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If you've ever traveled to a different time zone, you may have experienced what is known as jet lag.
Jet lag occurs when you travel across multiple time zones, which disturbs your sleep patterns. For professional trips in particular, jet lag can be quite troublesome since you will not be well-rested for the following day.
And disrupted sleep is a recipe for disaster, as you become prone to making mistakes, and your ability to make decisions is negatively impacted. This is not a favorable outcome in any scenario, which makes dealing with jet lag all the more important.
To help you manage it well, we've created a complete guide on jet lag and how you can get over it using simple but effective steps. Read on to learn how to maintain your sleep schedule and make the most out of your next trip!
As mentioned earlier, jet lag disorder occurs when you travel across multiple time zones in a short time. This happens when your body's internal clock, the circadian rhythms, don't sync well with the new time zone. And since the body clock is disturbed, your body will not fall asleep or stay awake when needed.
When you experience jet lag, you will face symptoms of sleep deprivation, such as daytime drowsiness, reduced cognitive abilities, and sleeping issues. You may also feel unusually ill, along with gastrointestinal problems. Moreover, your mood, ability to concentrate, and physical and mental performance take a hit, which can spell trouble in the short term.
The farther you travel, the worse the jet lag becomes. You will experience the jet lag symptoms listed above within a day or two after crossing the time zones with a difference of more than an hour. This is particularly true while flying east.
Thankfully, jet lag is temporary, and it wears off in some time once you've fully adjusted to the new time zone.
It may surprise you to know that jet lag is directly affected by the direction you travel in, specifically if you travel eastward or westward.
Each direction has a different time zone associated with it, along with a different daytime and nighttime duration. The farther you travel in either direction, the more jet-lagged you will become, and as a result, the more time you will need to recover.
When traveling eastward, you will face difficulty falling asleep at night. As a result, you will also find it more difficult to sleep well in the remaining hours of the night. Your body will need more time to adjust to the new time zone.
For each time zone that you cross in the east, you will face jet lag symptoms for one day. So, if you cross three time zones eastward, you will face jet lag symptoms for three days.
In contrast, flying west makes you more likely to wake up earlier than expected. Your body will need some time to adjust to the new time zone, albeit not as much as when traveling east.
For each time zone crossed while traveling west, you will be jet lagged for two-thirds of a day. So, for three time zones crossed, you will be jet-lagged for about two days.
Jet lag is quite common and easily manageable, which can help you transition from the local time zone to a new one quickly. While your body can resync its internal clock on its own, you needn't wait for it to happen naturally. After all, the time you spend jet lagged is the time you spend in a less-than-ideal physical and cognitive condition.
Here are a few tips to get over jet lag quickly and effectively.
One of the simplest things you can do to manage jet lag is to adjust your internal clock by controlling natural light exposure. By planning when you are exposed to natural light and darkness, your body will adjust to the new time zone naturally, albeit in a faster way.
You can control morning light exposure through alarm clocks or smartphone apps dedicated to managing jet lag. These tools can help you create an adjustment plan, allowing you to follow a set schedule based on the number of time zones crossed.
You can begin adjusting to the new time zone even before you've reached it. To do so, you can try sleeping according to the destination time zone to be well-adjusted to it when you reach the place. And take care not to go for a short nap during the day, or else you will risk disturbing your internal clock once again.
Feel free to use all the tools and implements at your disposal to get the appropriate amount of rest. Some of these tools are:
Dehydration is a common result of reduced water consumption during travel. No one likes to visit the restroom frequently during travel, after all.
But this can have a negative impact on your ability to fall asleep, resulting in worsened jet lag and increased travel fatigue. You will be left facing both dehydration and jet lag symptoms simultaneously, which can be very troubling on trips. As a rule, you should drink plenty of water to not feel jet lagged.
Consider carrying a water bottle through airport security to fill up later, purchasing one in the terminal, or getting one in-flight from a flight attendant. No matter which option you choose, ensure that you stay hydrated throughout your travels.
Caffeine is a stimulating substance that can help you remain active and ward off sleep for a brief while. While it can't prevent jet lag, it can keep you focused when you need to. Even 300 milligrams of slow-release caffeine can help, especially if you're traveling east.
You can consume caffeine in any form, be it coffee, tea, energy drinks, soft drinks, or chocolate. Beverages are typically the most convenient of them all, given how prevalent vending machines are in airports. That said, you may want to take note of the amount of sugar and other substances present in them before consuming them.
Caffeine consumption is best kept moderate during the night. If you drink too much coffee during the day, you may have difficulty sleeping.
One of the best ways to fall asleep quickly is to create a comfortable and relaxing sleeping space by adjusting the ambient temperature.
Take note of the thermostat settings in your room to ensure that you aren't excessively cold or warm during the night. The goal here is to limit the number of times you wake up during the night.
Next, keep electronics away from the immediate vicinity of your bed. This will allow you to remain isolated from any disturbances that may disturb your sleep. Consider keeping your phone on silent for the duration of your sleep.
Bringing comfort objects from home can also help you relax better. It could be something as simple as a white noise machine; all that matters is that your surrounding space is comfortable. You may consider bringing your favorite blanket or a familiar lotion to facilitate a relaxing sleeping environment.
Sleep aids, particularly those that contain melatonin, can help you become drowsy and fall asleep quickly. These supplements can be in the form of chewable, gummies, or tablets.
Consider taking melatonin supplements at night if you don't feel sleepy enough by your normal bedtime. Refer to the label on whichever sleep aid you prefer to time its acting time with your preferred sleeping time.
And lastly, make sure you don't consume more than 5 mg of melatonin at once to avoid any side effects. You should always make it a point to consult a doctor before picking up sleep aids.
Treatments are the final step you should resort to if you travel frequently and can’t combat jet lag effectively. Jet lag-induced insomnia is a real possibility, so the doctor may prescribe sleeping pills to help you rest well.
For this, approach a sleep specialist for recommendations and sleeping pills. Be sure to ask your doctors for recommendations on taking medication and how to use them effectively.
Note that you should avoid sleeping pills if your symptoms are not particularly serious. Sleeping pills come with side effects of their own, which can have a serious impact on your health.
More often than not, jet lag is a relatively non-serious issue that goes away on its own. For the day or two that you need to get over jet lag, though, it can be difficult to manage. Using the steps listed above, you can reduce jet lag symptoms in a new time zone quite effectively.
While jet lag is all but a certainty during long flights, it doesn't have to disrupt your professional or vacation plans. Take every precaution necessary to keep the stress born of air travel at bay, and remain proactive to avoid jet lag.