One of the biggest problems of frequent travelling across various time zones in a short period of time is jet lag. Its symptoms include irritability, headache, fatigue, anxiety and insomnia which accompany frequent fliers on all their trips.
Jet lag arises due to changes and interruptions in your sleep, exercising and eating schedules. Your body gets confused and this leads to its symptoms. This happens because the human body works on a 24-hour circadian rhythm gauged by your body temperature and plasma levels of rise and fall of some hormones.
These conditions are then further influenced by your body’s exposure to sunlight through the day. So while travelling through different time zones, you may find it difficult adjusting to the new time zone and its associated changes meal times, sleep schedules, sunlight exposure and more.
The changed schedules leaves your body confused about what to do. You feel sleepy when there’s still daylight and you may get hungry during the meal times of your original destination. All this constitutes jet lag and is more prominent if you travel from east to west or vice versa. You thus have less chances of a jet lag if you go north to south or vice versa as you are in the same time zone. The only symptoms arise because of stress and travelling time. So you may wonder what you can do to avoid jet lag. It is possible, in three ways; before, during and after the trip.
Before the flight
1. People in good shape have better stamina which reduces the amount of fatigue. o Try to schedule an early evening arrival as you’ll be tired and want some sleep on landing. The chances of your getting a full night’s sleep is better at this time.
2. Drink lots of water throughout the trip to keep yourself hydrated and avoid dizziness, constipation and fatigue.
During the flight
1. Eat a light meal before boarding your flight to prevent binging-out through the flight. This helps prevent your eating junk food and also offsets your minimal activity in the flight.
2. It’s better avoiding foods giving gas like beans, onions and corn as body gas increases during flights and slows down the digestion process.
3. Fasting helps as some people believe it helps override your body clock by delaying sleep.
4. It’s better to avoid alcohol as it not only dehydrates you but also heightened the stress of high altitudes. Instead, drink herbal teas and hot water.
5. Try to walk and stretch during long flights. Most airlines provide exercises you can do to improve blood circulation in their in-flight magazines. Examples are rotating of ankles and lifting calves. You may also wear compression socks to reduce the chances of developing blood clots and deep-vein thrombosis (DVT).
6. Avoid napping longer than 45 minutes as you feel drugged after waking up short of an entire sleep period. Moreover, sleeping after this won’t help much either!
7. Melatonin, the naturally secreted hormone which relieves jet lag symptoms and insomnia helps increase your tendency of sleeping in the day. However it doesn’t affect the amount of sleep you need at night. It’s available in health stores; but as it’s medically highly under debate and it’s not regulated in the US, its purity and potency is not regulated. So consult your doctor before using it.
After the flight
1. Get sunlight as quickly as possible, especially if you’ve just completed a long flight. Sun basking helps your brain to skip sleep if you feel sleepy so that you can quickly adjust to the new location’s sleeping pattern.
2. Don’t do anything strenuous; your body’s in shock. So just relax and plan your itinerary.
3. To avoid jet lag for the remaining trip, gradually adjust your body’s meal and sleep time to the new destination’s timings.