When you cross multiple time zones you interrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm. It’s more than just feeling a bit tired when you arrive at your destination and sadly it takes about four days for your body clock to reset itself to the new time zone. Those are four precious days when you want to be outside exploring a new city not curled up in your hotel room with a sleep mask and earplugs.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) jet lag symptoms include “indigestion and disturbance of bowel function, general malaise, daytime sleepiness, difficulty in sleeping at night, and reduced physical and mental performance.” Not fun especially when combined with a start-of-holiday celebratory drinks hangover and difficulty sleeping on the plane.
To combat the bane of jetsetters everywhere, Travelstart has great tips to minimise the damage caused by jet lag.
Always consult a doctor before taking any sleep medication.
1. As tempting as it is, stay away from the drinks trolley
Sure it’s fun to start off a holiday in the Philippines with a piña colada or a glass or three of bubbly, however the after-effects of even one drink are annoyingly amplified when flying. The air pressure and dry cabin air are dehydrating in themselves, so stick to water and you will feel a lot more human when you arrive.
2. Try to take a day flight when flying East
Though not always possible and can feel like a waste of a day of holiday, arriving in the evening when flying East (to Bali, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand etc) will significantly aid the reduction of jet lag.
3. The power-through versus the power-napper
There is debate amongst cabin crew around whether it is simply better to grab a cup of coffee and power through a day of sight-seeing upon arrival (only drink coffee if you have more than 7 hours until bed) or whether the first item on your agenda should be a short but effective hour-long power nap in a dark hotel room. Try both techniques to figure out which best suits you.
4. Don’t forget your sleep mask and earplugs
These complimentary travel accessories will serve you well in your battle against jet lag over the next few days so hang on to them when you land. Its all about regulating your exposure to light, if you have flown East try to get in a few hours of sunlight before the sunsets and minimise your exposure to morning light with the help of sunglasses.
5. Get your anchor sleep
According to the WHO: “A minimum block of 4 h sleep during the local night – known as “anchor sleep” – is thought to be necessary to allow the body’s internal clock to adapt to the new time zone”. So don’t skimp on those 4 essential hours.
6. Eat a light meal on the plane
The cabin pressure while up in the air causes indigestion, especially if you drink anything carbonated and eat a heavy meal. To prevent this stick to a light meal, just enough to keep your blood sugar stable. Also avoid eating foods high in salt as this will dehydrate you further.
7. Go for a run before your flight
Exercise is the best cure for restlessness on the plane. It will help you relax your muscles and catch some sleep while in transit.
If all else fails Melatonin may be the answer. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in your brain, which you can also take as a hormone supplement. In the US Melatonin is available over the counter however in other parts of the world, including in South Africa, you will need a prescription from your doctor. Basically it boosts your body’s ability to go to sleep when it gets dark in your new surroundings and wake up when it gets light.
Have your own tips to add? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.