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After a long flight, we often feel dizzy and have a headache, and it is quite common. Sleeplessness and fatigue also plague us at the end of every vacation. So, what do you do? Jet lag is common but most of us ignore it thinking that it will pass. But a few measures can help you cope with jet lag.
What is Jet Lag?
The feeling of tiredness one experiences after travelling for long distances through different time zones is known as jet lag. The severity of jet lag, also known as desynchronosis, increases with the number of time zones one crosses.
How Is Jet Lag Caused?
We have a biological clock which controls us when we fall asleep and when we wake up. This is basically our circadian rhythm, and when this gets thrown off due to travel across time zones, jet lag is caused. Our body’s internal clock doesn’t match with the external time, and it is this desynchronization that causes jet lag. Since the circadian rhythm is regularized by cues like exposure to light, mealtimes and other routine activities, in the absence of these cues, our body fails to adjust to the new time zones.
How Long Does Jet Lag Last?
Although the human body eventually recovers from jet lag, the recovery time depends on the total number of time zones you have crossed. As a thumb rule, your body will get adjusted to the new time zone at the rate of two zones per day. So if yours has been a typical long haul flight (crossing 5 to 6 time zones, your body will need 3 to 5 days to adjust to the time change.
Signs & Symptoms of Jet Lag
You are likely to notice the symptoms of jet lag after nearly 12 hours of reaching your destination. Although jet lag rarely causes major complications, heart patients can suffer discomfort due to loss of sleep combined with stress related to travel. The most common signs and symptoms of jet lag are listed below:
- Insomnia or excessive sleep due to disturbances in sleep patterns
- A headache, fatigue, tiredness and drowsiness
- Appetite loss
- Difficulty to focus and loss of concentration
- Confusion and irritability
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Mood changes
How to Get Rid of Jet Lag Naturally
Jet lag can ruin your plans of enjoying the holidays or can even prevent you from putting up your best performance during a client meeting or presentation. Fortunately, the below-mentioned tips that will help you deal with jet lag and you can bounce back to your normal self at the earliest.
1. Plan Your Flight Timings Right
Strategize and plan your flight arrival in such a manner so that it arrives early evening at the destination. This will help you align your sleep timing to the existing time zone as you won’t have to stay up for a long time after your arrival. Arriving a day or so earlier, especially if you are travelling for an important presentation or meeting.
2. Get Ready for the Change in the Time Zone
Tweak your body clock a few days before your flight as this will help you adjust to the new time zone. Help your body adapt to the change by going to bed late and waking up late if you are heading west. If your destination is the east, sleep at least an hour early and set the alarm for an early hour too.
3. Control Your Exposure to Sunlight
The circadian rhythm is affected by exposure to sunlight since the production of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, is impacted. When our body is exposed to sunlight, the production of this hormone is stopped since sunlight signals time to stay awake. If exposure to sunlight is less, it will promote the production of melatonin and make you sleepy.
4. Stay Hydrated
It is important to drink lots of water before, during and after the flight. This proves to be helpful for your body to offset the dry cabin atmosphere in the flight. By doing so, you can rest more easily and symptoms like uneasiness, stomach upsets, or headaches can be tackled. Stop intake of alcohol and caffeine before your flight and during it too. Such drinks can dehydrate your body and alter your sleep patterns leading to nausea.
5. Sleep During the Flight
Strategic napping on the flight is the key to beating jet lag. Keep light and external noise away by using eye masks and earplugs. If you are travelling eastwards, make sure you grab your forty winks during the flight and vice-versa if you are moving west. Also, ensure you have slept well before the flight.
6. Starve Yourself
Your body may easily adapt to a new time zone if you refrain from eating during the flight. If you are unable to control your hunger pangs during the flight, make sure you have a hearty breakfast before the flight. Keep yourself hydrated during the flight and eat once you reach your destination.
7. Take a Melatonin Supplement
Your local pharmacy will be selling many medications that help you sleep or give you an energy boost. In the recent past, supplements containing melatonin can help your body to realign your body clock and manage jet lag. By taking a smaller dose, it is possible to shift the circadian rhythm while a larger dose will make it work as a sleep inducer. While travelling to the west, you should take your dose around midnight for the first 4-5 days and around 9 pm if you are travelling eastward. Ensure that melatonin does not interfere with any of your existing medication so speak to your doctor before taking it.
8. Bright Light Therapy
This therapy consists of exposure to special artificial light at regular intervals. This helps in easing into the new time zone without much effort and reinforces the body clock quickly. Use this therapy if you are more of an indoor person or if natural sunlight isn’t available easily. You can start with small sessions in the morning and noon using a desk lamp or a special light.
9. Move Around
Outdoor exercise is supposed to be the best antidote for jet lag. If you are already following a regular exercise routine, make sure you engage in it at the same time in your new time zone. If you are a running enthusiast, carry your running shoes and jog your way to a clear head and mind. If you are at the gym every day at a particular time, do not miss it, especially when faced with jet lag.
10. Meet a Good Doctor
There is always the possibility of jet lag extending beyond the normal 3-4 days, and in such cases, it is best to take advice from a doctor. Jet lag symptoms that last for a week or two need medical attention. One of the best jet lag remedies for toddlers is to feed them just before the flight takes off. Children with a full stomach will inadvertently sleep for a major part of the flight. A little bit of planning like taking a flight with landing time that is closer to your little one’s bedtime can ensure that he dozes off to sleep as soon as you land.
Jet lag has to be taken seriously and can be prevented if the right steps are taken in advance. With simple behavioural changes and adjustments to our routine before embarking on the journey, it is possible to counter jet lag. There are many simple-to-implement remedies that can be used to trick our body into submission and help it recover from the impact of jet lag at the earliest possible.