Ways to deal with jet lag

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Frequent flyers, cabin crew, even pilots suffer from the debilitating side effects of a flight. It’s that heady floatiness. The early morning wake ups. Muscle cramps. No one is immune. But, we can lessen the side effects. So what are the causes? And, how can we stem the effects and effectively deal with jet lag?

Is jet lag just a lack of sleep?

I always thought we got jet lag from lack of sleep but there’s more to it than that. Rapid travel across several time zones, exposing our bodies to light and dark at all the wrong times confuses our internal clock. And it’s this clock that controls our rhythmic sleeping and eating patterns so once that becomes befuddled, it’s “hello jet lag”.

The effects of jet lag worsen if you’re sleep-deprived before you travel, become dehydrated during the flight or cross several time zones. That’s why we feel thick headed, floaty and become wide awake at 3am.

Dealing with jet lag when travelling from west to east

Travelling from West to East? Your body finds it harder to adjust to a shorter day than a longer one.

Tip: try to time your flight so that you arrive at your destination in the afternoon. You can then grab a few important hours to settle into a schedule, before settling off for a full night’s sleep at your new, local, bedtime.

How to alleviate the effects of jet lag

Get into holiday mode early. Travelling east? A few days before you are to depart, start waking up and going to sleep earlier. Travelling west? Try waking up and going to sleep later. Also try and sync meal times with what they’d be in your destination.

Whilst you’re up in the air

Unfortunately, there’s little evidence that sleeping on a flight will reduce jet lag – which is good news if you’re like me and rarely get much sleep 35,000 feet in the air. If you can get some sleep though, getting some rest will definitely help as it gives you some energy once you arrive to power through the jet lag. There are some quieter seats than others so if you use SeatGuru, it may help with avoiding an 8-hour flight sitting by the toilet.

To help get some shut-eye, pack an eye-mask and some earplugs as these essentials are not often issued by airlines nowadays. Switch off the back seat entertainment and electronic devices to avoid glow from the screens. Think nice thoughts. Try counting sheep.

Don’t get dehydrated

Dehydration intensifies jet lag. Humidity drops the higher you are – so on a high altitude flight, you will lose fluids faster. During a 10-hour flight, men can lose 2 litres of water and women about 1.6 litres. The Aerospace Medical Association suggests drinking about 235ml of water every hour you’re in the air. Alcohol may help you relax, even sleep, but a hangover on top of a long flight isn’t great and simply fast-tracks dehydration.

Tips on handling jet lag after landing

Always stick to the local time on arrival. Walk, sunbathe or do whatever you can to expose yourself to as much sunlight as you can. After a very long flight, we have been known to have a little power nap on arrival for just an hour and a half. No more. No less. We always set the alarm and drag ourselves out of bed no matter how tired we are. It works for us as we seem to get into a routine much quicker … may work for you?

At dinner on your first night, don’t have a heavy meal as this will prevent you from sleeping. Keep the over-indulgence for another day.

Do you have any tips on how to avoid jet lag? If so, do leave a comment as we’d love to know.

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