Over the last century, traveling has become incredibly fast. Today, you can literally fly around the world in one day, a trip that would’ve taken our ancestors years to complete. This amazing speed comes with one major downside, thanks to time zones and the way our bodies work: jet lag. Below, we’ll discuss what it is and also mention a few science-backed ways to avoid jet lag.
What is jet lag?
When you travel great distances at great speeds – say, you fly from Berlin to Los Angeles or from London to Sydney – your biological clock and the local time get out of sync. This leads to the condition called jet lag (desynchronosis or circadian dysrhythmia). In short, it is the desynchronization of the body’s internal clock and the actual time at the destination – the body still feels like it is the morning while, in fact, it is the evening in the place where you are at. This leads to the body being totally confused (its internal clock doesn’t coincide with the realities around it). This confusion manifests itself in, depending on the direction in which you fly, trouble falling asleep or waking up way too early, lack concentration, fatigue, headaches, digestion issues, and loss of appetite, among others.
You need to travel three or more time zones, either to the east or the west, to experience jet lag.
How to prevent jet lag?
Your circadian rhythm is influenced by the periods of light and dark at your place of residence. When the sun comes up, your brain feels that it needs to wake up, while when the darkness comes, it secretes a hormone – melatonin – that tells the body that it’s time to sleep. When traveling west, jet lag can be solved relatively easy – you need to expose yourself to light during the day and avoid light during the night so your body can listen to its hormones and pick up the right circadian rhythm quickly. When traveling great distances, try to choose a flight that arrives at your destination early in the morning – and stay awake until at least 10 PM local time, take only short naps if you need but make sure not to oversleep, keep yourself occupied by staying active, walking in the sun, sitting in a park playing games at Betway, walking to a bunch of sights nearby or something similar. This way, you can almost eliminate the effects of jet lag almost immediately.
When preparing for a long trip, try to get your body used to the schedule of your destination. Adjust your sleep schedule to match it, and make sure to adopt a more flexible schedule for a week before you leave, thus making it easier for your body and mind to transition easier. Sleep well before boarding the plane, and when you board, set your watch and your phone’s clock to the time zone of your destination.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol for at least three hours before going to sleep – instead, expose yourself to as much sunlight as you can. Don’t eat heavy meals and don’t do heavy exercise toward bedtime – this also acts as a stimulant that makes it harder for you to fall asleep.
Try to bring a few items with you from home (a picture, a pillow, and such) to make your hotel room a more familiar space, making it easier for you to fall asleep. When going to sleep, make sure to eliminate all distractions and “light-proof” your room – a good night’s sleep will help you get through jet lag faster than you think.