Anyone who has taken a long-haul flight will tell you: Jet Lag is real, yo! The struggle to find a fix is real, too. There is no cure, but you can minimize the drag with our simple anti-jet lag strategy. We took the best advice from health professionals and frequent fliers to find the best Travel Tips to Conquer Jet Lag.
What is Jet Lag?
We asked medical professionals to explain just what this modern malaise is. It might surprise you to learn it has a name: desynchronosis. Buckle up, because we’re going to get “all medically” on you.
Jet lag happens when two separate, but linked, groups of neurons in a part of your brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, get disrupted. One group is associated with deep sleep and physical fatigue, while the other controls the dream state of REM sleep. You already know that REM sleep is important, so we don’t want to mess with that. But jet lag does: The neurons involved in REM sleep find it harder to adjust to the cycle change when you travel, and the two groups of neurons get out of sync. See? Simple. And it really is, literally, all in your head.
When you cross time zones faster than your body can adjust, it confuses your body. Your Circadian Rhythm gets, well, out of rhythm, and that impacts your body’s normal routine. Generally speaking, our bodies don’t like that. They are used to getting to bed at a certain time, and getting x hours of sleep. When you change time zones, you change that rhythm.
Once you’ve stopped moving, it takes about a day per time zone to adjust when you are traveling west, and a day and a half when going east. In the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
What are the Symptoms of Jet Lag?
You’ve probably experienced jet lag symptoms yourself. It’s that general feeling of malaise that lasts a day or two, maybe up to a week. And while the symptoms are generally not dangerous, they can be pretty severe.
Most common are impacts to your energy level, your digestive track, and your mental acuity. Daytime fatigue, coupled with difficulty sleeping. Nausea, digestive issues, and even menstrual difficulties often accompany jet lag. It can be hard to focus and remember things, and you may sometimes feel confused.
The worst impacts may be on your family and travel companions. Jet lag can make you irritable, temperamental, and generally grumpy. Remember Grumpy Cat? That is you, with jet lag.
It all sounds horrible – and it is – and probably makes you wonder if the joy of travel is worth the trouble! We think it is, and are here to help with our
Simple Anti-Jet Lag Strategy
Like a Boy Scout: Be Prepared
Step one in fighting jet lag starts a few days before your trip. Adjust your sleep and eating schedules to match the times at your destination. If you’re flying east, start going to bed and getting up an hour earlier each day. Do the same thing, but make it an hour later each day if you’ll be going west. Don’t forget to adjust meal times, too.
Sleep Right, Sleep Tight
The more rested you are before you fly, the less a lack of sleep will affect you afterwards. In the days before a trip, avoid anything you know will affect your sleep, like stress or late coffee breaks.
Once you’ve arrived, a good night’s sleep will be invaluable. You may struggle to stay awake the first few days, and will be tempted to take a nap. Trouble is, that can lead to sleep struggles later. Instead, get outside and move around to boost your energy level. Save the sleeping for bedtime. It will help encourage a sound, deep sleep, which will help fight jet lag the most.
That’s good advice anytime, but dehydration actually intensifies Jet Lag. While you’re traveling, avoid caffeine and alcohol, which dehydrate you. Many people complain that dry airplane air dehydrates them even more. That makes your water bottle your best friend in fighting jet lag, even before you land.
Avoid heavily processed food, as well. They are often heavy in salt and sugar, and reheating dries them out even more. That adds up to drying you out, too. Instead, stick with healthy snacks and meals, including fruits that naturally are naturally hydrating. Decaffeinated green tea, which can help fight jet lag, is a good beverage choice.
More Anti-Jet Lag Tips
Those three steps are an effective strategy, but you can always improve things with a few Pro Tips!
- Take a Run
- A run or brisk walk is great exercise anytime, but is particularly helpful when you’re traveling. If you land early, start your trip with a run or walk outdoors. The fresh air and sunshine will help you recharge, and help reset your body clock.
- Stay Active in Flight
- The longer the flight, the more you need to get up and move around. It’s not always easy, but getting out of your seat and walking the aisle is one of the best things you can do. Not only will stretching and moving help fight jet lag, it can help you avoid DVT and other circulatory issues.
- Opt Outside
- Sunshine is an indicator to your body and senses that it’s time to be awake and alert. Natural light helps your body clock adjust to your new time zone.
- Live on Tulsa Time
- It’s not just a great song, it’s one way to battle jet lag on shorter trips spanning just one or two time zones. Instead of adapting to the new time zone, stay on your old schedule. It may limit your hours for work or sight seeing, but you’ll avoid some of the ill effects. Why Tulsa Time? In the U.S., it’s in the Central time zone, so you’re never more than two hours ahead of or behind local time.
- Stick with Natural Remedies
- Most doctors don’t recommend taking anything to combat the symptoms of jet lag. Melatonin helps signal your body that it’s time for bed, but there is no substantial evidence that supplements help curb jet lag. If you do have trouble sleeping, and regularly take sleep aids, continuing them won’t hurt. However, you shouldn’t look to them as a solution for jet lag. Relying on natural light, healthy eating, and exercise is the way to go.
Hopefully, you found these travel tips to conquer jet lag useful. Of course, you’ve probably developed your own tricks to fight back against jet lag, and arrive refreshed and ready to go! We’d love to hear your solutions, too. Please share them in the comments, and we’ll re-post the best. Be sure to include your Twitter handle and a link to your blog, if you have one! Or click for more #Travel140!