What is jet lag?

There is no end of tips for beating jet lag out there whether online, from travel experts or from family and friends, but do any of them really work? Jet lag is a combination of fatigue and other symptoms caused by travelling quickly across different time zones. Another name for jet lag is ‘time zone change syndrome’. The effects of jet lag seem to be a really individual thing that can vary hugely from flight to flight with some suffering for a number of days and others having no symptoms at all. The symptoms of jet lag include: Fatigue Sleepiness Digestive Upsets Impaired judgement and decision making Memory Lapses Irritability Apathy

From my experiences of jet lag – here are my top five tips to help you perhaps not totally beat jet lag, but at least feel a little more human when travelling.

Tip #1: Are You a Night-Flyer or Not?

If you are really keen to avoid jet lag on your long-haul flights, you might consider night flight options in your planning stages. You need to determine if you are good at sleeping on planes or not. Then you’ve got two choices: – If you can sleep like a baby in your plane seat, then timing your flight to include an “overnight” leg, which will have you arriving at your destination in the morning (you will then need to stay awake all day – see Tip #3), or – If you struggle and never get more than a few winks of sleep on a flight, then you should book a “daytime” flight that arrives in the late afternoon or evening.  Landing at this time, you will be so exhausted from the prolonged lack of sleep that you’ll be asleep the minute your head hits the pillow at the correct time in your new destination. This helps get you into the new time zone straight away and may gelp you beat jet lag.

Tip #2: Get It Right While You’re Still on the Plane

The experts (whoever they may be) are always saying that you should drink lots of water, not too much alcohol and get up and move around the plane regularly. They are definitely on the right track with this advice. As tempting as it can be to indulge in the free alcohol on a long-haul flight, try to limit it to one small glass with a meal if you just can’t get through the flight without a drink! This one glass may relax you and help you sleep if feeling anxious is a problem for you.  Jet lag recovery time should definitely decrease if you follow these simple suggestions to stay hydrated.

Tip #3: No Sleep Until Bedtime

If you do nothing else, try to do this one! No matter what time you arrive at your destination, don’t go to bed until it’s night time at your destination. Staying awake can be challenging, especially if you have arrived really early morning after a lot of hours travelling and you need to get through the whole day. You might want to sleep desperately, but be disciplined, stay busy, start your sightseeing or take a long walk – do whatever it takes to not sleep before sunset. Going to sleep at night time allows your body to quickly adjust to the new time zone and alleviates jet lag symptoms. If you absolutely must take a nap, make it a quick power nap no longer than 40 minutes (20 minutes is ideal). Likewise, if your body clock doesn’t want to go to bed, you have to make that happen. Don’t stay up past midnight even if you’re not feeling tired. It’s all about getting into the new time zone as quickly as possible.

Tip #4: Don’t Lie Awake For Hours

Your body clock might think that the middle of the night is actually morning and you should wake up. Personally, I think the worst thing you can do when that happens is to lie there for hours trying to get back to sleep, you will just feel frustrated and more exhausted in the morning. If this happens, perhaps get up, make a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate and then try to sleep again till morning. If you do get up, don’t make the room too light, or your body will think it was right about it being morning already.

Aromatherapy to the rescue, they can help you beat jet lag symptons. Lavender and geranium (in oils and body creams) help some people sleep. If, on the other hand you need something to keep you energised try rosemary and eucalyptus oils. Shops specialising in aromatherapy products also offer a variety of blends to suit your requirements.

Tip #5: Think Positive …

Jet lag seems to be more apparent if you travel from east to west and unless you have the luxury of planning an around the world trip and choosing the direction you start then this is not always an option. Many people have said that jet lag is more noticeable when you return home than when you head off on your journey.  So, does that mean that a portion of jet lag is purely psychological? So, when you are starting your holiday and are all excited to get out and explore in a new destination and you are feeling a little tired and out of sorts that this doesn’t bother you half as much as when you return home and have to go back to work and the daily routines! There are also dozens of natural or herbal remedies or over the counter medications that advertise they can help with the side effects of jet lag, it is just a matter of finding one of these that works for you, but there’s definitely no cure-all. On your return home, stay active, remain positive, get back into your time zone and normal routine as quickly as you can and don’t dwell on your jet lag – it may just disappear that bit faster! Then start planning your next adventure to occupy your mind – dreaming of the next holiday has to be the best way to beat jet lag!

Happy Travels Julie Warner

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