How To Manage Jetlag: Step By Step Guide
Jetlag and travel fatigue is a significant factor when flying across many time zones. As a midlife traveller, I take jetlag and travel fatigue very seriously and I recognise that even just a few years ago, my recovery time was much faster.
So now I make sure to incorporate a jetlag managing strategy into my itinerary when I travel long-haul.
Jetlag cannot be prevented but there are things you can do to help manage and reduce its affects. Let’s look at what jetlag is and how we can help manage and minimise jetlag when we travel.
WHAT IS JETLAG?
Jetlag is a temporary sleep disorder that can occur when a person’s internal body clock is out of sync with the time zone of their destination, especially after crossing multiple time zones quickly.
It commonly affects individuals who travel across different time zones, particularly on long-haul flights. The body has its own internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle and other physiological processes.
When you rapidly move across time zones, such as during air travel, your body’s internal clock may take some time to adjust to the new schedule. This misalignment between the internal clock and the external environment can lead to various symptoms, collectively known as jetlag.
The severity of jetlag symptoms can vary based on factors such as the number of time zones crossed, the direction of travel, and individual differences. Travel Planning ahead of travel, during travel, and post travel can all help to alleviate symptoms.
SYMPTOMS OF JETLAG
The more time zones crossed, especially when traveling eastward, the more challenging it can be for the body to adjust. It usually takes a few days for the body to recover from travel fatigue and fully adapt to the new time zone.
Strategies to minimize the effects of jetlag include adjusting your sleep schedule before travel, staying hydrated, exposure to natural light, and strategic use of naps. While these measures can help, it’s important to note that individual responses to jetlag can vary, and not everyone will experience the same symptoms or require the same adjustments.
Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early.
Daytime Fatigue: Feeling tired and lethargic during the day.
Difficulty Concentrating: Impaired cognitive function and difficulty concentrating.
Motion Sickness: Air sickness can affect you during and after the flight. Motion sickness happens when the movement you see is different from what your inner ear senses. This can cause dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
Irritability and Mood Changes: Changes in mood such as irritability or mood swings.
Digestive Issues: Disruptions in digestion such as constipation or diarrhoea.
Headaches: Some people may experience headaches as a result of jetlag.
How To Manage Jetlag: Step By Step Guide
STEP 1: BEFORE YOUR TRIP
Preventing jet lag involves preparing your body for the new time zone and making adjustments before, during, and after your flight:
Gradual Time Adjustment: Adjust your sleep schedule gradually a few days before your trip. If traveling east, go to bed and wake up earlier; if traveling west, do the opposite.
Stay Hydrated: Start increasing your water intake a few days before your flight as being well-hydrated helps your body cope with the changes.
Adjust Your Meals: Gradually adjust your mealtimes to align with the local schedule of your destination.
Get Plenty of Rest: Ensure you are well-rested before your journey. Being fatigued before your flight can exacerbate the effects of jet lag. I make sure I factor in a few early nights the week before I take a long flight.
STEP 2: DURING YOUR FLIGHT
Adjust Your Watch: Set your watch to the destination time as soon as you board the plane. This mental shift can help you start adapting to the new time zone. Check this informative Time Zone Converter.
Sleep on the Plane: Try to align your sleep by adjusting your sleep schedule during the flight by sleeping when it is nighttime at your destination. Use an eye mask, earplugs, and a neck pillow to create a comfortable sleep-conducive sleep environment.
Stay Hydrated: Continue to drink water throughout the flight. Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, as they can contribute to dehydration. The air inside an airplane is very dry at only around 10/20 % humidity, which can cause passenger discomfort such as dry eyes and dry skin, and in some cases headaches. Your mouth and nose can feel dry too because of the lack of humidity inside an airplane. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you should drink about 250 ml of water per hour of flight time, or more if you feel thirsty.
Move and Stretch: Perform light exercises and stretches during the flight to improve circulation and reduce stiffness. Experts agree that some physical activity can address some of the tightness, bloating and aches and pains and tingling sensations that can make us miserable during long flights. Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing that is not restrictive and take a walk down the aisle of your plane or stand up. Try exercises that you can do in your seat, like ankle rotations, pointing and releasing your toes and pulling your knees to your chest and releasing them. If you’re really lacking space, make sure you take a few minutes to walk around and stretch whenever you reach your destination.
STEP 3: UPON ARRIVAL
Adapt Quickly: As soon as you arrive, try to adapt to the local time. Spend time outdoors in natural sunlight upon arrival as exposure to natural light helps regulate your body’s internal clock. If you arrive in the morning, exposure to sunlight can help you stay awake and adjust to the new time zone.
Stay Active: Engage in physical activity such as walking or stretching during the day to help combat fatigue and improve circulation and promote a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Strategic Napping: Take short naps if needed but avoid long naps that can interfere with night time sleep. Short naps (20-30 minutes) can help alleviate fatigue without disrupting your sleep cycle. I must admit that a nap on arrival helps me when I simply need to lie down and close my eyes and rest for a little while.
Stay Awake Until Local Bedtime: Upon arrival, resist the urge to take a long nap. Instead, take a short nap or stay awake until the local bedtime to help your body adjust to the new time zone. Set an alarm to wake you up in the ‘new’ morning time.
Stay Hydrated and Eat Light: Continue to stay hydrated, and try to eat meals according to the local time.
Melatonin Supplements (Consult a Professional): Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. Taking melatonin supplements may help reset your internal clock. If needed, consider melatonin supplements, but only after consulting with a healthcare professional especially if you have any health conditions or are taking medications.
HOW TO MANAGE TRAVEL FATIGUE: Step By Step Guide
Avoid Overcommitting: This one’s a big one for me. I now purposely build ‘recovery time’ into my Travel Planning and travel itinerary. I know I’ll be hit hard with travel fatigue and jetlag after a long flight. It’s important to allow yourself some time to adjust and so avoid scheduling events or activities immediately upon arrival.
Factoring In Recovery Time: I have written a detailed post on how my backpacking husband and I always give ourselves a few days of ‘rest and recuperation’ after a long flight into Singapore by heading straight to the Holiday Inn Resort and Spa on Batam Island. This is because it’s a significantly more affordable and alternative ‘down time’ place to spend a few days recovering from the jetlag and travel fatigue caused by a 14 hour non-stop flight and before exploring Singapore or travelling further into Asia. Read about Singapore To Batam Island.
Stay Consistent: Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule to support your body’s internal clock.
Be Patient: It may take a few days for your body to fully adjust. Give yourself time to acclimate to the new time zone. Try meditation or relax my immersing yourself in a Jetlag Nap Sound Bath.
Use Sleep Aids Cautiously: Consult with a healthcare professional before using sleep aids, as they may have side effects and interact with other medications.
Remember that individual responses to jetlag vary, and what works for one person may not work as effectively for another and it may take a few days for your body to fully adjust to a new time zone. Experiment with these strategies to find a routine that suits your needs and helps minimize the impact of jet lag. If you have persistent sleep difficulties or other health concerns, it’s advisable to seek advice from a healthcare professional.
Do you struggle with jetlag and travel fatigue?
Do you have any special ways to deal with jetlag?
Do leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
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