If you are a frequent traveller you have probably heard of jet lag. Most of the people who travel across the globe have problems with adapting to different time zones. Siting on that uncomfortable aircraft chair for 10 hours or more is exhausting enough. On top of that you are usually stuck in airports with short or long layovers. As if that wasn’t enough, in the end you land into a huge time difference, so there is a good chance you’ll reach your final destination exhausted and drained. How can you fall asleep normally after a long flight? How to deal with jet lag that follows the next day? Or better yet, how to avoid jet lag? Let’s see if my tips can help you!
Symptoms of jet lag
In case you’re still not sure what I am talking about, let me describe jet lag in a few words. The symptoms are similar to hangover: tiredness, dehydration, bad concentration, irritability etc. What is worse with jet lag is not being able to sleep during night time and drowsiness during daytime. No surprise there, since the brains work on “home clock” and sometimes need a few days to adapt.
Melatonin – the troublemaker
The main reason for problems with insomnia during the night and fatigue during the day is melatonin. Melatonin is also known as a sleep hormone or a hormone of darkness because its secretion in the body starts as soon as darkness falls. It is primarily released by the pineal gland and the darker it gets outside the more melatonin is produced by our brain. Natural concentration of melatonin reaches its peak between 2 and 4 AM.
Melatonin is also connected to our circadian rhythm, a 24-hour “internal clock” that regulates our sleep-wake cycle (and many other processes in the human body). When travelling to a different time zone, secretion of melatonin can be disturbed, as our body just doesn’t understand that is time to slow down (or to go to bed). Depends on which part of the world you are traveling, of course.
Luckily, melatonin is also available and quite commonly used as a supplement for the short-term treatment of fighting the symptoms of jet lag or sleeping disorders.
How to prevent jet lag
Unfortunately, there’s no magic pill that could completely prevent jet lag, however, there are a few tricks that can help. Through the years of traveling I have learned a few useful tricks that help me to adapt to different time zone quickly. I have gathered them in 5 simple steps:
1 . Before the flight
When booking the flight ticket, I always try to find a day flight. If I land when it gets dark, the body will get a signal it is time to go to bed. Sure, I will lose a day with traveling, but I rather sacrifice one day than walk around like a zombie for a couple more. Furthermore, try to adjust to the time difference a few days before departure. Go to bed an hour early if you are travelling east, and an hour late if you are travelling west.
2 . On the plane
First rule of the day flight: I never fall asleep. Most trans-ocean aircrafts have a decent entertainment program, so I sometimes watch 3 movies in a row. I also never miss a meal and I drink a lot of water in between. I also use a moisturizing cream quite frequently as the air is very dry in the airplanes. Another important rule: get up at least every 3 hours, take a stroll down the aisle or at least stretch your neck and arms (try not to kick your neighbour in the process). Sitting for too long can make your ankles swollen and there is higher risk for blood clots.
3 . In a hotel and during vacation
If I land at dusk, I go straight to bed. Usually I am quite tired, so falling asleep the first night is not a problem. I try to adjust to local time immediately by setting up my clock already on the plain. In the following days, I wake up at 8 the latest, so I can eat my breakfast and start exploring. I try to follow my usual “home” biorhythm till the end of my vacation – including sports activities, eating schedule and sleeping habits. I do go to bed earlier than usual, mostly because running around wears me out. Good thing I am not a party animal, so no harm done here. 😊
4 . Returning home
A few days before my return flight I start with a similar routine and try to adjust to my home time step by step. I usually have a night flight back home, which sucks because I can’t force myself to sleep on the plane. Luckily, I have plenty of time to make up for lost sleep at home. If I arrive early, I take a short nap (not more than an hour), and I go to bed as late as possible. Honestly, this is where I usually fail, especially when I arrive from the West (when my brain thinks it is still “action time”). So, I switch to step 5 and the rest is history. 😉
5 . When everything else fails – use melatonin
Yep, jet lag happens even to the best of us and this is where melatonin jumps in. My favourite is Valens Melatonin oral spray. First of all, it comes in 2 concentrations (0,33 mg and 1 mg of melatonin per spray) and these are both doses that are not addictive. Second, it comes in oral spray, which means it is easy to use and it fits in any handbag, including my travel health kit. At last but not the least, it contains 125 sprays, which means it lasts for whole 4 months (if used on daily basis).
So, I hope my anti jet-lag travel routine helps you as well. If you have any better ideas how to avoid jet lag you are welcome to share them with me. Scroll down and let me know in the comment below!