How to minimize the effects of jet lag: We are currently in the midst of the busiest travel period of the year with millions of passengers flying across countries and continents. For many flyers, the effects of jet lag can linger long after their trip ends. Here’s some advice to help minimize these effects.
Once thought to be an imaginary condition or a sleep disorder, jet lag has since been identified as an actual, physiological condition – a chronobiological problem that plagues high-speed air travelers in the millions every year. Simply stated, jet lag – referred to medically as desynchronosis or circadian dysrhythmia – disrupts your body’s internal clock, which manages when you sleep and when you wake. As a result, you may feel drowsy during waking hours and you may tend to stay awake when you need to go to bed. This can lead to cognitive issues such as trouble completing mental tasks and concentrating on the most basic tasks. It can cause headaches, fatigue, irritability, and disorientation to varying degrees; digestive problems and a loss of appetite are also fairly common.
The body’s clock is called the circadian rhythm, and it actually affects physical aspects like the timing for eating, body temperature, the regulation of certain hormones, and other biological conditions. These, in turn, are all influenced by the exposure to daylight, which help us determine naturally when we sleep and when we rise.
Travelling from west to east or east to west to new time zones can throw our rhythms off completely because our bodies are slow to alter their own natural rhythms. Jet lag is a particular problem for pilots, crew and frequent flyers. Airlines take this matter seriously too due to the potential impact it has on pilot fatigue. Moreover, the ill-effects of jet lag can drag out for days and days.
How to minimise the effects of jet lag:
• Select a flight that arrives early in the evening and stay up until 22:00 local time
• If sleep is necessary during the day, take a short nap in the early afternoon for no longer than two hours
• Anticipate the time change for trips by getting up and going to bed earlier several days before an eastward trip and later for a westward trip
• Upon boarding the plane, change your watch to the destination time zone
• Avoid stimulants like caffeine at least three to four hours before bedtime
• Stay hydrated during the flight; dehydration can exaggerate the symptoms of jet lag
• Upon arrival, eat a light meal or snack; avoid large heavy meals; avoid chocolate also
• Eliminate exercise just before bedtime; exercise earlier in the day
• Use sleeping aides like earplugs and blindfolds to better control noise and light; adjust the television volume and close the draperies in your room before you fall asleep to safeguard against common disturbances
• Spend as much time as you can outside; daylight helps to reset internal clocks to correspond with new time zones
• Avoid stress if possible; stress can contribute to sleeplessness
• Bring comforting objects like portraits, a favorite pillow or a blanket, if you feel they will relax you
• If you are a frequent traveler who struggles with jet lag, consult your physician to understand the various therapies available