We all love traveling. And yet every traveler flying long-distance dreads the inevitable Jet Lag. While there’s no magic pill to avoid Jet Lag, we can certainly stop it from ruining our trip by following simple tricks.
Millions of travelers struggle from Jet Lag every single day. Jet Lag is one of the most common sleep disorders. For decades, jet lag was considered a psychological phenomenon – ‘it’s all in the head’. However, science has now proven that it’s actually a physiological phenomenon.
WHAT IS JET LAG?
Jet Lag is also called time zone change syndrome, as it happens when we cross several time zones while traveling. Crossing time zones messes with our body clock or circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm works in 24 hr cycles and is responsible for regulating sleep, hunger, temperature, and other bodily functions. Jet lag is the result of our circadian rhythm getting significantly disrupted because of entering new time zones that our bodies aren’t used to.
HOW DOES JET LAG AFFECT US?
To understand how Jet Lag affects us, we need to understand how circadian rhythm controls our sleep-wake cycles. When it gets darker in the evening and the temperature drops, our body starts producing melatonin – the sleep hormone. When the sun is coming up and the temperature starts increasing, our body shuts off melatonin production, slowly waking us up.
Our body is used to our regular time zone and gets confused when it’s suddenly placed in a different time zone. We then have difficulty sleeping, we become lethargic, feel tired and disoriented all the time, until our circadian rhythm re-adjusts to the new time zone.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF JET LAG?
The severity of the symptoms of jet lag depends on the number of time zones crossed and the age of the traveler. The more time zones crossed, the more the symptoms. Also, kids adapt fairly quickly to changes in circadian rhythm compared to adults, and this capacity only declines with age. Symptoms of jet lag include:
- Loss of appetite
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Mild depression
- Difficulty focusing
HOW CAN WE CONTROL JET LAG?
There is currently no treatment for jet lag. Although it can be minimized by following these simple tips:
BEFORE THE FLIGHT:
- Change your sleep routine: Traveling east takes time away from our day and traveling west adds more time. To adjust to these changes, start going to bed early (For East), or start going to bed later (For West).
- Wear sunglasses: Our circadian rhythm responds to our eyes detecting light. Controlling our exposure to natural and artificial light can help change it.
- Plan a stopover: If possible, try to have a stopover on the way to allow the body to adjust gradually to a new time zone.
- Keep Calm: Stress can make jet lag worse. Little things like checking-in online can reduce worry.
- Take it easy: Avoid heavy meals and strenuous exercise until the body gets adjusted to the new time-zone.
- Spend the day outdoors: Get as much sunlight as possible. Exposure to daylight helps us adjust to a new time-zone quicker.
- Get at least 4 hours of sleep local time: Go to sleep at the right time for the destination time zone. This trains the body to work on the local time 24-hr rhythm.
Follow these simple instructions to successfully dodge the symptoms and minimize jet lag.