Individuals are once again jetting across the globe, reuniting with loved ones and seeing new places after several years of lockdowns and travel bans. However, jet lag can dampen the initial excitement of a trip abroad and make it difficult to readjust to normal life upon returning home. In what ways does travel cause fatigue? Moreover, are there any things you could be doing to mitigate its impact?
Where Does the Word Jet Lag Come From?
The word “jet lag” is used to define the mental and physiological effects of the rapid crossing of multiple time zones. You are adjusted to the local time zone right before you leave on a trip. When you travel to a different time zone, your internal clock no longer synchronises with the time you see on the wall.
This is when the effects of jet lag began to become noticeable. You can’t stay awake when you need to, and sleep if you want to. Midnight hunger strikes and daytime meals may leave you feeling nauseous or bloated. You will be physically and mentally thrown off by the time difference until your internal clock adjusts to the new time zone. Not in a good mood for the holidays.
Everyone Reacts Differently to Jet Lag
Interestingly, different people react to jet lag in different ways. This is because each of us moves to the beat of our drum. The average human day lasts about 24 hours and two minutes. Therefore, if we never saw the light of day, our circadian rhythms (the time it takes us to go from sleeping to being awake) would remain constant at around 24.2 hours. Scientists believe that this is a result of our evolved capacity to respond to seasonal shifts in the daylight. However, the length of one’s biological cycle may affect how severely one feels the effects of jet lag.
We don’t know if a shortened cycle is helpful going eastward, but studies suggest that people with longer cycles may find it easier to adapt to westward journeys, such as flying from Melbourne to South Africa. The elderly are more likely to experience severe jet lag because of a decrease in resilience that occurs naturally with age.
How Important Is It Which Way You Go?
As a rule of thumb, many individuals prefer travelling westward, where you “gain” time. Let’s pretend Rose and Samantha both leave Melbourne at the same time. When Rose arrives in Perth in the afternoon, the time difference between the two cities will be about 2.5 hours. She takes in the sights, and by 8:30 p.m. local time, she’s sound asleep. In the morning, she gets up early and begins her day. Because Rose’s circadian rhythm lags behind local time initially, she eventually becomes perfectly in sync.
In the meantime, Samantha arrives in Auckland roughly 2.5 hours later. She stays up all night long, taking full advantage of the pleasant weather, because she can’t sleep in. When her alarm sounds off at 7 a.m., she has a hard time getting out of bed because, according to her internal clock, it’s only 4:30 a.m. Samantha is more likely to experience serious and prolonged jet lag than Rose.
Is Jet Lag Just a “Mental” Phenomenon?
Some individuals may question whether or not your state of jet lag is entirely real. It is because there is a discrepancy between your brain-determined internal time and the time in your external environment. However, rationalising your way out of jet lag is not an option. It’s more accurately viewed as a physiological than a psychological disorder. You can help your body’s internal clock readjust and reduce the effects of jet lag by taking a few easy steps. This is crucial for top athletes who have to travel far to compete.
The first step is to evaluate whether or not it’s worthwhile to try to adjust to the present moment. You may find it more convenient to stick with your regular time zone if the trip is short. You should begin adjusting your natural rhythms, including when you go to bed, eat, workout, and take in sunlight, to the new timezone if you’ll be there for more than 3 days.
Beginning the process of resetting your internal clock on the aeroplane is recommended. To plan your day effectively, you should adjust your watch to the local time. Reduce your intake of alcohol and caffeine before and during your trip. This will aid in acclimating your sleep and water schedules to the different time zone.
Water loss is a real risk on long trips, so you might find yourself drinking less water than usual to prevent the need to stop toilet breaks. Don’t rush into making a decision. You can lessen the effects of jet lag and fatigue from travelling by staying properly hydrated.
It is recommended to bring an empty water bottle through security checkpoints and refill it once you reach the terminal. In addition to ordering it in-flight, you can buy water at the airport. Once you get there, don’t stop hydrating.
Sleep Schedule Adjustments Should Begin Well in Advance of Departure
It is recommended if at all possible, to ease into any changes to your sleep schedule several weeks before a trip. To accomplish this, one must either stay awake a little later (when traveling west) or get to bed earlier (when heading east).
It is best to sleep throughout the local evening when you adjust to the different local times and to sleep whenever you feel tired otherwise. Naps, even if they’re brief, can help you power through the rest of the day and into the evening. Aim for no more than 30 minutes, and skip naps later during the day as your bedtime draws near.
Abdominal pain is one of the signs of jet lag. Small, on-the-go meals are your best bet if you, like me, are prone to or experience stomach issues when on the road. Instinctively, you’ll know when you’re hungry because your body will tell you so. Caffeine and alcohol, as discussed in Tip #3, should be avoided.
Sunshine is essential for adapting to an unfamiliar time zone. Adjusting your schedule to account for the new time zone may help.
Sleep aids may be helpful for jet lag-related insomnia; discuss this with your doctor. There is some evidence that sleep aids can help people who are still getting used to their new environment sleep better at night. When flying, you might want to bring these aids with you as well. There are some downsides to using sleep aids, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of this option. Jet lag daytime signs may not be alleviated by sleep aids.
Wherever Your Sleeping, Make It Comfy
Make your bedroom as comfortable as possible for restful nights. That may involve:
- Using a mask to inhibit light.
- Turning off screens and lights.
- Creating a cool room.
- Inserting earplugs to block out sound.
These are all good strategies for getting a good night’s rest.