How to kick jet lag into touch
Travel should be a life-affirming adventure, an exploration of new places and a chance to broaden our horizons.
However, there’s one thing that can prove so traumatic and take so long to get over that it’s enough to put us off travel forever. And no, we’re not talking about the endless wait for the baggage carousel.
We are, rather, talking about jet lag. This is the condition characterised by various physiological and psychological effects (such as irritability and fatigue), which results from a disruption of the natural circadian rhythm (or body clock).
The more time zones we cross the harder it is to adjust. The basic issue is that our body clock including our sleep wake cycle is set to the destination we have just left, and we want to be able to instantly adjust to the time zone we are arriving in.
And so, with a view to helping you conquer jet lag, we’ve joined forces with sleep expert Dave Gibson. Here, Dave presents his top tips for combating travel tiredness with the tips handily split up into: Before You Leave, On The Flight and When You Arrive…
Before you leave
The direction of the change depends whether you are travelling East or West. When travelling East you would go to bed earlier, get up earlier, and try to eat earlier too. If you are going on holiday to the USA or Carribean and travelling West you would shift everything later. Aim at doing this over several days. Shifting your bedtime and awakening time closer to your destinations time over a few days minimises the effects of jet lag as it helps resets your internal body clock. Of course, if you are travelling at the weekend it’s easier to move times than during workdays.
The best way to travel is East to West, as in general our body clocks find it easier to extend the day (we naturally run slightly longer than 24 hours) than shorten it. It’s a lot harder to go to sleep when you aren’t tired than try to stay awake for example.
A real mouthful
Eat for your time zone before you leave. Yes, really. This could even include having breakfast at 11pm if you could manage it.
That means packing early and chilling out for 48 hours before you fly. Give yourself 48 hours of down time before you fly, to relax down to your holiday pace, and pack 48 hours before you leave. This then gives you two full days to prepare for your long haul flight. This means that you arrive at the airport rested rather than stressed.
On the flight
The times they are a changing
Put your watch forward to the time you will be using on holiday as soon as you get on the plane. Think forward not back and don’t think about the time back home at all. Avoid caffeine, and alcohol, and drink water instead. Avoid caffeine on the flight if you will be going to sleep within five hours of getting off the plane. Alcohol too is best left alone as it can lead to dehydration and disrupts deep sleep. Dehydration is a symptom of jet lag, so always drink lots of water on the flight.
Make yourself comfortable
If you suffer poor circulation DVT socks can be used as they improve circulation (which is a side effect of Jet Lag).
When you arrive
Make a meal of it
Start by adjusting your meals to match your new time zone as soon as you can.If you are trying to stay awake until later , try to avoid taking a nap, and get out in the sunlight and fresh air. If you can’t manage to keep awake until nightfall, limit your nap to 20 minutes only, as more can interrupt your main sleep.
In the morning, try to get outside as soon as you can after you awake as it helps set your body clock to the new time zone. If you are getting to your destination in the early evening, dim your lights, eat lightly, and engage in relaxing activity.
A real first: Another issue with travelling and trying to sleep in a new bed is something called “first night effect”, the stress of which can keep you awake. Bringing a pillow or a blanket with you can help, or even a photograph or picture from home.
Being on call
The “on-call effect” is caused by the sense that something or someone will wake you up. Anticipating a noise from the corridor, or a phone waking you up would be one such projection. Having calls handled by voice mail. Checking the blinds black out the light effectively, and bringing ear plugs and night masks with you can all help.
One of the side effects of Jet Lag is that our gut bacteria (our digestive system’s inner eco-system or microbiome) are thrown out of balance, with the wrong bacteria taking over. A probiotic can get this system back on track.
For more tips and advice on how to get better sleep tonight, and every night, visit The Sleep Site