleep as much as possible on the plane. This will help you stay awake during daylight hours.
Fly West (if you can)
Travel in the westward direction as it is kinder to the body clock, since westward travel lengthens the normal day-night cycle, which is more in keeping with your body clock. Hence, when planning your flights – try and travel west.
Enjoy a stop over
A stop over can considerably reduce the effects of jet lag. The advantages include, a good bed, refreshing shower and the chance to arrive at your destination not feeling exhausted.
Readjust to being home
It’s a good idea to have a couple of days at home after your trip to readjust your sleep schedule before heading back to work. Going into the office feeling jet lagged will make work unpleasant and may even undermine your goal of recharging the batteries.
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