Be it traveling for work or pleasure, nobody likes dealing with jet lag. That fuzzy, sluggish feeling that you get from crossing time zones has a very real cause. But fortunately for you jetsetters, there are steps you can take to keep your clock on track and avoid losing precious hours better spent on sightseeing or making that board presentation.
Why You Get Jet Lag
You’ve probably heard about this little thing called circadian rhythm - this is your internal clock which prompts your sleeping and waking pattern. At its most basic, jet lag is when your internal clock and the external time are out of sync. This can cause sleep deprivation, bad moods, stomach problems, fatigue and just plain crankiness. And, if you’re a frequent flier, you’re at special risk to the side effects and a slower recovery rate.
A study recently released by Japanese scientists indicates that a cure for jet lag may not be far behind. By blocking the vasopressin receptors of mice, scientists were able to virtually immediately retrain their internal clock, which could have real implications on human subjects. Until then, however, here are some things you can do to prevent and ease jet lag.
Hydrate. Drink water. And more water. Don’t be afraid to ask attendants for extra glasses - your body dehydrates quicker in the dry aircraft cabin and you need all the water you can get to keep your stomach and internal clock functioning well.
Avoid alcohol. Yes, the complimentary champagne can be super tempting, and we’ve all reached for a second round of wine on a long flight. But that could very well be a recipe for disaster. Alcohol on a plane is not just alcohol: the altitude makes you feel drunk quicker, due to the decreased oxygen in your body.
Eat well. Avoid excess sugars and fats, as these culprits will interfere with your ability to sleep. Not many calories are needed for a sit-down flight, so eat light and feel better later.
Rest and relax. A number one tip from expert travelers? Sleep on your flight. Whether you’re going east or west, getting some shuteye on a long flight can do wonders for your well-being.
Be comfortable. Come prepared for any external conditions and you can transform any flight into the best you’ve ever had. Pack yourself a travel bag with the following air-proof ingredients: earplugs, sleeping mask, a fuzzy throw or pullover, some mild sleeping pills (highly optional – please consult your physician), chewing gum (for air pressure problems), and warm socks. Keep these few things on hand for any trip...it’s so much easier when you can grab and go!
Jet lag is highly individualized. So figure out what works for you, what throws you off, what routines work, and stick with them. Find the perfect combination of preparation, rest, and routine and you will be able to completely conquer the open skies.
Weingarten JA. Chest. “Air travel: effects of sleep deprivation and jet lag.” 2013 Oct;144(4):1394-401. doi: 10.1378/chest.12-2963.
AirPlus. “Airplus Traveller Productivity White Paper”. June 2012.
Yamaguchi, Yoshiaki et al. “Mice Genetically Deficient in Vasopressin V1a and V1b Receptors Are Resistant to Jet Lag”. Science. 4 October 2013: Vol. 342 no. 6154 pp. 85-90 DOI: 10.1126/science.1238599
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