How to Get Over Jet Lag?
What is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is a temporary sleep disturbance caused by a rapid change in time zones. Our bodies have internal biological clocks that help us fall asleep, wake up, and eat at approximately the same time each day. When people travel across time zones rapidly, the body clock remains synced to the original schedule and needs time to adjust to a new routine.
Unpleasant Symptoms of Jet Lag
- fatigue and weakness, mood swings during the day
- difficulty falling asleep and waking up; the person cannot get enough sleep
- poor concentration
- increased risk of constipation or diarrhea
Studies show that jet lag does not worsen the health condition of patients with chronic diseases. However, fatigue and sleep deprivation can compromise the immune system's ability to fight off colds and flu. So be sure to wash your hands frequently at the airport and try to avoid stress.
Risk Factors Contributing to Jet Lag
- The number of time zones. You are more likely to have pronounced symptoms of jet lag if you cross multiple time zones at once. The period of adaptation takes on average 1 day per 2 time zones crossed. For example, the body will need 1 day to recover after a three-hour flight and 5 days after a ten-hour flight.
- Sunlight. It has a major influence on melatonin production, which helps maintain the body's internal clock. This hormone synchronizes cell functions throughout the body. If you arrive at your destination during the day, but your internal clock tells you it's time to sleep, try to stay awake. If you fall asleep, it will be more difficult to adapt to a new time zone.
- Direction of flight. Flying east is harder than flying west. Scientists struggle to figure out the underlying cause, but one possible explanation involves altered physiology in the brain cells responsible for secreting melatonin. It seems that the brain finds it difficult to adjust when traveling to the east.
- Frequency of flights. People who fly regularly are more susceptible to experiencing more extreme jet lag symptoms. Unfortunately, it is impossible to get used to jet lag even if you fly frequently.
- Age. Older people and seniors need a longer time to recover.
Ways to Minimize Jet Lag
- Rest well before your flight. Sleep deprivation and fatigue can make your jet lag symptoms worse.
- Make changes to your routine a few days before flying. Schedule your meals either forward or backward in time (according to the time at your destination).
- Adjust your light exposure 2-3 days before your trip. Try out the Jet Lag Rooster Calculator to figure out when you should seek out or avoid light.
- Drink water on a plane, but avoid coffee, alcohol, and sweet foods. The air pressure in an airplane cabin at high altitudes leads to lower levels of oxygen and water in the blood. Therefore, it is important to stay hydrated but refrain from drinking alcohol as it increases dehydration.
- Take melatonin. If you know that you can be adversely affected by jet lag, consider taking melatonin. These supplements help restore biorhythms. People should avoid using melatonin to treat sleep problems without first consulting their physicians, but it can be taken during flights.
- When you arrive at your destination, try not to sleep until the local bedtime. Instead, take a walk and do not avoid sunlight. Remember to drink plenty of water.
There is no way to avoid jet lag entirely because the human body is not naturally prepared for a sudden change in the biological clock after a long flight. Although the condition is not curable, you can take steps to minimize the effects of jet lag.