Everyone who has taken an airplane over multiple time zones has experienced it some way or another: jet lag. It can happen to anyone, from first-time travelers to experienced air pilots. If after extensive travel you have difficulties to sleep but feel dead tired, hard to keep focus and your whole rhythm is smashed, then you know it. You have a jet lag.
In a medical sense, a jet lag is a period where your body has to adapt to its new operational time cycle. As humans, we have circadian rhythms or in other words, innate biological clocks. It determines when we go to sleep and when we wake up. We are animals who are built to be awake at day and at sleep at night. Traveling over time zones quickly can shake your rhythm and may cause you insomnia and rest problems for a short period because your sleep and wake times are not in tune with the daily routine of your new environment.
A jet lag is not a serious medical condition but it can influence your way of behavior in the first days after you have arrived. Some even suffer from a jet lag a month in.
What Factors Contribute to a Jet Lag?
The main reason that makes you have a jet lag is that you travel over time zones quickly, without giving your body the time to adjust to the new daily cycle. Most often this happens because you travel by plane. There are also minor other causes for a jet lag, including unable to sleep on the plane, lack of oxygen at the place of arrival and the time of departure. When you depart early in the morning (i.e. 2 am) while flying to the west, you do not have time to sleep that night, while you gain extra day hours in your journey to the west. That means that you will be likely to be very tired the first days after you arrived.
So what to do about a jet lag? Here are the best ways.
Prevent a Jet Lag from Happening in the First Place
If you can prevent the causes of jet lag in the first place then you will not have to worry about it. Some methods to prevent a jet lag from happening are:
– Travel at a slow pace, so take the train/boat/car instead of the plane.
– Sleep on the plane. If this is difficult try to acquire eye pads, neck support, and earplugs. These will make it much easier to sleep in a crowded area. In special cases, it can be beneficial to skip sleep on the plane though (see below).
– Depart late at night (if you sleep on the plane) when going west-east or depart in the afternoon when going east-west. In this way, you can smuggle a couple of hours and regain your normal rhythm quickly.
– Stick to your normal sleep patterns as at home. This is only advisable when you are away for a couple of days though.
– Be physically fit. A healthy body can take much more and will have much fewer problems with a jet lag. A good way to achieve as well is to drink a lot of water (no alcohol) and to keep active during the trip.
However, if you cannot do this and/or you do have a jet lag, here is the best remedy to cure it quickly.