If you love or have to travel between different time zones, you must be acquainted with the main drawback linked to it – jet lag. Instead of stepping off the plane filled with excitement and anticipation, ready to explore a new destination, you are taken aback by fatigue, tiredness, and an excruciating headache. Evidently, this can ruin all your plans.
And, in spite of all the medical breakthroughs that have been made, there aren’t any jet lag remedies on the market that promise long-lasting results for every traveler out there.
Swallowing a pill won’t help. Also, the more time zones you travel across, the worse the effects will be. Still, there are some things that we can do to minimize its intensity – or simply avoid it altogether. This guide will tell you exactly how.
Jet lag, also referred to as flight fatigue or desynchronosis, is a temporary disorder associated with various side effects such as excessive tiredness, insomnia, headaches, migraines, general discomfort, and so on. It is a sleep disorder that results when you’re traveling between different time zones.
Jet lag occurs due to a disruption of the body’s internal clock. Aside from insomnia and fatigue, one might experience other symptoms such as anxiety, confusion, irritability, nausea, sweating, indigestion, dizziness, daytime sleepiness, and so on. (source)
Now that we’ve learned what jet lag is, we’ll move on to answering the most trivial question on the topic, namely what causes jet lag? Usually, jet lag is determined by an imbalance between the internal and external clocks. We’ll explain below.
There is an expression that says the west is best; east is beast. And it is accurate, to some extent, especially when it comes to jet lag and its severity. According to this study, travelers can encounter more difficulty in adjusting to the east, than to the west.
Reason being? Let's know...
Deep inside our brain, in the hypothalamus, our internal clock is ticking. Every 24 hours, there are thousands of pacemaker cells referred to as the suprachiasmatic nucleus. They tell the body if it’s day or night. Basically, the cells receive light input from the environment, establishing the time of the day.
Nonetheless, when you travel to multiple time zones, the pacemaker cells get confused. The entire internal body system is confused as well, which leads to jet lag. In general, the body’s internal clock is a tad slow.
Plus, in the absence of light cues, the pacemaker cells tend to prolong the day. That is due to the following reason: the body’s internal clock has a natural period of 24 hours. That is why it is easier for the body to lengthen the day, by traveling to the west, than shortening the day, when you’re going east.
When you are traveling east, you are basically advancing your internal clock – which will mess with body’s natural 24-hour period. This is why we go west, to get that extra lost time. So, in plain English: westward recovery is far easier than eastward recovery.
The body’s internal clock, namely the circadian rhythm, monitors all the processes that your body experiences over 24 hours. Your daily schedule, as well as the time of the day, and the order in which you perform your daily tasks influences your internal clock, creating built-in routines.
Of course, traveling across different time zones will confuse the body’s biorhythm, as it plays havoc with our established routines and habits.
The production of melatonin is altered, as well. The body’s melatonin cycles and the circadian clock are determined by the amount of sunlight you expose yourself to. In fact, exposure to light has the most important impact on the circadian clock. (source)
The hormone is produced in a given rhythm, increasing after dark, and diminishing before dawn. According to researchers, the melatonin production cycle plays a fundamental role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
Jet lag derives from the nerve cells of the hypothalamus, which is also the part of the brain that monitors temperature, sleep, hunger and appetite patterns, and other important elements. The hypothalamus also regulates the hormone levels in the body and the blood pressure. And this part of the brain responds rather slowly to unexpected changes that affect the internal clock. (source)
On that note, if you have a lot of difficulties with jet lag, an idea would be planning to arrive late in the afternoon. This way, you can get a full night sleep, as opposed to feeling drowsy throughout the day if you arrive in the morning. However, if that isn’t a possibility, you should use the guidelines below for fighting jet lag.
Unfortunately, jet lag is something that occurs even to the most experienced travelers. In fact, most flight attendants report a lack of energy and motivation, ear, nose and throat problems, broken sleep, tiredness, and the list may go on.
That being said, it might be difficult to completely steer clear of the symptoms linked to jet lag. Nevertheless, there are some strategies you could use to speed up the recovery process, as follows:
Being prepared for your flight can genuinely make the world of a difference. One strategy that can bring results is boarding on the plane well-rested, as opposed to being fatigued and exhausted.
So, in the event in which you have an overwhelming schedule at home, it would be best if you tried to unwind, and clear that schedule a few days before the flight.
Once you have prepared everything, you will be ready to get on and off that plane, without any significant sleeping issues.
Now that you have gotten on the plane, there are several aspects that you need to keep in mind if you want to prevent jet lag.
Believe it or not, the things that you do while simply standing on a chair can greatly affect you – and your body’s ability to stay awake. Here are some of the most important aspects:
It’s best that you try to find a balance between your body and the environment. Drinking enough water is crucial, since the air at higher altitudes is much drier than the air at ground level.
Plus, the things that will make your body comfortable on the ground will also make you comfortable when flying – so swap the processed snacks and sexy clothes with some fruits, comfortable clothes, and blankets.
Let’s move on to preventing jet lag after the flight; the safest way to do that is by getting into the rhythm of your destination the minute after you arrive there. Although this may seem like the most difficult thing to do (and it actually is), since a fluffy bed is infinitely more attractive, it’s the sensible thing to do. A daytime nap will only worsen the jet lag effects.
Nonetheless, considering that you arrive really early at your destination, it would be acceptable to give your body an hour, an hour and a half of sleep. Still, do make sure that you’re up and about in the afternoon.
The first night is the most important in fighting jet lag, and you should sleep through it, although you might find yourself waking up a few times.
As long as you follow these tips, it shouldn’t be that difficult for you to get over your jetlag symptoms. Sure, you may feel a bit tired at the end – but it won’t be so bad compared to how you’d feel if you didn’t do anything.
Recovering from jet lag depends on a number of elements. The number of time zones you travel across plays a role in the equation; however, the disorder is temporary, which means most people will recover in a few days.
As a general rule, treating jet lag doesn’t require medical assistance. Nevertheless, if the typical symptoms linked to jet lag don’t disappear in about two weeks’ time, then it’s high time to call your healthcare provider.
Jet lag complications aren’t common. However, people with pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart disease, who also experience the stress of high altitude traveling, jet lag, and other factors, might suffer from strokes.
Additionally, people who have a regular routine, as well as older people, might find it more difficult to recover from jet lag. Nonetheless, even in these scenarios, the symptoms should go away in two weeks tops.
On a final note, jet lag is something that each enthusiast traveler is likely to experience. Even so, it shouldn’t make you feel miserable and ruin your trip.
By taking a few of the steps mentioned in this guide, you can attempt to battle the severity of the jet lag symptoms we are all acquainted with.
While there’s no such thing as the ultimate remedy for fighting jet lag, the tips mentioned in this guide will definitely help.
The key is to get ready for the trip a few days beforehand and avoid the stress and anticipation associated with traveling. What is more, you should pay attention to what you eat before, during and after the flight and focus on staying hydrated at all times. Happy Journey!
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