Are you worried about jetlag? Regardless of how much travel we do, most of us worry to some extent. Some complain that their trip abroad, or their return home, is tainted by it, while others smugly declare that they’re unaffected by jetlag. The fact is, some people suffer more than others.
According to the experts, you are more likely to experience jetlag when you travel from West to East. This is because you lose time when you travel East, and it is harder for your body to adjust to the shortened day, whereas when you travel West, you gain time, have a longer day, and are ready for a good night’s sleep when you arrive. However, the fact is that you are most likely to get severe jetlag when you get home! The adrenalin and excitement of your adventure will help you to keep going while you are away, whereas the anti-climax of returning home can make your jetlag symptoms seem worse.
Don’t let jetlag ruin your holiday or coming home – by understanding what causes the condition, you can help to alleviate the symptoms of jetlag.
What is Jetlag?
In order to understand jetlag, it helps to understand your circadian rhythm. Put simply, your circadian rhythm is your body clock; it determines when we feel tired, or hungry, and dictates the release and absorption of hormones in our normal daily routines. Thanks to our circadian rhythms, when it gets dark, we feel tired, and when it is light, we tend to be more alert. We get jetlag when something happens to interrupt our circadian rhythm. The most common cause of jetlag is travelling across multiple time zones, but shift workers experience jetlag too, when they switch from being awake during the day, to working at night and sleeping in the day. If your body clock is out of sync, it can take you a while to readjust; this means that you may struggle to sleep in the new time zone, wake up early, and be tired during the day.
It is unlikely that you will be able to prevent jetlag completely; after all, long-haul flights are, in themselves, tiring. But there are some simple things you can do:
Rest before you travel
There is no denying that preparing to travel is stressful; have you remembered everything? Do you have your tickets? Do you have enough currency? Will you get your connections? Did you leave the iron on at home? Dozens of questions will enter your mind in the days and even weeks before you travel. You may comfort yourself with the thought that you will rest on the journey but the chances are that if you are tired or run-down when you get on the plane, you won’t be able to sleep.
Set yourself up for a jetlag-free holiday by getting a good night’s sleep the night before.
Dehydration contributes to tiredness and jetlag, particularly in the dry atmosphere of a plane. It’s not unusual for travellers to suffer from dry skin, itchy, dry eyes, parched throat and nose. These conditions make you more likely to pick up a virus on the plane, which will only add to your exhaustion when you arrive. Don’t be afraid to ask cabin crew for water, to help you stay hydrated while you travel. If you are susceptible to dry skin or eyes, moisturisers, eye drops and nasal sprays can help, too.
Make sure you drink plenty of water to prevent headaches as well as dry nose and throat; conditions perfect for picking up a virus.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
The excitement of going on holiday, coupled with the free drink tempts many of us to hit the bar. Of course, it will be lovely at the time but a hangover takes jetlag to whole new levels and there will, after all, be plenty of time to make up for it when you land. Equally, caffeine, isn’t ideal if you want to minimise jetlag; both caffeine and alcohol dehydrate you and will make you feel rundown and lethargic on arrival.
Treat yourself to a couple of drinks but don’t hit the booze too hard or you’ll regret it when you land!
Get in sync, asap
Travelling across multiple time zones can be confusing; many of us juggle between home, local, and destination times to stay in control. While this is important, particularly if you are catching a connection flight in another time zone, try to adjust your body clock to the time of your ultimate destination as soon as you can. If your flight leaves at 10 pm and it is 4 am at your destination, allow yourself four or five hours’ sleep, so that you wake up at 8-9am local time. It may be tough, but for the rest of the journey, try to stay awake during the daytime hours of your final time zone; you will arrive tired but will adjust much more quickly.
Get a head-start on jetlag by changing your sleep patterns as soon as you get on the plane.
Whether you experience jetlag or not, the most important thing is that you travel safely and enjoy every moment; each new smell, sound and experience, so that you have a truly unforgettable trip. If you have any top tips for avoiding jetlag, let us know on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.