The Curse of Jet Lag and How to Overcome It
Your holiday has finally arrived. You have spent months dreaming of lying on that white sand beach, margarita in hand, gazing out over the turquoise waters. Or maybe your daydreams have revolved around sunrise safari drives, roaming the bush in search of Africa’s amazing wildlife. Or is it the idea of wandering the streets of SE Asia in search of the best street noodle stall has been on your mind.
You arrive at your dream destination, excited to hit the ground running and embrace every second of your vacation, but instead you feel dazed and confused. In the best case scenario, you feel exhausted and your dreams turn to simply retreating to your room for a much needed nap. In the worst case scenario, the simple act of retrieving your luggage and escaping through customs and immigration seems truly unbearable. Wherever your vacation has led you, the last thing you want to have to deal with is the dreaded, the seemingly inevitable, jet lag.
Jet lag affects each individual differently, and comes in many different variances depending on everything from which direction you are flying, whether or not you are crossing the equator, and length of travel. But regardless of the level of jet lag you experience, two facts are uncontested; one, jet lag is caused by the biorhythmic confusion and, two, no one likes to deal with it.
Here are several suggested options for reducing the affect time change has on your body.
Don’t Start Your Trip Tired
Inevitably, the days before a trip are packed with checking off lists of things to do, and getting all aspects of your life in order. If you are leaving behind pets to be cared for, work projects to be re-assigned, or simply trying to decide what to pack, the 24-48 hours before your trip can be madness. Plan accordingly. Have your affairs in order a week ahead. Do a pre-pack several days in advance to balance what fits in the suitcase with what you feel you will need. Place all of your documents; passport, airline confirmation, money, etc. together in a safe place so you know everything is accounted for. Since many flights, especially to Europe and points south, depart in the very early a.m., instead of celebrating your holiday by staying up late, try to head to bed a little earlier than normal to account for that early alarm clock.
Use Your Flight Time Wisely
It happens to the best of us. The excitement of holiday calls for drinks on the plane, perhaps followed by more drinks. The in-flight movie is one you’ve wanted to see for months, but hadn’t taken the time. On long, international flights, the individual entertainment console is calling your name. Just say no. Alcohol, combined with the stagnant airplane air and time change, has an even greater effect on the system. You can catch the movie another day. A few hours of sleep, instead, will be a much needed commodity when your feet touch foreign soil.
Change Your Mind, Along with Your Watch
One of the most effective ways to combat jet lag is to use your mind. The minute the cabin crew announces the local time at your destination, change your watch, but also change your mindset. You have no longer just left your home airport, but instead you are on Europe time. Easier said than done, but with practice, this mental switch will prove to be one of your most valuable assets in beating jet lag.
Stay Awake Upon Arrival
One of the very worst things you can do for jet lag is to stagger to your hotel room for a nap. Fresh air and sunlight is the enemy of jet lag, and succumbing to a nap for several hours will only make it worse. Check in to your hotel and go for a walk, have a light meal, or simply sit in the park and people watch. Force yourself to hang in there until you have reached an early local bedtime. Know you will, most likely, be wide awake quite early the next morning, but adjusting as quickly as possible to the local time is key.
The Last Resort
Some people experience very little jet lag. Whether their body’s natural rhythms or an ironclad mindset is the key, they are able to quickly acclimate to different time zones in short order. Others, often frequent business travelers, have developed a routine that works for them, and they simply plan accordingly by considering arrival day a bit of a bust, until their body clock adjusts. For some, however, the stresses of travel and time zones is simply too much, and to lessen the challenges they resort to some additional assistance. One, oft-used, possibility is melatonin. This hormone helps readjust your internal clock, and many travelers swear by it. Keep in mind that, while available over the counter in the United States, it is considered illegal in some parts of the world. For a heavier pharmaceutical strength fix, Ambien seems to be the most popular choice.
To ease in your transition, it does help to consider travel direction. Studies have shown that traveling west to east is harder on the system due to the advancement of time, which proves more challenging for the natural biorhythms to adjust to. Taking the direction of travel into account, you can manage your first days in a new time zone more efficiently with the knowledge, for instance, to not plan an action packed day when you first arrive in Europe from the United States. While the opposite is true heading east, so do not be surprised to find yourself more than ready for that 6am floating market visit on your first day in Bangkok.
Some travelers swear that private jet travel and flying business class reduce jet lag, which may very well simply be due to their more comfortable mode of travel, but it is certainly worth a try if your budget allows! Whichever class of service your travel includes, follow the ideas above and enjoy a, relatively easy transition to the holiday of your dreams.