We've all been there. You get back from your trip and you're up at 3am because your body things you're still in beautiful Barcelona. It's sucks. Especially when you have to be at work at 8am the next morning. Jet lag shows no mercy, even on frequent travelers. Luckily there are some tricks that can help you get over your jet lag faster.
WHAT IS JET LAG?
According to Wikipedia, "jet lag, medically referred to as desynchronosis and rarely as circadian dysrhythmia, is a physiological condition which results from alterations to the body's circadian rhythms resulting from rapid long-distance transmeridian (east–west or west–east) travel on high-speed aircraft."
"The condition of jet lag may last several days until one is fully adjusted to the new time zone, and a recovery rate of one day per time zone crossed is a suggested guideline."
So, for example, if you travel from New York City to Johannesburg, South Africa, you are crossing 7 time zones (west to eat) during your 15+ hour flight. That means that it can take you up to 7 days to full acclimate to your new time zone.
THE DIRECTION OF TRAVEL MATTERS
According to scientific research, "travelling east causes more problems than travelling west because the body clock has to be advanced, which is harder than delaying it."
That means, using the same example, the jet lag from traveling from New York City to Johannesburg would be theoretically harder to deal with than traveling back from Johannesburg to New York City.
These are general trends and can vary from person to person depending on your typical sleeping patterns and the level of activity/purpose of your trip. For example, if you have traveling to from New York City to Johannesburg for work, your ability to get over your jet lag may be accelerated because you are "forced" to wake up at a certain time for work-related obligations. Whereas, if you were traveling for leisure, you may have the time and flexibility to stay up late/sleep in, which would prolong your jet lag.
MANAGING YOUR JET LAG
Now that you know what causes your jet lag, it's important to figure out how to best to deal with it so you can limit its impact on your life.
- Coordinate your flight - while red-eye flights might not always be the most comfortable, being able to sleep at the right time can help you pre-empt or rectify your schedule.
- Use a sleeping aid - once you're back on the ground it's important to align your day with your new time zone. Science seems to suggest that this should be done slowly instead of all at once. If you know you'll be wide awake in the middle of the night try using a sleeping aid to help.
- Strategically plan your meals and exercise - while sleep is critical for helping you feel well-rested in your new time zone, planning out your 'awake' hours is just as important. In order to make sure you don't take unplanned naps or fall asleep to early, you should plan your meals and exercise routine at the parts of the day that will help energize you and keep you going.
What do you do to help curb your jet lag?? We'd love to hear your tips in the comments below!