What Is Jet Lag, And How Do You Overcome It?

There’s nothing more exciting than travel. After working hard for months at a time, every so often, we book ourselves a holiday to get away from the stresses of everyday life. Sometimes, these holidays take us thousands of miles away to the furthest corners of the globe. At this point, we start to experience symptoms of jet lag as we pass through multiple different time zones. 

Imagine the scenario: after stressing out sorting your passports, packing away your possessions and rushing through the airport, you finally board the plane. Shortly after a 12-hour flight, you arrive at your destination, only to have your body clock thrown completely out of balance. You then spend the next couple of days trying to come to terms with this change, only to eventually realise that you’ve spent a significant amount of your holiday simply readjusting. 

If this situation sounds all too familiar, you may be wondering how to overcome it. Here, we review the ins and outs of jet lag, and explain how you can finally rid yourself of its symptoms and start enjoying your holidays as quickly as possible.

What is Jet Lag?

Desynchronises, or as it’s more commonly known, ‘jet lag’, is a temporary state of disorientation that occurs during a sudden change to our body’s sleep cycle. In simple terms, it’s a state where your body is fully adjusted to one time zone, despite being physically located in a different one. At this point, it gets confused and is unable to correct itself without intervention.

Read more: How Does The Sleep Cycle Work?

Symptoms Of Jet Lag

Thankfully, jet lag isn’t all that difficult to spot. Despite its symptoms being similar to other medical conditions, there’s usually one factor that helps with identifying it: travel. Regardless, here are the main symptoms of jet lag:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Constipation

How Long Does Jet Lag Last?

Jet lag isn’t a fatal condition, and symptoms usually disappear within a couple of days. However, for the brief time that it is around, it can be extremely discomforting.

According to Sleep Foundation, jet lag symptoms last for around 1-1.5 days per time zone crossed. So, if you pass three different time zones with layovers, flight delays, etc, you can expect to feel jet-lagged for around 3-4 days.

How To Get Over Jet Lag

If you’re experiencing jet lag and are unsure how to deal with it, there are some things you can try to fix it. Here are a few ways to reduce jet lag almost entirely:

Pre-Emptive Sleep

Anticipation is key when it comes to preventing jet lag, especially in terms of your sleeping schedule. On the night before your holiday, try adjusting your clocks to the same time as your destination. It may feel strange at first, but if you can match your regime before arrival, the effects of jet lag will be minimal as your body will already be adjusted.

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol is a serious offender in the world of sleep. By slowing us down and even making us feel drowsy, alcohol disrupts the sleep-wake cycle, introducing another layer of difficulty for adjusting to jet lag. Consider cutting back on your alcohol consumption before your holiday, especially at night time.

Read more: Best And Worst Foods To Eat Before Going To Bed

Drink Water

When you’re flying, your body loses a lot of fluids. As a result, getting over jet lag will be even more difficult if you don’t replenish those lost fluids.

The best way to do this? Drink lots of water! Drinking lots of water not only helps restore fluids, but it also breaks down the toxins in your body that are causing fatigue.

As an added bonus, drinking plenty of water will help relieve your headache and nausea from the time change and increase your energy levels.

Stay Fit

Exercise does wonders for our bodies. From keeping us energised and upbeat to giving us the right amount of daylight exposure, a quick jog or some physical activity is a swift and easy tip for beating jet lag.

Keep A Schedule

Planning and preparation are already a major part of travel. Making sure everyone arrives and departs on time can feel like a mini logistical nightmare. Quite often, sleep and downtime get forgotten while more pressing matters are prioritised, which leaves us little time to re-adjust our sleeping schedules.

When planning your next holiday, be sure to accommodate for jet lag by allowing a few hours of adjustment time after travel. This ensures you’ll get the right level of sleep without disrupting your fun!

Avoid Naps

Although a nap might sound like just the ticket following a long day travelling, they should be avoided at all costs when dealing with jet lag. Instead, try to balance out your sleep schedule to your new time zone. Any additional slumber could completely compromise your body’s internal clock, rendering it in a much worse condition than before.

If you’re wondering how to nap healthily, we’ve written a whole article on the subject right here on our blog: How To Take A Nap: A Guide To Healthy Napping.

Travel With Your Pillow

The harsh reality of travel is that the mattresses and pillows of some hotels and guesthouses withstand many, many years of near-constant use. Of course, bringing your own mattress on holiday is out of the question, but a pillow is much easier to travel with. 

As long as it fits in your baggage, taking your own trusty pillow on your travels is a strong idea. No longer will you have to deal with lumpy, over-plumped pillows that sink on contact. By bringing your own pillow, you’re giving your body a fighting chance to actually have a good night’s sleep.

Take Sleeping Supplements

When you’ve exhausted all other options, it can feel like all hope is lost. Fortunately, there is another way of fighting back against jet lag in the form of nightly supplements. When ingested, these tablets act as a quick boost to our body’s natural hormone system, the likes of which are prescribed to help with short-term sleep problems. 

For example, melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body during the later stages of sleep. If we can’t get to that stage, melatonin production in our body is negatively affected. Melatonin supplements replenish these lost amounts, restoring balance within our hormones and greatly enhancing our chances of sleep.

Learn more about sleep supplements here: Do Supplements Really Help With Sleep?

Defeat Jet Lag Once And For All

Now that you’ve beaten jet lag, it’s time to fix some other aspects of your sleeping schedule. If you’re looking for more ways to improve your night time routine, there’s a wealth of help and advice

available right here on our blog. 

Start sleeping better, tonight.

Chloe Baxter

Chloe Baxter

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