Tips and Tricks: How to Avoid Jet Lag

Most of us know about it but less do not know how to avoid jet lag. Some consider it a necessary evil when you travel. Learn how to make it better.

Tips and Tricks: How to Avoid Jet Lag

The long flight is over, and you’ve managed the grueling process of retrieving your baggage and navigating your way through an airport. Finally you are ready to step out into a new and exotic locale and enjoy your much-needed vacation. You should be feeling the thrill and happy expectation of enjoying your stay in a faraway place. Right?

Unfortunately, instead of the anticipation you expected to feel, you find that you are feeling anxious, tired, headachy and a little disoriented. You might even be feeling a bit sweaty and dizzy.

Did you catch something from the canned air on the flight? No. What’s happened to you is a case of desynchronosis. And no, it’s not as dire as it sounds. Desynchronosis is better known as jet lag, and it can really take away from your enjoyment of the first several days of your vacation, or even impede your functionality at the beginning of an important business trip. 

Is jet lag something you just have to grit your teeth and bear with good grace, like the pat-down you endured at airport security? Not necessarily. There are some good tips that can lessen your suffering and help you to bounce back quickly, or even to prevent jet lag altogether. Read on to learn about jet lag and how to avoid it.

First, you must understand why jet lag occurs. Our body is designed to pick up certain cues in order to function. These cues are absorbed mainly through our eyes. They initiate specific responses in our bodily systems. Based on the amount of daylight, or lack thereof, our body is triggered to know when it’s time to sleep, wake, eat, and even when to go to the bathroom.

This is known as circadian rhythm. When you fly across several time zones, you may emerge from the plane into a place where it’s late in the evening, when your body thinks it should only be lunch time. Or it could be the opposite, depending on which way you’ve traveled. Either way can be difficult, but the rule generally states that west is best, and east is a beast; meaning it’s easier for your body to adapt to a longer day than a shorter one. What are some ways to ward off a debilitating case of desynchronosis? Some good tips include preparing your body ahead of time to endure a shock to your circadian rhythm, and then adjusting and resetting once you’ve arrived.

Adopt to adapt!

One great tip is to begin to alter your sleep patterns roughly three days before your planned trip. Adopt the hours of the time zone of your destination. For example, you can move your bedtime forward or back one hour per night to adapt to the new time zone before arriving. Melatonin or herbal sleep remedies such as valerian can help you to fall asleep earlier than your normal bedtime.

Seek sleep!

If possible, choose flights during the sleeping hours of the place you will be visiting and try to sleep on the flight. Avoid using over-the-counter sleep aids, as they may leave you groggy and worsen jet lag upon arrival. Bring a sleep-inducing herbal tea bag and ask the flight attendants for a cup of hot water so you can make some soothing tea. Use a sleep mask, ear-plugs and neck pillow, to aid your rest. If possible, choose a window seat to avoid being disturbed by others getting up to use the restroom.

Hydrating is huge!

Stay hydrated. The dry, recycled air during flights can contribute to dehydration which will worsen jet lag. Drink plenty of liquids preflight and during your flight. This is another good opportunity to drink a relaxing herbal tea.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine

Resist the urge to begin the party early by indulging in a cocktail on the plane. Alcohol can cause dehydration which increases the negative effects of jet lag. Coffee, soda, and energy drinks contain caffeine. You should avoid these stimulants while in flight in order to get the optimal amount of rest.

Soak up the sun!

Once you’ve arrived, resist the urge to nap. Instead, try to get out into the sun. If your body thinks it should be night time, you can help it to adapt by exposing yourself to bright sunlight, which will reset your circadian rhythm. Keep moving and enjoy the sights, as fresh air and exercise reinforce your body’s attempts to adjust to the fact that it’s daytime, when your internal clock thinks you should have your face buried in a pillow. Stay out and about, and aim for an early bedtime, rather than trying to nap first and explore later. There will be plenty of time for that tomorrow, when you'll wake up well-rested thanks to the precautions you've taken.

Supplement solutions

Some vitamins that may be helpful to minimize the effects of jet lag include vitamin B-12 for energy once you’ve arrived, and vitamin C to boost your immune system. Unlike caffeine, which can bring up your energy levels temporarily and then result in a crash due to dehydration, vitamin B-12 provides your body with long-lasting natural energy and stamina. Vitamin C will aid your immune system to prevent any illnesses that you may have been exposed to during your flight.Whether it’s a long-awaited vacation or an important business trip, no one wants to waste a day away feeling as though their body has not yet caught up to their head. Plan and prepare in advance to avoid or minimize jet lag and get the most out of your trip!

Resources— MedicineNet, pubmed.gov, Mayo Clinic