Not being bogged down, tired, and learning to beat jet lag is one of our major concerns when we travel long distances. Rapid travel across time zones leads to jet lag, causing sleep disturbance, confusion, lack of awareness, and can even decrease our learning ability and memory capacity. Anyone who has traveled far and beyond has suffered jet lag. It’s no fun, right?
First, the good news. In the years to come, a new generation of airplane models - the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 - will help reduce air travel discomfort and therefore, ease jet lag. In the aircrafts we travel today, the cabin is pressurized at 8,000 feet, the equivalent altitude, for example, as Bogota, Colombia. When flying at that altitude our hearts and lungs must work harder, causing fatigue and shortness of breath - a mild form of mountain sickness. Thanks to new construction methods and materials, these newer airplanes are pressurized at 6,000 feet, which gives a break to our bodies and makes a huge difference in passenger comfort.
The bad news is it’ll take a couple of decades for these airplanes to become the norm. So… what can we do today to beat jet lag?
How to beat jet lag (in three easy steps)
There’s no magic pill. Like a headache after a long night of drinking, the effects of jet lag are unavoidable. There’s really only one way to beat jet lag: adjust faster to your time zone and reset your body clock. Easier said than done, right?
First, forget about all those home remedies you heard over your coffee break, or plucked out of an inflight magazine. The best way to beat jet lag involves careful planning, ensuring your body adjusts smoothly. Here are some tips.
Reset your body clock – Advancing or delaying your body clock gradually before you travel can help your body adjust faster to the new time zone you’re in. When you travel east-to-west, your body clock needs to be delayed so you wake up and go to bed later.
Be sleep-ready – The thought of catching some sleep on a narrow, cramped airplane seat Is undesirable to most. It’ll never be super comfy and cozy, but some preparation can do the trick. Dress comfortably and pack the essentials such as an eye mask and earplugs. Ensure you have the tools to be as relaxed as possible, and prepare for sleeping in the same way you would do at home – helping you slip into your normal routine.
Do your homework – With many long-haul flights offering on-board internet connection, it’s tempting to keep working while traveling. However, being more productive in the short-term will exhaust you, limit your rest time, and add extra stress to your trip. Try to finish your presentations or catch up on your email before boarding.
2. During flight
Stay hydrated – …and we don’t mean indulging on complimentary drinks. Low cabin humidity easily leads to dehydration and discomfort. Don’t wait for food service to come around. Drink regularly, even if you don’t feel very thirsty. Avoid coffee and alcohol as these substances will dehydrate you.
Nap carefully – If your flight is rather long, you might want to sleep during the second half of the flight. The closer to your destination that you wake up, the more refreshed and reenergized you’ll feel when you’re about to land, making it easier to beat jet lag symptoms. Avoid sleeping early in the flight so you don’t waste your energy during flying hours.
3. On arrival
Control light exposure – Bright light tells our bodies to stay awake, so light exposure is the most powerful way to cause an advance or a delay in circadian rhythms. For example. In winter, dark mornings cause drowsiness, making it harder to wake up. Come summer, it gets easier to be a morning person. Similarly, seeking and avoiding light at the right times can reduce jet lag. Receiving light at the appropriate time of day will shift the body clock in the correct direction. So, when flying westwards, seek light in the late evening to adjust your body clock.
Exercise – Stay active. Exercise can affect your circadian rhythms and can alleviate the symptoms of jet lag. Get outdoors during daylight when abroad to really kick-start your new body clock.. Be sure to exercise - go for a walk, a run or at least hit the gym at the hotel. Exercise will also help you sleep better and help you avoid waking up in the middle of the night.
Finally, the best cure to jet lag is a good night’s sleep. When we travel, sleeping in a new environment can be difficult. Follow our tips to get a good night’s sleep while traveling.