Jet Lag may be invisible, but it can really throw your life off track! This temporary state is also known as desynchronosis and is the result of altering our bodies’ circadian rhythms due to traveling through different time zones in a short period of time. For example, taking a long-haul flight from New York to Hong Kong.
Ever heard of the saying, “west is best; east is beast”? This term highlights the difficulty in adjusting to a new time zone when you have shorter days (traveling east), rather than longer ones (traveling west). Going east means you’ll have to get up at a time that’s usually in the middle of the night for you back home.
For those who frequently travel for work, jet lag is simply a problem that comes with the territory but there are many ways to cope with it in order to minimize its effects on your mind and body.
1. Adjust to your new schedule before takeoff
One way to ensure you’re on your A-game when you land is adapting to your new schedule before you fly. For example, if you’re flying somewhere that’s seven hours ahead, start going to bed 30 minutes later than the previous day for a few days before takeoff.
If you’re feeling extra dedicated to simulating your new schedule, you can even start eating meals at the time you’d be eating them in the new time zone. Yes, that could mean eating dinner at breakfast time.
2. Stay hydrated
Did you know that jet lag is partly due to dehydration? Being on an airplane, which is a low-humidity environment, certainly doesn’t help the situation. Luckily the fix is easy. Just make sure you’re drinking water regularly before, during and after your flight. To stay hydrated during the flight, buy water bottles before you board or ask the flight attendant for water every time they come around - it’s free after all! Many airports also have water fountains throughout the terminals so you can refill your bottle on the way out. And some hotels offer complimentary water bottles to keep you hydrated throughout your entire stay.
3. Use your flight to adapt to your new schedule
Try to sleep on the plane if it’s nighttime where you’re going. Using an eye mask will block out any light flowing into the plane, and some airlines provide ear plugs to block out any chatter. If you’re one of those people who has trouble falling asleep during flights, no need to force it, just try to relax and get as much rest as possible.
If it’s going to be daytime where you’re traveling to, then try to stay awake by watching movies, reading a book, catching up on emails, listening to funny podcasts or whatever activity that will fend off sleep.
4. Arrive early
If you have important events or meetings to attend during your trip, arriving early to your destination will give your mind and body time to adjust to the new time zone. If you have a morning meeting, opt for a flight the night before so you can settle in, get a full night of sleep and show up prepared and well-rested. Also avoid red eye flights on the way to your destination, as it’s likely you won’t get much (or any!) sleep and your body will not have any time to adjust.
5. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sleeping pills
It’s tempting to consume these things before or during your flight, but they will only serve to disrupt your sleeping patterns. Alcohol at high altitudes will increase tiredness and dehydration, exacerbating the negative effects of jet lag. Caffeine will keep you awake and buzzing with energy, which will increase the time it takes to recover from jet lag. Sleeping pills will make you feel groggy and disoriented when you land.
Needless to say, the bigger the time difference, the harder it will be for your mind and body to adjust to the new time zone. The good news is that all of these tips are very useful for coping with jet lag no matter where your final destination is, allowing you to enjoy your trip and any leisure time you may have.