Around 500,000 people are estimated to be airborne at any given time. Many of these flyers will cross multiple time zones, causing their body to be out of sync with their surroundings.
It’s easy to forget that our bodies need time adjusting after travelling long distances at high speeds. Often many travellers will experience difficulty in sleeping or staying alert causing what is known as a circadian rhythm sleep disorder or jet lag.
Your circadian rhythm regulated our sleep-wake cycle. It also influences other factors in our body such as our body temperature, eating timings and regulation of particular hormones. Jet lag occurs when your body clock is out of sync and your circadian rhythm is slow at adjusting to the new sleep-wake cycle.
Symptoms of Jet Lag
- Insomnia/distrusted sleep
- Daytime fatigue
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Stomach problems, such as indigestion
The symptoms of jet lag are often worse when you are travelling east than west. A study published in 2016 found that your body’s natural rhythm follows a 24.5-hour day, which is slightly longer than the usual 24-hour day. If you are travelling east through multiple time zones you are essentially losing additional time. When you travel west, it is much easier to stay up later as we add hours in our day which allows our body to have extra time to sync up our circadian cycle.
How to beat Jet Lag
- Prepare at home
Try to allow your body to adapt to your new time zone a couple days before you plan to depart. For example, if you’re flying west, eat dinner and sleep a couple hours later than usual and vice versa if you are travelling east. Try to get up later, or get up earlier respectively.
- Drink water
Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine on the flight and stay hydrated on the plane by drinking plenty of water. Alcohol and caffeine can cause you to become dehydrated and with the increased altitude on flight it can make you more tired, making your jet lag symptoms worse.
- Think about what you are eating
When you want to combat jet lag you should avoid eating sugary snacks and junk food as they lack vital nutrients. Likewise, avoid eat meals which are high in fat or carbohydrate rich before you fly because they are heavy and more difficult to digest making it harder to sleep on the flight. Pack healthy snacks for your flight, picking more protein rich, complex carbohydrate foods.
- Take it easy when you first arrive
It is best to ease your way into your new environment and time zone when you first arrive. A long flight can take a huge toll on your body, so you need some time to recover and relax. Your body will need some time to acclimatise especially if you are travelling from a cold to a warmer country.
- Consider breaking up your trip
If it is feasible and within your budget, plan a stopover which is half way to your destination, if you are flying across multiple time zones. For example, if you are travelling from Mumbai to New York, schedule a stopover in London. In this way you will be able to battle your jet lag easier and you will notice how much easier it will be to adjust to the time change in your final destination.
- Adjust before you go back home
If you know you will be jet lagged when you go home, then adjust to your home time zone before you fly. For example, if you are travelling east to go home then get up earlier and sleep earlier and vice versa if you are travelling west.
- Consider melatonin
Circadin is the medication which contains melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally secreted from our bodies by working as a darkness signal. It helps to regulate our bodies sleep-wake cycle and helps shift the timing of our body clock to your new time zone to help you overcome your jet lag more quickly and sleep easier.