Updated: Oct 12, 2020
I still remember the time when as a girl I traveled to Europe and arrived to destination with swollen feet. My mother telling us not to take our shoes off and we always disobeying…but that was about it. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I felt I was suffering from jet lag.
It’s so hard to stay awake the whole day once one lands on the other side of the pond.
Why? Why do we feel lethargic and sleepy?
It’s jet lag!! And it occurs when sleep-wake patterns are disturbed from traveling across different time zones.
The older a person is, the more severe their symptoms will normally be, and the longer it will take for their body clock to get back into sync.
It results from a disruption in the body’s circadian rhythms.
What are circadian rhythms?
Circadian rhythms, or the body clock, are 24-hour cycles in the biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes of our bodies. They regulate daily activities, such as sleep, waking, eating, and body temperature regulation.
Eastward - Westward
When traveling eastward, symptoms feel more severe, because our bodies have less time to recover. Traveling westward adds hours to our days whereas traveling eastward reduces them. This means that our bodies have less time to adjust and sync up with a circadian rhythm when flying east.
However, for jet lag to occur, there must be an east-west or west-east movement. Flying directly south from New York City to Buenos Aires may cause discomfort, but it will not lead to jet lag.
8 Things that can help you overcome jet lag faster
1.Sleep on the plane
This is not an easy task for many. Added to the fact that even for the good sleepers it is hard to sleep 6-8 continuous hours in a flight. You board, take-off, have a meal and then probably, while watching a movie, you fall asleep. You manage to have a deep sleep for 4 great hrs managing to ignore turbulence, the crew asking to fasten your seat belts and so. But at the end it’s only 4 hours, and it is not enough sleep. But at least it is some. Try to achieve it by bringing earplugs and eye masks to help reduce noise and light.
2. If you’re arriving at your destination while its nighttime there, try to stay awake for a few hours before you land.
This is when it’s a good idea to use screen time and light to help rewire your sleep schedule. Go to bed when you arrive and wake up in the morning to get acclimated to the new time zone.
3. Select flight times strategically
Pick a flight that allows you to arrive in the early evening. This way, staying up until it’s time for bed in your new time zone isn’t as hard. Also not easy flying eastward. Most flights arrive early morning making it even harder to adjust your body clock. But it’s worth the time looking for the right flight time.
4. Power nap
If bedtime is too far out and you need a nap, take a power nap of no more than 20 to 30 minutes. Sleeping longer than that may prevent sleep later in the night. For me this is what works best if you have a morning arrival. Though sometimes it’s becomes really hard to wake up after only 30 minutes.
5. Don’t hit the booze and instead drink plenty of water
Avoid alcohol and caffeine the day of your flight. These drinks can interfere with your natural clock and prevent sleep, mostly because they cause dehydration that may give you a headache that ultimately will prevent you from sleeping during your flight.
I never follow this important rule! To control my fear of flying, I always have a drink at the airport and then during the flight, and obviously I frequently get the worst jet lag.
I recommend the most staying hydrated all the time. I also always use a good moisturizer on my face while on board.
6. Jet lag diet
Avoid salty and sugary foods while traveling. Stay hydrated with more fresh fruit and vegetables. Also avoid overeating. A balanced diet can help reduce fatigue, bloating, and an upset stomach.
Jet lag not only affects your sleep, it also affects your digestion. Don't worry if you skip a day or two without going to the bathroom.
7. Get some exercise
A little exercise can help you sleep better. Try to stretch your legs whenever you can. (Stand up only when it’s safe to do so). On the last pages of the airline magazines you’ll find a few exercises for your legs and body that you can do while sitting. They are good for your health and very easy to follow.
If you’re changing flights, take a stroll around the airport or stand instead of sitting at your departure gate.
8. Drink herbal tea
Choose non-caffeinated herbal teas instead of coffee or tea. Research shows that drinking chamomile tea before bed can help improve how fast you fall asleep and your quality of sleep.