Jet-lag leaves you feeling really drowsy and downright lousy. You’ve just stepped of a long-haul flight from OZ, and you are ready for three weeks basking in the Santorini sun. Jet-lag hits and for three days you drag yourself from your bed to walk around like a zombie. Of course, you acclimatise, but you know that when you return home, and all you have to look forward to is work tomorrow, you are in for more sleepless nights as your body clock tries to readjust and goes cold turkey. Will you ever sleep past 2am again?
Prevention without medication is the goal. Yet figuring out what works for you when you are jet-lagged may be as simple as water, sunlight and some extra sleep. To reset your body clock and minimise your jet-lag, start with a plan. Read on…
- GET PLENTY OF SLEEP. About a week before you leave start moving your bedtime forward or backward by an hour. The aim is to start matching your destinations time zone. That way it won’t be such a shock to the bodies sleep schedule. Some people try to stay up late the night before the flight. Think this through, because starting out with a lack of sleep is going to throw your sleep cycle out altogether.
- AVOID ILLNESS. And people who are potentially sick. Travelling while sick is one of the worst things to add to jet-lag – not only for you, but those around you as well.
- EAT SOME CARBS. Studies have shown that by eating carbohydrates (resulting in the release of insulin) may assist with resetting your body clock.
- KEEP CALM. Relax and avoid stressful situations, like last minute packing, or rushing to get things completed at work (It will be there waiting when you get back, I’m sure. Take time to relax, clear your mind and think of your upcoming holiday.
- LOCAL TIME. Always set your watch or phone to local time as you get on the plane. Your body clock should already be well on its way to realigning and avoiding jet-lag (if you have followed Step 1 above)
- TIMED FOOD. The Airlines are great at acclimatising you with food. If its breakfast in your destination you get breakfast, Dinnertime then you get dinner (even if you have JUST had breakfast at your embarkation point). Eat whenever, and whatever they give you so your belly starts to recognise what time it is too.
- SLEEP. Having set your watch to local destination time, try to match your sleep patterns. Eyemasks. Earplugs, Headphones. Blanky & socks. Whatever will get you to sleep. Definitely try to sleep if you are on an overnight flight and you will arrive at your destination in their morning. The opposite will be true if travelling through the day. Stay awake (as much as possible) if you are arriving in the evening.
- WATER. Stay hydrated, but not so much that you need to interrupt your sleep to wake up to go to the bathroom. Once you are asleep, you want to stay asleep.
- NO NAPPING. Some people swear that a little nap as soon as they are off the plane helps with jet-lag. Not only will this disrupt your sleep pattern further, you are more likely to STAY ASLEEP and snore the day away (come on now, we all snore!)
- BEDTIME. Make your bedtime something reasonable. It should be dark outside (unless you are in the Arctic during White Nights) and somewhere close to the “usual” time you would go to bed at home. For example: if you go to bed around 9pm, then aim for that. Your body clock will adjust all the sooner once it is remembers the routine. Note to self: Set an alarm to wake up next morning so you don’t sleep the day away.
- EATING & DRINKING. Stick to your normal patterns of eating and drinking, only now you are doing it according to a new time zone! Try to avoid alcohol (at least on your first night) as this will add to dehydration – it is something that will make your jet-lag feel worse than it is.
- WATER AGAIN! Flying dehydrates you, which causes headaches at best and major medical issues at worst. Rather than drinking the tap water in your destination (which may cause a whole new set of issues) buy at least 2 litres of bottled water. Make sure you drink them BEFORE you sleep to give your brain all the moisture it needs to quickly adjust.
- VITAMIN B: Taking a Vitamin B supplement may ease the effects of jet-lag and give you a boost of energy, keeps you mentally alert and help relieve the physical stress of travel.
- SUNLIGHT. Your body thinks it’s night time, so the act of being in daylight, sun shining on your face, will not only set your body clock into action, but that tired, achy feeling and tingling sensations should disappear (at least for a while).
- FLIGHT TIME. Use the same tips in our FLIGHT TIME section above, only in reverse.
- SLEEP ROUTINE. Again, resist the urge to take a nap, and try to stick as close as possible to your regular sleep routine.
- EXERCISE. Get out there and get your blood flowing. Light exercise, go for a run or walk, whatever you do stay as active as possible. Sitting on the couch or watching TV is only going to send you off to sleep. (You could get some exercise when arriving at your destination too!)
- STAY IN BED. As your body returns to normality, there are times when you will wake up at 2am in the morning. Rather than leaping out of bed, stay lying there and try to get back to sleep. Keep the lights out or low, read or watch TV if you need something to do.
Whatever works for you when you are jet-lagged works. You will be sleepy and out of sorts, but bear with it. With the tips above, some water, sunlight, exercise and extra sleep, your plan to minimise your jet-lag will see every long-haul flight as a dream.
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