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11 Interesting And Proven Ways To Cure Jet Lag.

Updated on July 15, 2014

Nothing beats the thrill of packing your things and flying away to some foreign part of the world, a place where you can experience a whole new adventure, a total different way of life, different languages, cuisine, people and a whole different atmosphere.

Traveling the world is a luxury, one that not enough people take advantage of. Many of those poor working souls, have to stick to a time frame, that time frame we call “holiday leave”. After working our butts off for a good half a year, we can afford to take a couple of weeks off to “recharge our batteries”. This is precious time! I mean lets be honest here, no one likes wasting those first couple of days getting over jet lag blues. Wouldn’t you rather a quick solution to knock that on the head? After all you want to make the most of your holiday, before the dreading call of reality demands that you set your feet back on the ground.

What many people don’t realise is that jet lag is actually caused by a flight’s direction and not the length. Crossing time zones disrupts the “circadian rhythm”, your body’s natural 24-hour clock. Jet lag isn’t a fun experience, yes it disturbs your sleep patterns but can also result in headaches, exhaustion and even diarrhoea or constipation. Sadly no one has gotten around to inventing a magic pill to stop this nuisance but there are a few tips and tricks you can use to stop it ruining a good chunk of your holiday.

Before you take off:

Breaking up a flight: A lot of people when planning their trips home, just have one thing in mind, to get home in the quickest manner possible, this usually results in annoying waiting times in airports as you wait to change flights, these either being too short, so you cannot leave the airport (and just long enough for you to die of boredom), or are just long enough for you to squeeze in a rushed sightseeing tour, and the bragging rights to say you have been to that place (even if it was just for 5 or 6 hours). Trying to get a longer stop over (a night is always a good option), this gives you more time to see a little more of a place (without having to rush around, lugging your suitcases with you and hoping to god you don’t get mugged), as well as giving your body time to gradually adjust to the new time zone.

Change your sleep routine: The problem with jet lag is that your body gets all confused in what it should be doing, arriving in a new timezone and it is day time, and your body is thinking the opposite and wanting to be dead asleep. Think of it like dealing with a child, you want to ease them into it, without them realising, that way there is no temper tantrums. So changing your sleep routine a few days before your travel can help this. If you are flying west, start going to bed later, and if you are flying east, start going to bed earlier. Easy as that, and trust me your body will thank you later.

Wear Sunglasses: As weird as this may sound but wearing sunglasses does actually help. You remember earlier I mentioned the circadian rhythm, well your circadian rhythm responds to your eyes detecting light, so controlling your exposure to natural and artificial light can help change it, so basically you are tricking your body into believing one thing and not the other. It is all in the mind after all.

Keep calm: This applies with most things, stress makes everything a lot worse, jet lag included. Catching a flight can be one hell of a roller coaster if you let it. From worrying about check in times, to stressing about the fact that your bag may be overweight, this can cause your mind to go into hyper-active mode and your stress levels to skyrocket through the roof, which usually results in something going wrong, like forgetting your passport and boarding ticket at one of the duty free stores (yes that was one of my travel highlights, not!). Little things like checking-in online, and writing out a brief plan on the times you should be arriving etc, on one piece of paper, can all help in lowering the stress factor. Another great piece of advice that I swear by is, if something does go wrong (which it can happen to the best of us) don’t freak out! Take a couple of deep breaths, stay positive and workout out a plan of action, as soon as you start stressing out, then everything starts spiralling downhill.

During your flight:

Make sure you have your long flight essentials packed and easy accessible, before you board, that way you can get seated faster and easier without holding up the line of people that are waiting to get to their seats.

Timing your activities correctly: Try to change your eating and sleeping patterns to suit the local time of your destination, this shifts your circadian rhythm forwards or backwards, helping your body get more in sync (remember it’s like dealing with a child and easing it into it). When I had to fly for some ridiculous time of around 25 hours or so, from Germany back to New Zealand, even though I flew out at 9pm and everyone was asleep within an hour of take off, I stayed awake for a good 11 hours (flight time to Dubai plus waiting time till my next flight out). As soon as I was on the next plane, it was earplugs in, eye mask on and a sleeping pill digested, and I was asleep like a baby for a good 8 hours straight. Use the flights entertainment facilities to keep you occupied is a good way to help your mind get off the thought of sleep. And don’t stress it if you miss a meal, just explain it to one of the flight attendants when you wake up and they should set you up with some snacks to get you through to the next meal. Trust me it makes all the difference!

Keep Hydrated; Drink plenty of water: Dehydration occurs faster when you are flying 40,000 ft in the air and can make jet lag symptoms a lot worse than normal. I would recommend avoiding (or at least lessening your intake) of Alcohol or caffeine drinks because they dehydrate you, just keep the water flowing.

Keep active: Nothing beats the joys of sitting in a cramped space for long distances, unless you are privileged enough to be seated in business or first class, or just have short legs like mine, never the less when flying for lengthly amounts of time, keep active. No this doesn’t mean you need to practice sprints down the aisles, but just taking walks around the cabin and stretching out your muscles regularly will help you relax better and not cramp up.

Get comfortable: There is nothing worse than being on a long flight and being uncomfortable the entire journey. If you have longer legs, try get an aisle seat or one by the emergency exit, this way you will have more space to stretch out your legs. You may be lucky, if the flight isn’t too full, to have a seat or two next to you free, so you can stretch out a bit more (just remember that if there is another person in the same row, to be polite and ask if they don’t mind you doing so). I never go on a flight without earplugs and an eye mask (mostly after having to endure 18 hours of crying babies and extreme lack of sleep on one of my trips), these two things I like to call my survival items, they help create the right sleeping conditions and can save you a lot of stress and sleep deprivation.

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When you arrive:

Having applied the pre and during your flight steps, your jet lag with be a lot less worse, but once you have touched down, there are a couple of things you should consider.

Get some fresh air: Exposure to daylight will help you adjust to the new time zone quicker, so spending the day outdoors in the fresh air will do you some good! If you are flying west; then try get more morning light when you arrive and avoid the afternoon sun, this will work in shifting your circadian rhythm backwards. If you are flying east; then try get more afternoon light instead which moves it forwards, tilting you more in the direction of the “sleep phase”.

Get your “anchor sleep”: We all know how hard it is to sleep when your body is wide awake, even if it is the middle of the night, but trying to get a minimum of 4 hours sleep during the local night will train your body to operate on a 24-hour rhythm, which helps the adaptation to a new time zone.

Make up for any lost sleep: Jet lag messes with your body clock so even of you cannot have solid 8 hour sleeps, you still need to make up for that loss of sleep. Taking short naps (or nana naps as I call them) will help count for what was loss, so you can catch up to what you’d normally have in a 24-hour window.


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