Norbert Figueroa a RoamRight Blog Author

Jet Lag: What Is It And How To Prevent It

Jet lag, medically referred to as desynchronosis, is a physiological condition which results from alterations to the body's circadian rhythms CT

Image source: Flickr - wildhaber

You’ve hopped on a plane, crossed several time zones to get to your destination, and suddenly when you’re there you feel disoriented, sleepy, irritated, dizzy, and/or depressed. It’s ok, it’s not just that the flight was long and you’re tired from it, you’re actually experiencing jet lag.

Jet lag is medically referred to as desynchronosis, which basically is a physiological condition which results from alterations to the body’s circadian rhythms; a result from rapid long-distance transmeridian travel on a plane (meaning, traveling east-west or west-east). 

While symptoms vary and depend on the amount of time zones crossed, the most common ones are sleep disturbance and trouble falling asleep (when flying east), early awakening (when flying west), poor performance, lack of concentration, increased fatigue, headaches, indigestion, and more. Jet lag is felt the strongest when you cross between 6 to 9 time zones.

It is common for jet lag to last a few days until your biological clock adjusts completely to the new time zone. It is often said that your biological clock takes one day per time zone crossed to get fully aligned with the destination.

One interesting fact is that you don’t get the same amount of jet lag if you travel east to west than west to east.  Traveling east causes more problems than traveling west, because the “body’s clock” has to be advanced, which is harder than delaying it.  The way our biological clock gets adjusted is through exposure to light. When traveling westward, it is easier to realign our biological clock since the day/night cycle is not too different from the one we had, but when traveling eastward, it is much harder to tie the day/night cycle of the destination to the one we are used to since the change is more drastic.

Arriving at your destination with jet lag is not the best way to start a vacation. So, how do we prevent or get rid of jet lag?

Before the Flight

Adjust your diet – Implement high-protein, low-carb, low-calorie meals, containing limited amounts of sodium and fat. The protein provides energy, while the low amount of calories and carbs makes you feel less sluggish.

Eat meals you will probably eat at your destination – You can plan ahead and start eating different types of food found at your destination, which will help reduce the shock of new spices when you arrive. This will help keep the stomachaches that are often related to jet lag to a minimum.

Select the best flight – Try selecting flights with few or no layovers.  Changing cabin pressure repeatedly exacerbates your jet lag.

Get plenty of rest – Try to have a peaceful and restful night sleep. If possible, adjust your sleeping patterns to your destination time beforehand. It will pay off when you feel energetic upon arrival.

During the Flight

Drink a lot of water – One of the most effective ways to reduce jet lag is to stay hydrated. Don’t consume any alcohol, as it tends to dehydrate you. Coffee should also be avoided, you want to be able to sleep and rest during your flight. 

Adjust your watch – Set your watch to your destination time as soon as you board the plane. It will help you get used to the new time zone quicker.

Stretch – Every now and then get up of your seat and stretch your legs, arms, back, and neck to help improve circulation. 

Stay relaxed during your flight – Enjoy the in-flight entertainment, read a book, or chat with the person next to you. This will help you keep a relaxed mindset that will help you adjust better to your new time setting.

Get some sleep – This probably is one of the most important factors to reduce your jet lag. The most common complaint of jet lag sufferers is fatigue at odd hours of the day. Sleeping during your flight helps minimize the fatigue.

After the Flight

Don’t go straight to sleep – You will be tired and your body will naturally want to rest at odd times during the day. Do your best to resist that urge. Stay active and awake until it’s time to go to bed at your destination. If it is too hard for you to stay awake, then just take a power nap, but don’t give in to a deep sleep.

Stay outdoors and enjoy the sunlight – Staying outdoors can help you increase your alertness, which in turn will keep you active. Don’t use sunglasses, the brighter your visual image the better. If it’s cloudy or raining, stay in places with bright lights – it has a similar effect to the natural light. 

Keep a good energy level – Replenish your system with several vitamin supplements and food. Eat fruits and vegetables to keep a healthy diet and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Taking extra Vitamin C will help you stay active and reduce your jet lag.

Now that you know how to minimize jet lag, are you ready to cross several time zones and start enjoying your trip from the moment you arrive? 

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About the Author

Norbert Figueroa

Norbert Figueroa, a RoamRight Blog Author Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.

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