When asked about the pitfalls of travelling a lot, it’s hard to think of any. What’s not to love about being on an adventure? There is one thing though, and that’s jet lag. Let’s take a look at jet lag, and the ways we can keep it to a minimum.
What is jet lag?
It’s that horrible feeling of exhaustion that you get from travelling for long periods of time, often through time zones, and which can take some people a week or more to get over. It’s a legitimate sleep disorder affecting millions. To compound this, check out this quote from the Sleep Foundation:
“For years, jet lag was considered merely a state of mind. Now, studies have shown that the condition actually results from an imbalance in our body’s natural “biological clock” caused by traveling to different time zones. Basically, our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called “circadian rhythms.” These rhythms are measured by the distinct rise and fall of body temperature, plasma levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake. “ – Source.
How do I deal with it?
Whilst there is no cut and dry answer because people function differently, you can try out these ideas:
- Try to pick a flight that arrives in your destination in the early evening, and try not to sleep before 10pm local time. If you must nap in the afternoon, try to limit it to two hours, no more, and set an alarm to make sure you wake up.
- Try to get in rhythm with the new time zone a few days prior to departure by getting up and going to bed several hours earlier (when heading East) and several hours later (if heading West).
- Change your watch/ clocks to the time of your destination as soon as you get on the plane.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine a minimum of four hours prior to sleep, as they act as stimulants that can affect sleep.
- Avoid a heavy meal as soon as you arrive. Instead have a light snack (not chocolate).
- Avoid heavy exercise close to when you wish to sleep. Light exercise earlier in the day is the ideal.
- Use earplugs and sleep masks to drown out noise and light to ensure a more restful sleep.
- Get out in the sunshine as much as possible, sunlight helps to regulate your biological clock.
- If you read somewhere that certain foods affect sleep, this is untrue and can be discarded.
Thanks to the Sleep Foundation for the great advice. Read more about travel related sleep problems here.