Whether you’re arriving at your destination or coming home, travelling forward in time or back, jetlag is something we all want to avoid. While it can be much of a conversation piece the truth is the insomnia, exhaustion and stress that can come with jetlag can quickly extinguish any post-holiday buzz. But there is good news, it’s not just a luck of the draw – there are steps you can take to leave your jetlag on the plane.
Why does jetlag happen?
Jetlag happens because our bodies don’t stop working just because we’re on a plane. Your circadian rhythm, the ‘internal clock’ that controls your daily eating habits and sleep patterns and your suprachiasmatic nucleus, a group of brain cells that controls a lot of your bodily functions, do such a good job controlling your body that they continue on this pattern even when you enter a new time zone. Which means your body now must adjust to a new set of waking hours and sleeping and eating patterns – and it doesn’t really like to do that.
What can you do?
Some health professionals suggest you start adjusting your meal times to suit your destination up to four days before leaving. But if having breakfast at 11pm seems a little over the top, there are a couple of simpler things you can do instead.
- Drink your liquids, just not alcohol. While it may seem counter-intuitive, your body will thank you for resisting the urge to have that glass of wine on the plane to help you sleep. Drinking alcohol at altitude cannot only increase the effects of a hangover but it also makes it harder for your body to adjust to a new time zone. Sadly, drinking water on its own won’t prevent you from suffering jetlag, but it will help to stop dehydration and feeling fatigued!
- Plan ahead to stay ahead. Planning your movements ahead of time is a smart and effective way to stop jetlag in its tracks. If you need to take a long-haul flight, opt for a flight time that lets you arrive in the evening. That way you can head straight to your hotel to sleep at the right time in your new time zone. Simple steps like resetting your watch at the beginning of your travels to the time zone of your destination can also be a great help to start readjusting your body clock.
- Don’t sleep too early. The greatest temptation of the jetlagged is to fall asleep too soon. If you arrive at your destination before your usual bedtime or in the morning, you should try to stay awake until a suitable sleeping time, and try not to nap! This can be a bit of a challenge for the first few days, but the quicker you force your body to adjust the better you will feel.
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