How to beat jet lag

How to Beat Jet Lag: 5 Simple Tips to Travel Like a Pro

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Travelling is, of course, one of the best things a person can do. What isn’t so great is the sometimes accompanying jet lag that can ruin the beginning of your trip.

I don’t have too many impressive skills to boast about, but one is that I have never suffered (badly) from jet lag! Now I say (badly) because up until this recent trip to Europe I had never had it at all, but coming back I was a little more tired than usual… I secretly want to blame it on being fatigued from the crazy 5 weeks abroad but feel like that’s cheating a little.

The reason I don’t suffer from jet lag? I worked out what I needed to do quickly and stuck to it. To help you get over your jet lag efficiently and get you on with your trip or back to reality, take a read of this handy guide. Please keep in mind I can’t give medical advice, and everyone has a different opinion on how to beat jet lag, but these are the tips I use.

What causes jet lag?

Jet lag is a collection of symptoms a person can experience when travelling between different time zones. The reason why travelling between different time zones affects our bodies in such a way is because our bodies have an internal system which determines the daily activities that it needs to do (like eating and sleeping!) and when it needs to do them.

When we move to a different time zone, this internal system – known as circadian rhythms – gets out of sync and lead to jet lag symptoms. These symptoms can range from fatigue, memory and concentration lapses and headaches to insomnia, bowel problems, loss of appetite and indigestion… no fun to have on your travels!

Jet lag affects everyone slightly differently and varies with your age, stress levels and level of fitness. Because of this, it’s usually hard to say how long the effects of jet lag can be, although for the average person it is said that you should take one full day for each time zone crossed; for example, if you have crossed five time zones, generally speaking, it should take you five days to recover from jet lag symptoms.

Does flying east or west make jet lag worse?

People say: ‘West is best, east is a beast’. If you’re flying eastwards, you will find that your jet lag symptoms will be much worse. The reason for this is simple; our natural body clocks are wired to run longer than 24 hours.

So if we gain hours, like we do when we fly west, our bodies are much better equipped at staying up that little bit longer. When we fly east, we lose hours and are therefore trying to sleep when our bodies think it’s time to be wide awake.

How to beat jet lag

Although avoiding jet lag completely is pretty much impossible, there are a number of ways in which you can decrease the severity of the symptoms and recover more quickly.

So here are my tips on how to beat jet lag.

1. Get plenty of rest before flying

Travelling halfway across the world on a plane is no mean feat; being at that altitude and air pressure is very stressful for the body. This is not particularly helped by the fact that a lot of people pre-trip get very little sleep from pre-trip excitement or just from rushing around last minute to make sure everything is done before they leave home.

Try to get a lot of your trip planning and packing done a couple of days before your trip so you have time to relax. This will mean your body is rested when you get on the flight, giving your body the energy to fight the oncoming jet lag symptoms.

2. Keep your sleep pattern normal to the time zone

When you have jet lag, it’s sometimes really hard not to fall asleep where you are, even if you’re standing in a queue. It is best to try and keep a normal sleeping schedule when you have jet lag. Of course, this can be easier said than done when your body thinks it’s the afternoon when it’s now the middle of the night.

The best thing to do is, if you have very little sleep the night you arrive, try and stay awake until the next evening, by which point you should be so tired you’ll have no problems dropping off. If you do need to nap in the day, make sure you set an alarm for a maximum of 30 minutes; oversleeping will only mess up your body clock further.

And whatever you do, don’t be tempted to take sleeping pills. The effects of these pills can make you drowsy and they do nothing to actually help beat jet lag; they only help short-term. It’s better to let your body recover naturally.

3. Eat and drink well to help your body recover

Jet lag is partly caused by dehydration, which begins on the plane; cabin pressure causes a loss of body water and electrolytes. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water on the plane and then continue to do so once you’ve arrived at your destination, especially if it’s a hot one.

It’s also important to stick with three simple meals a day to get your body used to the new time zone. Because of the dehydration and other jet lag symptoms such as headaches and dodgy stomach, it’s also important that you avoid alcohol for the first few days after you arrive.

I’ve heard of some people eating on the schedule of their destination a few days before leaving to get their body used to those new meal times, but I’ve never tried this.

4. Get exercise to fall asleep easier

A good way of making sure that your body is sufficiently tired to sleep is to get some exercise, or at least make sure you’re moving around enough.

This starts as early as being on the plane; cabin pressure combined with sitting still for a long period of time is bad for circulation, so get up and move around at regular intervals while on the flight.

Then when you arrive at your destination, take advantage of the hotel pool or just take a walk for at least 30 minutes every day.

5. Be careful of fogginess

Jet lag can make your brain a bit fuzzy so make sure you’re not doing anything like driving or extreme sports for at least the first 24 hours after you arrive as your concentration will be impaired. It will take your body longer to react, so you shouldn’t put yourself in situations which require you to be on the ball.

Jet lag is not pleasant, but it can be easily overcome if you follow these easy steps and look after your body before, during and after your journey.

Do you have any additional tips on how to beat jet lag? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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