The Jet Lag Journal13/04/2015
If you are travelling for thousands of miles across seas, you’d expect to suffer with a bit of jet lag wouldn’t you? Well, not necessarily. Travel to Mauritius, the Seychelles, Morocco, Dubai or Abu Dhabi and you can kiss jet lag goodbye.
Some might find this surprising considering Mauritius is over 6,000 miles away from the UK, but with just 3 hours time difference, you don’t have to waste a minute of your holiday dealing with jet lag. Travel somewhere like New York, which is half of that distance, and you can often find you’ve gone back a day just to get to your destination.
But as many of you, I’m sure, are frequent travellers, there’s a good chance jet lag might creep up on you at one point or another, so we want to find you the best ways of easing the pain of crossing multiple time zones in a short amount of time. After all, resetting your watch is easy but resetting your brain? Well that’s a little bit more difficult! Now there’s no quick fix for jet lag, and unfortunately there’s no way of avoiding it, but there are ways to help you deal with it.
But before all that, it’s important to understand what it actually is. Jet lag is a series of symptoms that occur when our body clock is disrupted. Our body clock is made up of a small group of cells called the suprachiasmatic nucleus and it’s these cells that create a rhythm in our bodies that roughly follows a 24 hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness. This rhythm or body clock is what keeps us in tune with the pattern of day and night and what helps us sleep at night. According to research it can take a day for our bodies to shift just one time zone so when travelling across several time zones all at once, you can see why it takes days for your body to readjust and find that rhythm.
Fatigue, not being able to function, headaches, confusion, exhaustion; the symptoms of jet lag are all too familiar aren’t they?
Now as we’ve already said, there’s no quick fix. When dealing with jet lag, it really comes down to one rule: adjust faster to your new time zone. Easier said than done (we know) but that really is what it all boils down to. So how can you adjust faster to your new time zone?
Before you fly
Adjust your day-to-day routine
For a week or two before your trip, it’s a good idea to start shifting your sleep pattern. This might mean getting up an hour earlier or staying up a bit later- It all just depends on which way you are travelling. Generally, if you are going west, start going to bed later and if you are travelling east, you need to go to bed a bit earlier. Do this and you should have an easier time adjusting to the new time zone and your sleep pattern should be relatively close to that of your destination. However it’s important to do this gradually otherwise sleep could become a problem even before the trip.
On your flight
Who likes to take full advantage of the drinks trolley service on a long haul flight? There’s nothing like a nice glass of red to try and help you nod off but no matter how much you try and convince yourself it’s a good idea, alcohol doesn’t help when it comes to tackling jet lag. Alcohol (and caffeine) interferes with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep and that’s why pretty much everyone tells you not to drink it when flying. But, If, like the majority of us, you find this easier said than done, then stick to just the one glass and keep hydrated with lots of water. It won’t stop jet lag but it will help make sure dehydration doesn’t aggravate your fatigue.
When you get on the plane set your watch to the time of your new destination (we suggest you don’t do this beforehand as you run the chance of missing your flight – believe us, it happens!). This way you can get yourself psychologically aligned to your new time zone.
Time your activities
Try to eat and sleep according to the local time of your destination. This is perhaps a little more difficult than it seems as airplane food is served onboard according to the timezone back home. Eating at these times can sabotage any efforts to reset your clock so ask for your food at different times.
Once you’ve landed
Embrace the sunshine
To help adjust to the new time zone, wake up to the sunlight and not the buzzing off an iphone alarm. Keep the blinds open wherever you are staying and this will force your body to wake up naturally with the light. Just remember the cycle of light and dark is one of the most important factors when it comes to resetting your internal clock!
No matter how tempting it might be to fall asleep on the sunlounger on the first day of your holiday, try not to. It’s important to stay awake until bedtime in your new time zone. It may be painful, but it will do wonders if you are suffering with jet lag. Get up, go for a walk and discover your new surroundings.
Get your “anchor sleep”
Even if you are struggling to adapt to a new sleeping pattern, try and get a minimum of 4 hours sleep during the local night. This “anchor sleep” trains your body to operate on a 24 hour rhythm and is vital for adapting to a new time zone.