Just about every traveler crossing time zones will have a story to tell about jetlag. Jetlag occurs when a traveler crosses a number of time zones at fast speeds. This forces the body into new patterns of activity much faster than the body’s internal organs can adjust and this is what brings about symptoms such as wooziness, fatigue, insomnia, headache, nausea, irritability, changes in appetite and digestion and memory loss among others. Jetlag, though relatively harmless, has been responsible for ruining holidays and wrecking havoc on hectic business schedules.
Travellers are not altogether at the mercy of jetlag though and there are a few precautions they can take before, during and after travel so as to say goodbye to flight induced unease. According to Edward Frost of British Airways, understanding what causes jet lag is a good place to start. He explains that deep in your brain is a circadian clock, a 24-hour master clock that synchronises all the internal systems to ensure that they function smoothly. These systems include the sleep/ wake cycle, levels of alertness, mood, digestion and many more. It is disruption of this clock that sends the body into confusion mode.
Four main factors affect the circadian clock are light, sleep, exercise and food and by manipulating these you can moderate the consequences of crossing time zones. Here are a few things you can do to make your travels less jetlag prone:
Modify your eating habits and exercise routines:
Diet and exercise does more than just keep our bodies in top shape. They can also help reset the body clock to a new time zone. It is best to eat little prior to your trip and then start eating according to the new time zone when you arrive. Fit in your exercise between late afternoon and early evenings as this appears to be the optimal times to reset the body clock.
Get enough rest before your flight
Plan the time around your travel such that there is enough time to get a good night’s sleep before departure. Catching that late night movie with friends or with your kids is all nice and fun but it won’t be of much help if you can barely get out of bed after your travels. A sleep deficit is the last thing you need when you’re facing a long haul flight.
Try to avoid interrupted sleep
I know it’s easier said than done but try as much as possible to maintain solid uninterrupted sleep patterns. If you wake up in the middle of the night and remain awake for an hour or two only to fall asleep again just before it’s time to get up, try going to bed a little later and setting the alarm a little earlier.
It’s also worth remembering that if you have input into the agenda on the business meeting, try to avoid the slot between three to five hours of your home time zone. This is when you’re most likely to be sleepiest and make mistakes.
Make use of light to help readjust your body clock
When there is a mismatch between your internal clock and the actual time, sleep doesn’t start when the body is expecting it to, or you don’t get enough for your needs. As the internal clock is strongly influenced by light, the best way to control jet lag is by the appropriate exposure to or avoidance of light at specific times of the day. There’s a jet lag calculator on ba.com http://www.britishairways.com/travel/drsleep/public/en_gb which will help you work out the best times to avoid light and expose yourself.
When you’re trying to get to sleep, ensure the room is pitch black. Donning an eye mask such as those provided in the in-flight comfort kits can be the best solution.
“Jet lag is manageable if you understand it and take steps to mitigate its consequences. I find it also helps immensely to try and limit stress before and when you travel. Simple ways to do this include checking-in online before departure, leaving yourself enough time between transfers and packing lightly. Stay hydrated on board, don’t overdo the caffeine or alcohol and do some stretching exercises,” says Edward.