Are you planning to get on a plane anytime soon? Perhaps you’re headed to see family or friends across the country – or even across the globe – sometime in the near future. If so, there’s one thing you should be aware and concerned about . . . and no, it’s not airplane food! It’s jet lag. So what exactly is jet lag? And is there a way to avoid it? Let’s take a close look at this unfortunate side effect of traveling . . .
Are you planning to get on a plane anytime soon? Perhaps you’re headed to see family or friends across the country – or even across the globe – sometime in the near future. If so, there’s one thing you should be aware and concerned about . . . and no, it’s not airplane food! It’s jet lag.
So what exactly is jet lag? And is there a way to avoid it? Let’s take a look at this unfortunate side effect of traveling.
What is jet lag?
Jet lag is the fatigue that results when rapid travel disturbs your normal body rhythms. It’s felt more often when you’re crossing several time zones, such as from coast to coast. I recently went on a trip to Hawaii, and even though it’s only three hours difference from California time, it threw me off for the first couple of days.
What are the symptoms of jet lag?
The symptoms of jet lag may include exhaustion, drowsiness, difficulty sleeping, impaired memory and mental functioning, crankiness, headaches, stomachaches and minor coordination problems.
How does jet lag happen?
Well, we all have an internal body clock that determines when sleeping, waking, and hunger occur in a 24-hour period. When you travel across several time zones, your day is longer or shorter than the 24-hour cycle that you’ve become accustomed to and your body is out of sync. Your normal body rhythms can’t adjust quickly to this shorter or longer day, which results in jet lag.
Interestingly, not all jet lags are created equal. Traveling eastward, which shortens your day, is more difficult than flying westward, which lengthens it.
West-to-east trips may require one day of recovery for each time zone crossed. If you’re traveling on an east-to-west journey, you may need one day of recovery for each one-and-a-half time zones crossed. For example, when you cross three time zones flying east, it might take three days to recover, but when you fly west, it may take no more than two days for your body to catch up.
How can you avoid jet lag?
To avoid jet lag, try to break up a long journey with a stopover. If you have an important event or meeting to attend at your destination, try to get there two or three days in advance. Also, drink lots of beverages during the flight, but avoid those containing caffeine or alcohol. Before, during and after your flight, eat meals high in protein and low in calories.
Additionally, try the following:
- If you fly east, you should go to bed earlier than usual for a few days before the trip. If you fly west, go to bed later than usual.
- Schedule your arrival at about your usual bedtime, according to the time at your destination, or sleep on the plane and plan to arrive at your usual waking time.
- Set your watch to the destination time when you are halfway through your flight, so you can start thinking in terms of the new time.
- Spend more time outside at your destination. This exposure to bright outdoor light will help you adjust faster than if you stayed in your hotel room.
- If you’re having trouble sleeping on the plane or in your final destination, an herbal supplement made with valerian root or chamomile may help you achieve a restful slumber.
Don’t let jet lag ruin your next trip! Take the advice listed above into consideration the next time you have to hop on a plane, and you’ll have a much better business trip or vacation.