For people who fly regularly and also international travelers, jet lag is an altogether common familiar condition that they have to deal with. Jet lag can really cause hindrance to regular daily life. It can cause your sleep to get disturbed, cause you to experience fatigue in the daytime, and also face problems with concentration and functioning as well.
There is good news, however, on this front. It is true that you will never be able to completely get rid of the symptoms of jet lag if you happen to be traveling across multiple time zones. However, you can quite drastically reduce the impact of jet lag on yourself with some strategies that are fairly straightforward. But before we begin with the suggestions of what to do, it would be helpful to understand what exactly jet lag is and what are the main reasons that cause it.
Jet Lag: What is it?
Jet lag is a thing that can occur whenever you travel across multiple time zones in a fairly short amount of time. In fact, the more time zones you happen to cross, the more likely you will be to experience symptoms of sleepiness and sluggishness. The more time zones you cross, it will also be more likely that you will experience these symptoms in a more intense fashion, and they will also last longer.
At its core, jet lag is a type of sleep disorder that is temporary. However, travelers are likely to say that they not nearly temporary enough. If you happen to travel really long distances, then it is very likely that it will take you about ten days to get fully back on your feet. This is due to the fact that it can take up to a day for your body to recover for each time zone that it crosses. Generally, jet lag happens to be a whole lot worse when you are “loose time,” and you travel from west to east.
What causes it?
Jet lag happens when you travel rapidly through large distances, which has the ability to completely throw off your circadian rhythm. This is the internal body clock that we all have, which determines when we fall asleep, and we are awake. Certain things are responsible for keeping this clock in order. This includes things such as exposure to light, social engagement, and mealtimes. When we do cross time zones, it severely affects the internal body clock, and that clock and the external time become out of sync. The body needs a bit of time to get used to the rhythm of the new time zone that it now occupies.
There are some other things involved in air travel that can really aggravate the problem a bit. Air cabins are designed in such a way that it makes passengers feel both uncomfortable and also dehydrated. People also do not happen to move around as much as normal when on airplanes. This really does have the potential to aggravate the problem and cause further disruptions to the circadian rhythm of the body.
How To Deal With Jet Lag:
Melatonin may help
Melatonin is something that is naturally secreted within our bodies, and it helps us regulate the circadian rhythm of the body. This helps us fall asleep at night and stay awake during the day. While the jury is not completely decided yet on whether supplements of melatonin can help with jet lag, there does exist a lot of literature out there that does support the claim. A lot of research shows that melatonin can help with fighting off jet lag on flights from both the east and the west as well.
It is suggested that you take about 3 milligrams of melatonin about an hour or about two hours before it is bedtime at the destination you are traveling to. You should also plan to get in a good 10 hours of sleep. This also factors in the one or two hours it takes for melatonin to be absorbed into the bloodstream and to carry out the necessary functions in the body. It is important to note that 10 hours could very well be a generous overestimation but remember that it is always better to have more sleep time than less.
Try Light Therapy
Light therapy is a form of therapy that has gotten ridiculously popular within the last few years. In fact, the list of things that it can help with is so vast that people oftentimes find it a bit unbelievable. Among the list of things that it can help with, jet lag also falls under this category.
The way light therapy works is by mimicking the natural light that is found in the outdoors. Natural light can really help the body help maintain its natural circadian rhythm and help the person sleep at the right times and also stay awake at the right times. Light therapy can have the same beneficial effects on the person receiving it. It also happens to be an extremely safe and effective form of therapy with little to no side-effects. With that being said, you should still consult with your doctor in order to see if light therapy is right for you. There have been reports of people with bipolar disorder experiencing mania after having received the light treatment.
Adapt to the schedule while in flight
It is always a good idea to change the time on your watch when you get on the plane. This is for psychological reasons, and it really does help you get into the mindset of being mentally prepared to be on the same routine as the time at your destination.
If it is nighttime when you are flying, then try to sleep during the flight. If it is morning when you are flying, then do not fall asleep during the flight and remain awake. This will help your body adjust and also help you reduce the symptoms of jet lag.