Jetlag can be anything from just a nuisance when you are traveling for pleasure, to a real problem if you have an urgent business appointment when you arrive at your destination. Your biological clock and the fatigue associated with sitting on a plane are the two major causes of jetlag. While there are no magic solutions to dealing with jetlag, here are 5 ways to deal with jetlag that will help you cope.
One of the mechanisms that determines our sleeping patterns is our “feeding clock.” At the most primitive level, we are still hunter/gatherers. When we are well fed, we get groggy and want to sleep, but when we are hungry, we become hyper-alert until we find food. If you can, skip the in-flight meals. If that sounds too daunting, at least skip the last meal before landing.
Fasting should not include avoiding water. In fact, it is best to drink plenty of water during your flight. Part of flight fatigue and jet lag is dehydration due to the air conditioning on board. If possible, take your own supply of water with you and drink it frequently.
Exercise during your flight. Ideally, take an aisle seat so you can easily move around the plane frequently while you are in flight. Walk up and down the aisles and go to the back of the plane and stretch. Stretch your arms and legs and breathe deeply. It is surprising how much a little in-flight exercise can help reduce jet lag.
3) Adjust Your Eating Habits
If you are flying to a time zone where you will be eating breakfast at the same time you would be eating dinner at home, try eating breakfast at night for a week or so before your flight. This should not affect your sleeping patterns at home, but when you reach your destination, it can help trick your body into thinking everything is normal.
4) Get Outdoors
If it is morning when you arrive at your destination, avoid the temptation to collapse on your hotel bed and make up for lost sleep time. Instead, get outdoors. Aside from our “feeding clock,” our bodies also follow “Circadian rhythms,” which is just another way of saying that we are programmed to wake up in the morning and sleep at night. By getting outdoors, you are telling your body clock what time it is.
As tempting as it may be to sleep, try to avoid sleep if you arrive at your destination during the daylight hours. If you must, take a short nap – no longer than half an hour. Set your alarm if you have to. After your nap, get outside and remind your body that it is daylight.
5) Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol is arguably the single greatest contributor to jet lag. You will be tempted to drink during the flight just to pass the time or in order to relax, but in-flight is the worst time to drink alcohol. Dehydration is a major cause of flight fatigue and alcohol dehydrates the body. If you do have a drink, follow it up with lots of water.
When you arrive at your destination, you may want a drink or two to relax and unwind. However, alcohol is not conducive to a good night sleep and may actually make it harder for you to sleep, especially if your arrival is in the evening or at night.
More people experience jetlag when traveling from west to east than from east to west. This is because if the body feels like it is moving back in time, as it does when traveling from east to west, it will not be as traumatized as it will be if it is forced to race forward in time. To get the most out of your vacation or business trip overseas, practice at least some of these 5 ways to deal with jetlag, especially if you are flying east. They really can help!
Valerie McGregor writes for Adventurous Wench, a travel company that offers travel tips, trip ideas, and a wide range of travel gear, travel clothes, and travel accessories.