Conquer jet lag through these simple techniques and be functional the day you land
Flying from the U.S. to Europe, one of the things you never forget to do is to move your wristwatch nine hours ahead. But your body often goes like, “Hey, what is going on?” That’s because you cannot reset your body clock so easily. Throughout your life, you have done things according to a 24-hour cycle and now that you have crossed the Atlantic, your body suddenly wants to eat when you force it to sleep and sleep when you wish to explore a museum.
Anyone who is a frequent traveller and likes jumping between different time zones is likely to grapple with this biorhythmic confusion which, in simpler words, is known as jet lag.
Understanding Jet Lag
Essentially, a jet lag refers to a group of symptoms which occur when your internal body clock, or the circadian rhythm, is disrupted. We all have a body clock naturally placed in our systems which is nothing but a cluster of cells comprising of unique “body clock genes,” known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus. As these cells turn on and off, they guide all other parts of our bodies about what time it is and what exactly needs to be done.
“The circadian rhythm keeps us in tune with the changing patterns of the day. It helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle by taking cues from the external environment”
For example, your brain uses the level of sunlight to determine the appropriate time to wake up and go to bed. The same light cues are used to regulate the melatonin production, the hormone that induces sleep. The level of this hormone rises at night and is the lowest during the day.
When you travel to a far-off place, whether longitudinally or laterally, you find yourself in an area with different circadian cues than the ones your brain is accustomed to. And that is why you experience the horrific symptoms of what the doctors describe as jet lag.
Beating Jet Lag
It's common for many people to assume that their first day is destined to be worthless because of jet lag. Do not condemn yourself to the horrors of this problem, especially when you can do a lot to control it.
- Be Well-rested
Flying halfway around the world can be stressful, specially if you leave the country frazzled after a wild party. Chances are you won’t be able to enjoy the first part of your vacation, so make sure that you are well-rested.
- Reset your Body during Flight
Try getting a few hours of sleep during the flight and you will be functional the moment you land. As soon as the pilot announces the European time, don’t just reset your wristwatch but your mind as well. Avoid prolonging the jet lag by reminding yourself what time it is back in your country.
- Sleep at the Local Bedtime
If you fall asleep at 4 p.m. and get up at midnight, you have not accomplished anything. Your body will be begging to sleep the minute you land, but remember to stand firm. Refuse to give in and force your body to stay awake until bedtime. Go out, take a stroll, have a nice dinner and kill time until then.
Try the following easy tips to minimize the symptoms of jet lag:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and avoid too much caffeine
- Try relaxing your body with a good book or soothing music
- Meditate to make your flight interesting and your stay free of jet lag symptoms
- Take a hot shower
The best prescription to avoid a possible jet lag is to leave home unfrazzoled, force your body to the new time zone, and relax yourself to enjoy the vacation from the moment you step off the plane.