Travel Tips airplanejetlag

Published on May 24th, 2013 | by Daniel


The Best Way to Overcome a Jet Lag

Everyone who has taken an airplane over multiple time zones has experienced it some way or another: jet lag. It can happen to anyone, from first time travellers to experienced air pilots. If after extensive travel you have difficulties to sleep but feel dead tired, hard to keep focus and your whole rhythm is smashed, then you know it. You have a jet lag.

In a medical sense a jet lag is a period where your body has to adapt to its new operational time cycle. As humans we have circadian rhythms or in other words, innate biological clocks. It determines when we go to sleep and when we wake up. We are animals who are built to be awake at day and at sleep at night. Travelling over time zones quickly can shake your rhythm and may cause you insomnia and rest problems for a short period, because your sleep and wake times are not in tune with the daily routine of your new environment.

A jet lag is not a serious medical condition but it can influence your way of behavior in the first days after you have arrived. Some even suffer from a jet lag a month in.

What Factors Contribute to a Jet Lag?

The main reason that makes you have a jet lag is that you travel over time zones quickly, without giving your body the time to adjust to the new daily cycle. Most often this happens because you travel by plane. There are also minor other causes for a jet lag, including: unable to sleep on the plane, lack of oxygen at the place of arrival and the time of departure. When you depart early in the morning (i.e. 2am) while flying to the west, you do not have time to sleep that night, while you gain extra day hours in your journey to the west. That means that you will be likely to be very tired the first days after you arrived.

So what to do about a jet lag? Here are the best ways.

Prevent a Jet Lag from Happening in the First Place

If you can prevent the causes of jet lag in the first place then you will not have to worry about it. Some methods to prevent a jet lag from happening are:

- Travel at a slow pace, so take the train/boat/car instead of the plane.
- Sleep on the plane. If this is difficult try to acquire eye pads, neck support and earplugs. These will make it much easier to sleep in a crowded area. In special cases it can be beneficial to skip sleep on the plane though (see below).
- Depart late at night (if you sleep in the plane) when going west-east or depart in the afternoon when going east-west. In this way you can smuggle a couple of hours and regain your normal rhythm quickly.
- Stick to your normal sleep patterns as at home. This is only advisable when you are away for a couple of days though.
- Be physically fit. A healthy body can take much more and will have much less problems with a jet lag. A good way to achieve as well is to drink a lot of water (no alcohol) and to keep active during the trip.

However, if you cannot do this and/or you do have a jet lag, here is the best remedy to cure it quickly.

Best Remedy: Adjust to Your New Daily Cycle as Quick as Possible

A good way to cure a jet lag is to get attuned to your new daily rhythm as quick as possible. Follow the new schedule and do not look back. Just pretend you have been in that place already for a long time. So do not go earlier to bed as you normally would and especially do not oversleep. This can be hard the first night but the next nights will be so much easier. So ideally you will only have endure a jet lag the first day (depending on your physical condition of course).

If you fly west – east you will arrive in a later time zone. It can be difficult to get to sleep because for your body clock it is still morning/afternoon while the local time is at night. One way to overcome this is to not sleep on the plane so that you feel tired enough to fall asleep. Sometimes a little alcohol after you have arrived (i.e. one glass of wine maximum) can work very well to put you into the sleepy zone also.

In case you fly east – west you will arrive in an earlier time zone. If you arrive at night that can be perfect as you can go to bed quickly. When you did not sleep well on the plane you will feel tired but it is important that you stretch a couple of hours until your normal bedtime. You can differentiate one hour when that is more convenient.

Now, there are also medical supplicants to help you go to sleep easily or that even can make your body clock more quickly. We do not recommend these, for the main reason that they are unnatural shortcuts for a non-critical physical condition (if you are a healthy person). These supplements will likely stretch out the problem of a jet lag over the long run. Of course, a little alcohol to sleep or a little caffeine to wake up is perfectly fine to use for overcoming a jet lag, if your medical condition allows it.

In any case, the bottom line to overcome a jet lag is: do not engage in crazy solutions or long drawn sleeping adjustments. Cold turkey is the way to go. Get accustomed to your new daily routine as quick as possible and you will be fit and proper in no time.

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  • Mr. Basil Archer

    I travel frequently on long flights abroad on business and I find the jet lag is a common problem for me. I will certainly try to prevent jet lag with the above tips.

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