Red eyes, irritability and that frustrating feeling of wakefulness in the middle of the night. Not to mention hunger pangs at the strangest times. These are tell-tale signs of jet lag, and can have a huge impact on how you start and end your journey. If you’re sensitive, you could still be feeling the effects of jet lag days into your trip.
Jet lag explained
No, it’s not all in your head. Also known as desynchronosis and flight fatigue, jet lag is a temporary disorder that causes insomnia, fatigue and other symptoms. It’s classed as a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, which is essentially a disruption of the body’s internal clock.
And whether you’re travelling for work or pleasure, it always seems to take its toll. Even just an hour or two can throw off the body clock, which means that if you’re a frequent flyer it definitely pays to have some jet lag tips up your sleeve. Don’t worry, there’s not a movie marathon, double strength cocktail or knock out sleeping pill in sight.
One of the simplest but most effective ways to beat jetlag is by staying hydrated. Fly with a two litre water bottle, and don’t be shy about asking your host for top ups. If you don’t like constantly asking your neighbour to let you out, request an aisle seat. That way you’ll get to go to the bathroom whenever you like, and your neighbour will also have plenty of opportunities.
Say no to inflight drinks
As tempting as it is to guzzle down G&Ts, remember that dehydration is alcohol’s ugly cousin. This means that it’s best to stay away from the booze, both before, during and after your flight. Lack of H2O drastically intensifies jet lag, will almost certainly prolong the recovery period.
Pack an eye mask
Planes are glowing with junk light [insert internal GU link], even when the cabin crew switches off the overheads. This can mess with your sleep, so always travel with a blackout eye mask if you plan to get some shut eye on the plane. It can also be a good idea to wear sunglasses before and after your flight, as this helps combat overstimulation by fluorescent lighting.
Wake up your body
When you wake up in your new time zone spend at least 10 minutes letting your body soak up the sunshine. This helps you switch into awake mode, and also gives you an all-important fix of Vitamin D.
Beat the time zones
Another clever trick you can use is to gradually start to shift your time zones, before you fly. Jet Lag Rooster is a great resource that can help you strategise a routine, and minimise the onslaught of jet lag. As a general rule of thumb, you should go to bed slightly later if you’re flying west, or earlier if you’re heading east.
Effect a mental shift
One of the worst ways to trigger jet lag is to constantly compare your new time zone to the one you just left. For example, if you’re starving at 2am in the morning and it’s 12pm back home, try not to look at it as lunchtime pangs. Instead, enjoy a small snack, head back to bed and treat yourself to a big breakfast in the morning.
Switch off your alarms
Nothing induces self-loathing quite like a buzzing alarm that wakes you up from your post-flight slumber. Don’t forget to switch off any pre-set alarms on your phone or tablet, and change your time/date settings accordingly.
Be wary of coffee and sugar
Sure, you can perk yourself up with a double strength coffee or sugary drink. But only if you’re got at least seven hours of wakefulness ahead of you. Best not to use these stimulants in the afternoon, as they can disrupt your sleep well after they’ve been consumed.
Experiment with melatonin
Proven to have great results, melatonin is an all-natural hormone that regulates your sleep rhythms. It can be a great way to adjust to a new time zone, though too much can mess with your routine. Chat to your GP about how it could work for you, and whether you’re eligible for a prescription.
Embrace the madness
If all else fails, why not simply embrace jet lag? At least to some extent… From late night karaoke in Singapore and midnight strolls in Paris to early morning street markets in Japan and sunrise in New York, some of the most amazing travel experiences can arise from jet lag. Of course, if you’re coming home it can be every shade of dreadful.
Do you have any tried and tested jet lag tips you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them, so go ahead and share in the comments box below.