Being able to travel to the other side of the world in a day is great, but the change in timezones and jet lag is always a massive trade-off.
Lucky for you, I’ve been through it a few times and I’ve picked up a few tried and tested tips to help you better cope with jet lag the next time you travel.
It really doesn’t matter if you are travelling in first-class or economy, or if you across the country or to an entirely different continent. As long as you crossing multiple time zones, your body needs to adapt to the change.
What Is Jet Lag?
To put it simply, jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder/fatigue caused when you travel quickly across multiple timezones. Commonly associated with the introduction of jet power air travel, hence the name jet lag.
The more time zones you move across the worse you’ll experience the symptoms of jet lag as your body becomes more out of whack with what it is used to.
While only temporary, your sleeping and eating schedule might take a few days to get back to what your use to depending on how far you have travelled.
For each time zone you cross, it can take up to a day for the body to adjust to the local time. This means that if you travel from Sydney to London where there is typically a 10-hour difference, it could take you up to 10 days to get back to normal. But we’ve got a few tricks to speed up the process.
Jet lag hits the hardest when you lose time travelling which is typically when you travel from west to east. And especially when you cross the international dateline.
Did you know if you fly from Sydney to Los Angeles you technically arrive before you left?
What Causes Jet Lag?
Jet lag occurs due to the changes in your biological clock when you travel long distances quickly. You know air travel…
Your biological clock is responsible for controlling when you feel tired and go to bed and also when you wake up. Moving across different time zones at high speed alters what your body considers normal and as such will need to adjust to the time zone of the new location.
It is also worth mentioning that travelling in a pressurized cabin of a plane can reduce the oxygen levels in the blood. This can cause fatigue in addition to other stresses you might generally feel while travelling.
How to Cope with Jet Lag
Now that I’ve got you up to speed with that jet lag is and what causes it, how can you cope with it? Follow these tips and you’ll be able to better manage jet lag and you’ll feel much better, much more quickly as a result.
Start before you travel
If you know that you will be travelling to a different time zone, it is best you begin the process of coping with jet lag before you leave.
You can easily get this started by first working out the time difference between your present location and where you will be travelling to.
Once you know the difference in time, you can begin adjusting your routine accordingly a few days out. Simply changing when you eat and sleep by an hour a day or so before you go will make a big difference.
Also being well-rested before you travel will help significantly. Travel is stressful, particularly long-haul international travel, adding exhaustion to that in the lead up isn’t doing yourself any favours. And just make it that much harder to catch up on sleep at your destination.
Eating healthy and drinking plenty of water in the lead up will also be a big help as it will put your body in the best possible position to adjust.
Make Adjustments While in Transit
On the day of your flight, you’ll want to adopt the timezone of your destination.
Obviously don’t adjust your watch until you get on the plane, I wouldn’t want you to miss your flight in a mix-up, but get up earlier or try to sleep in based on where you are headed.
If it is a really long-haul flight then plan to try (I emphasise try as I know its hard to sleep on flights) to sleep at a time that would be night time at your destination.
When booking your trip, try to give yourself a couple of days to acclimatise.
If your trip is work-related, try to make sure you get there a day or two earlier than required.
If your travelling to multiple destinations or doing a tour give yourself a couple of days to let your body make the biggest adjustments before pushing through more changes.
Be Careful with Alcohol and Caffeine
Both alcohol and caffeine can really mess with your sleeping habits. Especially when you’re already out of whack due to jet lag.
I would avoid them immediately before and while you are on your flight to give yourself the best possible chance of getting a decent sleep on the plane.
When you arrive at your destination just be conscious of when you consume them as to not exacerbate the symptoms of jet lag.
Also, remember that both cause dehydration which will make you feel much worse when jet-lagged.
As soon as you arrive at your destination, you should try as much as possible to move around.
Unless you arrive at night time, check into your hotel as early as you are able, have a shower to make sure yourself feel refreshed, and then get out and do some sightseeing.
Getting your body moving after you’ve been stuck inside a plane for however many hours will go a long way to making you feel a lot better. And allow yourself to be exhausted so you can fall asleep easier.
Use Light Therapy
The number one thing that is going to reset your body to a new timezone is natural light from the sun.
Your body knows it is supposed to be awake when the sun is up, at least for most people. So try and spend the first couple of days at your destination outdoors in the sun to help speed up the reset process.
Trust me a couple of days in sunlight will make a big difference with how quickly you beat jet lag.
Eat When You Normally Would
In your normal routine, you will have times that you would typically eat. Adopt those times (in the timezone that you are in) as soon as you arrive at your destination.
Even if you aren’t hungry but typically have lunch around noon, have a small meal to prevent yourself from getting hungry later and snacking. Your body knows what is normal and things like food consumption and light will quickly adjust the rest of your body, particularly sleeping patterns.
Recommendation for First Time Long-Haul Travellers
Trust me, you are going to feel jet lag when you arrive at your destination. It’s unavoidable. That said if you take on everything that I have just mentioned, you’ll feel a lot better a lot quicker and that is the best way to cope with jet lag.
If you’d like some other tips, I’ve also got posts on long-haul flying and how to get your seat upgraded the next time you fly.
For more travel tips, make sure you check out the rest of my blog posts as well.