Jet lag is a common issue for people who travel often and change time zones quickly. When it happens occasionally it’s not a big deal. But when it starts accumulating with fatigue and stress, it can develop into a bigger problem. Today we’re explaining why jet lag occurs and what you can do in order to prevent jet lag.
What causes jet lag?
Jet lag occurs when our circadian rhythms are not synced with the external environmental cues of our destination. Our circadian rhythms guide our sleep cycles to stay awake while there’s sunlight and sleep when it’s dark. Day and night switch every 8 to 12 hours depending on the season, and our bodies remember that.
When we travel to other time zones (especially eastward) our body’s perception of how long day or night lasts gets a bit confused. The result of this confusion is the jet lag itself.
Jet lag symptoms include disturbed sleep, daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, digestion problems, feeling of not being well and mood changes.
It is believed that it takes about a day to recover for each time zone crossed while traveling.
Dealing with time zone changes
But is there anything you can do to lower the intensity of jet lag symptoms? Sure. You can help your body adapt to the new daylight rhythm by following these tips.
Travel a couple of days earlier
If you have an important event or business meeting to attend, consider arriving a couple of days early. This way, you can let your circadian rhythm adjust to new circumstances.
Don’t travel already tired
If you’re sleep deprived when you board the plane, it is more probable that jet lag with strike you. Therefore, don’t expect that jet lag won’t kick in if you didn’t sleep well lately. If you’re having trouble sleeping, there are plenty of exercises and ways you can help yourself fall asleep and feel rested in the morning.
Follow the daylight
Sunlight dictates our circadian rhythms and it can help you adjust to new time zones better and faster. For instance, when you travel westward evening light might help you adjust to a new time zone. On the other hand, morning light can help you adapt to time zones that are east of your hometown.
Exercise before traveling
Make sure you follow essential sleeping tips that help you have healthy sleep in general. By doing so, you will double your chances of not reacting as much to the new timezone switch.
One of the tips for good quality sleep is to exercise. This is especially important if you’re a traveler who suffers from daytime sleepiness, sleep disruption or insomnia. Try adding some moderate physical routine to your lifestyle. You can run with your dog, do yoga or pilates, take walks, swim or go to the gym
Gradually adjust your bedtime
The best way to prevent jet lag is to help your body gradually adjust to your destination’s time zone. This means if you go to bed one hour earlier or later each day before departure, you might have less trouble falling asleep at the right hour at your destination
Sleep strategically on the plane
Unless you’re traveling during the night, you should do your best not to sleep longer than 30 minutes during your flight. Power naps will surely freshen you up and make you feel more energized. Just make sure not to sleep for too long (longer than 20-30 minutes) as you might end up feeling more groggy and tired afterward.