Time-zone hopping is really glamorous – until you’re the person lying wide awake in the middle of the night, wondering if your partner has always breathed in such an annoying way.
Because we humans tend to run on 24-hour cycles and our bodies desire food, sleep and activity at roughly the same times every day, stepping out of that routine can leave us feeling tired, cranky and off-kilter. Brain-wave activity, hormone production and cell regeneration are all linked to this daily cycle, so when we don’t follow its rules (like when we’re changing time zones) our bodies let us know by throwing up a whole load of uncomfortable symptoms.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic trick for sidestepping jet lag completely, but there are things we can do to reduce its effects and speed the recovery process along.
A couple of days before the flight, start gradually changing your sleeping patterns. Those heading west (towards the US) will find it helpful to go to bed later. Those heading east (towards Asia) will want some shuteye earlier than usual. Tweaking your sleeping patterns to fit your new time zone ahead of time will lessen the shock when you have to do it for real.
Keep Your Bedtime Routine Sacred
This goes for every night, but it is especially important when jet lag looms. Be strict with yourself about the period leading up to sleep: avoid screens; do something relaxing; and turn the lights out at a decent time.
Go With The Flow
When you’re crossing a few time zones, the timetable of the flight will be scheduled to the one you’re heading into, rather than the one you’re leaving. That’s why, for example, when you get on a flight from London to Singapore, you’ll find yourself eating dinner in what feels like mid-morning. Embrace this. Eat when meals are served; sleep when the lights go off, even if it feels like the middle of the day. The sooner you can get your body into the new rhythm, the better. Setting your watch to the destination time zone will make this easier.
Avoid Sleeping Pills
They are likely to leave you feeling groggy on arrival, which is the opposite of what you’re looking for. Opt for a natural herbal tea instead.
Watch What You Drink
Speaking of tea, avoid caffeinated drinks altogether, even if you feel like you need them to stay awake. Caffeine is as an unnatural stimulant and will only increase the time it takes you to get over jet lag. The same, we’re afraid to say, goes for alcohol. Though it might seem like a great idea to rinse the in-flight mini bar, it’ll just dehydrate you, further exacerbating the feelings of tiredness. Your safest bet is to stick to water – and lots of it.
Keeping your blood flowing will ensure good circulation – the lack of which is one of the most common side effects of jet lag. Though undeniably hideous, flight socks will reduce the risk of DVT. If you can’t bear to subject yourself to them, make sure you get up for a stretch and a walk around every couple of hours.
Be A Sun Worshipper
Vitamin D is one of the best ways to combat any feeling of fatigue. Rather than napping on arrival, commit to getting out and about if it’s still the middle of the day. Though it may initially feel exhausting, you’ll feel much better for it in the long run.
Topping up those endorphins will help you to feel good. Some gentle exercise – something low impact and in the fresh air – will probably feel the most beneficial.
If you didn’t get much sleep on the flight, it’s not a crime to nap. Just make sure you’re strict about timings. A 20-minute snooze will invigorate you. A three-hour doze will do the opposite.
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