Jetlag is every excited traveller’s worst nightmare. As exciting as coast-to-coast exploring is, gliding through the world’s 24 different time zones can take its toll. Here’s how to avoid jetlag ruining your holiday.
What is jetlag?
Jetlag, referred to medically as ‘desynchronosis’, occurs when your body clock is disrupted by moving to a different time zone. Typical symptoms of jetlag include feeling tired and disorientated, insomnia, an upset stomach and aches and pains. The condition was first recognised in 1931 by Wiley Post, a US pilot who travelled around the world in eight days. The earth is divided into 24 different time zones and our bodies are naturally programmed to our own, to ensure we are alert during the day and sleep during the night. This is why the first thing we often want to do when we reach our far flung paradise, is his the sack.
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How to avoid becoming jetlagged
Adjust your sleep schedule in advance
If you want to trade in your aches and pains for sunshine and cocktails at the start of your holiday, prepare your body in advance by synchronising your body clock with the time zone in your destination a few days before you leave. Dr Anand Sagar from the Aviation Health Institute suggests that going to bed earlier for a couple of nights before you travel east and later before heading westbound will help your body clock to adjust.
Keep stress levels down
Arrange everything before you set off and make sure everything’s organised so you can take some time to kick back at the airport. Farron Khan from the Aviation Health Institute explains: “Fifty per cent of prominent jetlag is psychosocial. If you think you’re going to suffer badly, then you will”. So once you’ve reached the airport and checked you have the important bits, it’s time to just sit back, relax and enjoy your trip.
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Hydrate during the flight
Dehydration can intensify the effects of jetlag and sitting in a dry aeroplane for hours doesn’t help. As tempting as it may be to sip on your favourite tipple, it’s best to limit your alcohol intake as much as possible. Alcohol will dehydrate you even more and intensify the effects of jetlag. The same goes for caffeinated drinks – avoid caffeine and alcohol at all costs and stick to water.
Set your watch to the local time of your destination
Help your body clock to adjust by setting your watch to the local time of your destination when you board the aircraft. Dr Anand Saggar from the Aviation Health Institute advises: “In order to minimise the time needed to acclimatise to the new time zone you need to think ahead to synchronise your body clock with the time zone to which you are travelling’. That way it won’t come as much as a shock when you’re ready to tuck into breakfast and the flight attendant announces that the local time is ten o’clock at night.
Try and take some naps during the flight, but don’t resort to sleeping pills. These could put you at risk of deep vein thrombosis, especially on long flights. Mix up your napping with a few laps of the aisle to keep your blood flowing properly.
What to do when you reach your destination
If you do arrive jetlagged, the worst thing you can do is cave in and go to sleep during the day as this sets your body clock back to your home time. Get as much daylight as possible to sync your body clock with the locals.
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Another way to help overcome jetlag when you reach your destination is by scheduling your meals around the local meal times. Eating and sleeping are one of your body’s main time indicators so even if it’s tea time at home and the locals are having breakfast, make sure you have breakfast too. Add a refreshing glass of juice or water to rehydrate your body after the recycled air in the aircraft.Once you’ve conquered the jetlag you can focus on the important parts of your holiday: having a great time and creating some fantastic memories – make the most of it and enjoy!