You may think you have rhythm, but when it comes to your circadian rhythm, you’re often helpless to outside factors that want to mess it all up, much like dancing with a double left footed partner.
In English, your circadian rhythm is your internal clock. It tells you when to wake up and when to call it a day. Usually this works pretty flawlessly, but then you take that long haul international holiday you have been dying for and your internal clock goes cuckoo. Welcome to the wonderful world of jetlag!
Jetlag is our internal clock going haywire due to flying across time zones where the sun may say it is noon but our bodies are telling us it should be midnight. Signs you may be affected by jetlag include brain fog, irritability, loss of appetite, feeling sick or weak, and waking up at odd hours.
Jetlag is worst when we partake in long haul flights. Unfortunately, Aussies have it pretty bad when it comes to dealing with jetlag as long haul flights are a part of just about every international voyage for us.
Light is one of the major factors which tells us when to sleep and when to wake. Normally when the sun rises, our internal clock tells us to get up, but when we travel and our darkness/sleep hours are skipped or shortened, a new factor comes into play. Without getting to technical, a protein called SIK1 counteracts the stimulating effect of light and pulls the plug on our energy. Should we find a way to block or limit the effects of this protein, we then may have cure for jetlag.
In the meantime there are thankfully tricks which can have you going head to head with this nasty travel annoyance. Follow these helpful tips and you will hopefully land a killer blow to jetlag before it knocks you out.
Choosing overnight flights will be your best option as they will allow you to fall asleep at your normal time. You will also eat meals at your regular times.
If you have the opportunity to book Business or First Class seats, this will of course make falling asleep much easier as you can lay flat. In addition, you can research different planes as newer models have wonderful technology with regards to lighting, humidification systems, and air purification which may ease jetlag effects.
Instead of rushing to your final destination which may include a string of several flights totalling more than 24 hours, contemplate mini visits to destinations in between. By breaking up far away destinations into smaller segments, your body will adapt much easier to more manageable differences in time zones.
Don’t pack your days full in the lead up to your holiday. Stress will only negatively impact your body and mind, making your jetlag even more unbearable. Start packing your suitcases a few days early along with having all your travel plans in order. Most importantly get a good night sleep before your flight. Do not try putting off your normal sleeping hours in the thought you may be able to sleep better on the plane.
In the days leading up to your long haul flight, adjust your meal times slightly to match your chosen destination. If heading west, best start eating meals earlier. If going east, feast a bit later than normal.
Of course there is, why wouldn’t there be? Entrain is an app which basically monitors your internal clock and uses science and math intelligence to offer advice on the optimal light conditions your body needs to overcome jetlag quickly depending on time zones and changes in your schedule. So download this helpful app before you take off for iPhone or Android.
Alcohol may calm your nerves, but it will only fuel your jetlag. In addition to making you drowsy, alcoholic drinks dehydrate you. When flying, water is your best friend. In addition to keeping you hydrated, your mind will stay fresh. Avoiding alcohol during your travels will also make certain your travel insurance remains valid as certain situations in which you were found to be drinking could result in submitted claims being denied. Also stay clear of caffeinated drinks like sodas and coffee which will also prolong your jetlag recovery.
It is generally a good idea to get as much sleep as possible during your flight. Make use of eye masks and earplugs or soothing sleep music to drown out the engine noise. Wear loose comfortable clothing and position yourself in the best way possible with pillows and blankets in order to get some rest.
A Tough Pill to Swallow:
As tempting as they may be, sleeping pills are not a good option when trying to combat jetlag. They mess even more with your already screwed up internal clock. Taking sleeping pills may also counteract other steps you have taken to aid with your jetlag.
Both exercise and light will do wonders for your mental and physical health during long haul flights. A simple walk up and down the aisle every so often will do. About an hour before landing, try to get some light by looking out the window. Light will tell your body to wake up and you can therefore hit the ground running. This is one reason why airlines tend to flick the lights on well before the descent.
Upon arriving at your lovely hotel, you may want nothing more than to collapse into that clean comfy bed. Push yourself to get out and seize the first day of your holiday and try your best to fall asleep at your new destination’s correct time to do so. Going for a short walk around your hotel can help keep you awake as well as help orient you to the lay of the land – including where you may want to have lunch or dinner.
Procrastinating is usually frowned upon, but when dealing with jetlag it may be best to not plan too many activities or important ones for the first few days after arriving at your destination. Even if you are not prone to severe jetlag, postponing your itinerary of events will give you extra security of not missing anything important during your holidays should the unfortunate happen and jetlag grabs hold of you.
Jetlag can be unpredictable and although your travel insurance will cover you for most things, it won’t cover you for holiday activities you missed because you were asleep in your hotel room. So follow these tips and enjoy your travels no matter how far away the destination.