Almost everyone who has gone on a long haul flight will have had to deal with the effects of Jet Lag which can include sleep disturbances, cognitive effects including poor concentration, increased fatigue, irritability, headaches, and digestive problems including indigestion and changes in bowel movement. Jet lag, which is medically referred to as ‘desynchronosis’, occurs with rapid long-distance trans-meridian (east–west or west–east) travel, and results from a disruption of the natural circadian rhythm (or body clock). We get this disruption when we try to adjust to a new time zone as in essence our body clock including our sleep wake cycle is set to the destination we have just left and we are instantly trying to adjust to a new time zone. For example someone travelling from London to New York (East to West) will feel as if the time were five hours later than local time. In general, the more time zones we cross the harder it is to adjust.
My Top 10 Tips
Here are ten tips for both before you leave, when you are on the plane and when you arrive at your resort…
1) Adjust to the new time zone before you leave
When travelling East you should go to bed earlier, get up earlier and try to eat earlier. If travelling West you should shift everything later. In order to make the adjustment more manageable, do this over several days, shifting your bedtime and wake time closer to your destination’s time. This helps to reset your internal body clock. Most of us find that the best way to travel is East to West, as our body clocks find it easier to
extend the day than shorten it. Don’t forget to adjust your meals as well as your sleep pattern to make the adjustment easier in your new time zone.
2) Relax for 2 days before you fly and pack early
Try to pack your case 2 days before you leave and keep your life as relaxed as possible during this time. This means that you arrive at the airport fully rested for your flight.
3) Set your watch to your new time zone as soon as you get on the plane
Think forward not back.
4) Drink water and avoid caffeine and alcohol
It’s always best to drink as much water on the flight as possible as dehydration is a symptom of jet lag. For those who plan to sleep within 5 hours of getting off the plane avoid all caffeinated drinks (and products). In addition, alcohol is best avoided as it can lead to dehydration.
5) 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.
6) Get your body adjusted to local time as quickly as possible
Adjust meal times to match your new time zone as soon as you can. Change bedtimes and wake times too. Avoid taking a nap if you are trying to stay awake, and get out into the sunlight and fresh air instead. However, if you can’t manage to keep awake until nightfall, avoid interrupting your main sleep by limiting your nap to 20 minutes.
7) Set your body clock to day and night
If you are arriving in the evening, dim the lights and have a light meal only. When you wake in the morning, get outside as soon as you can, as it helps to set your body clock to the new time zone.
8) A new bed and the first night effect
The first night effect is our natural alertness when sleeping in a new bed, the stress of which can keep you awake. Using a familiar pillow or even a blanket from home can help.
9) The on-call effect
Anticipating that something (such as noise from a hotel corridor) or someone will wake you up (a phone call in the night) is all part of the on-call effect. Solutions include checking your accommodation has black out blinds to block out the light, and having calls handled by voice mail. Bringing earplugs and night masks with you can also help.
10) Take Probiotics to support your gut flora
Jet Lag throws our gut bacteria (our digestive system’s inner eco-system or microbiome) out of balance. Take a probiotic, as this can get your system back on track.
Follow my top tips to avoid and get over jet lag.