Love travelling far and wide but dread the distortion multiple time-zones can do to your sleeping rhythm? Try these few simple methods to beat jet lag.
These days when air travel is easy and affordable, most of us have probably experienced jet lag – disturbed sleep patterns and disorientation due to the disruption of our normal body clock when we travel through several time zones. Jet lag is worse when you move from west to east because it’s harder for the body to adapt to a shorter day than a longer one.
Primed to respond to a regular rhythm of daylight and darkness, our body clock is thrown out of sync when it experiences daylight during a period that it considers to be the wrong time. As our body struggles to cope with the new schedule, common jet lag symptoms like insomnia, irritability, fatigue, headache, dizziness and difficulty concentrating, may set in. Some people may also experience nausea, anxiety attacks, constipation, diarrhoea, memory loss and irregular heartbeats.
While the symptoms of jet lag is temporary, it can results in the loss of efficiency when you’re on a work trip or it may cut into your holiday enjoyment as it usually takes a few days to fully recover from jet lag. To diminish the effects of jet lag, try these tricks:
Top up on sleep before you depart and en route
Travelling is extremely tiring. The more rest your body gets before and during your journey, the more prepared you’ll be to deal with the stress of jet lag. If you’re taking a very long flight, consider flying business or first class, as it’s a lot easier to sleep when your seat reclines all the way back. Otherwise, opt for a window seat and bring a pillow to prop yourself up against the wall. Earplugs and eyeshades may also help you sleep. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks as this can disrupt sleep.
Adjust your internal clock before and during flight
A few days before departure, gradually shift your sleeping and eating times to coincide with those at your destination. Once you get on the plane, change the time of your watch. While this is mostly psychological, it helps to prep your mind to the changes that your body will be experiencing, later. Try to sleep or stay awake in the plane according to the time of your destination. High altitude and dry cabin air tend to dehydrate the body and intensify the effects of jetlag, so remember to keep yourself hydrated.
Take overnight flights.
When you are flying at night, you’ll tend to have dinner at a normal time and be much more likely to sleep than on an afternoon flight. Depending on the length of the flight and the number of time zones you cross, you’ll probably arrive at your destination in the morning or afternoon. This is the best way to replicate your normal schedule, and it’ll be easier for you to reset your clock.
Upon arrival at your destination, try to get as much sleep every 24 hours as you normally would. Getting a minimum block of four hours’ sleep during the night, known as “anchor sleep”, is essential to help you adapt to a new time zone. Nap during the day whenever possible to make up the total sleep time.
Expose yourself to natural light at the appropriate time
The cycle of light and darkness is one of the most important factors in setting the body’s internal clock. Exposing yourself to natural daylight at your destination will help you adapt to the new time zone, faster. When flying westward, take in bright morning light at your new destination and avoid afternoon and evening light exposure. On the other hand, when flying eastward, avoid early light exposure in morning and get as much light as possible in the afternoon and early evening.