Aeroplanes have provided humanity with the ability to travel the globe at top speeds. But with this fantastic development, comes its own issues- something all seasoned travellers have come to dread- jet lag. But we have come up with a list of techniques to help combat jet lag and its exhausting side effects.
Zipping through different time zones in a few hours means our inner biological clock has some catching up to do. This internal clock, known as our Circadian Rhythm, dictates when we sleep and wake in a twenty-four-hour cycle.
It is this skipping through time zones that push our inner twenty-four-hour cycle off-kilter. For every timezone crossed, it can take up to a day for the body to adjust accordingly.Jet lag, by definition, is a temporary sleep disorder. It causes people to feel overly tired during the day but unable to sleep at night. Mental fatigue and physical exhaustion can be a real downer when you’re on vacation.
TRAVEL DIRECTION EFFECTS JET LAG
Depending on which direction you are travelling to or from, your jet lag could be better or worse. Flying eastward is worse than travelling westward. This disparity in acclimatization is due to the fact that the body has an easier time elongating a day than it does shortening it.When travelling east, it requires individuals to go to bed earlier. Moving west means pushing back bedtimes. Most people find it easier to stay awake than it is to force sleep. Our circadian rhythm is actually a bit longer than the twenty-four-hour cycle, making it less of a strain to prolong a day further. But shortening our sleep-wake cycle is much harder for the brain and body to do.
Whichever way your direction lays in, these tips can help reduce the tiring effects of jet lag on the body.
When next travelling, combat jet leg by:
ADJUSTING YOUR ROUTINE BEFORE THE TRIP
A few days or a week before you jet off on that trip, try adjusting your bedtime according to the timezone you are visiting. If travelling eastward, shift your bedtime earlier, if westward, push it back.This also works for mealtimes- as our biological clock not only takes cues from our sleep pattern but our daily activities too. By eating closer to the mealtime of your destination, you could help your brain set a cue for your circadian rhythm.
PACK CLOTHING WORN BY A ROMANTIC PARTNER
A new study has discovered that individuals can achieve a deeper and more restful level of sleep when the scent of a loved one is present. If you are sleeping away from a romantic partner, pack one of their worn shirts and sleep with it at night. It can subconsciously make you feel more secure and at ease which helps with sleep.
SET YOUR WATCH AS SOON AS YOU’RE ON THE PLANE
Psychologically speaking, setting your watch to the time zone you are heading to can help you adjust while in flight. Mentally preparing for the change in time zone can help brace the body and mind for effects.
The plane’s pressurized cabin is known to lower the amount of oxygen in the blood, causing dehydration in many passengers. By the time the plane lands at the destination, people are feeling the effects of dehydration as well as jet lag, doubling the strain placed on the body. Staying hydrated can help offset these adverse side effects, fueling better function of the body.
This also means avoiding caffeine and alcohol at night when you arrive. Both are stimulants that cause issues with sleeping, and can further dehydrate the body.
GET TO YOUR DESTINATION EARLY
Many Olympic athletes will travel to the country of the competition well in advance of the games. Early arrival gives their bodies enough time to adjust to the current time zone, so they are then at their peak when competing. By arriving at your destination early, you can acclimate yourself to the region and time zone so you’ll be fresh for your trip’s purpose when the time comes.
TAKE MELATONIN SUPPLEMENTS
Melatonin is the sleep hormone that cycles through the body when it gets dark out. It signals to our brain that it is time to start the sleeping process. Some people take melatonin pills to stimulate this signal and sleep-inducing effect artificially.
It can take a few hours for the hormones to circulate and start the process, so take these melatonin pills a few hours before you are planning to sleep, not right when you get into bed.
HAVE A HOT SOAK BEFORE BEDTIME
A calming, warm bath or shower can induce relaxation in the body, easing tension from travel-worn muscles. Our sleep-wake cycle is also effected by temperture. Getting out of the hot bath will drop your body temperature, which can induce a sense of sleepiness.
So next time you are gearing up to travel, consider trying these tricks to combat jet lag and get the most out of your vacation!