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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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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