Jet lag sufferers can exhibit symptoms of exhaustion, insomnia, confusion, headaches, and dizziness. Studies have also shown that these unlucky travelers are more prone to catch a cold or get the flu.
Jet lag is usually worse when flying from west to east, because your body has more difficulty adjusting to ‘losing time’ when you’re traveling eastward than to ‘gaining time’ when you fly westward.
Here are some tips to help you decrease jet lag’s undesirable effects:
- Think ahead. Begin to adjust your sleep routine about 3 days before your departure so that it reflects your destination’s time zone. Changing the time you go to bed by an hour each day will decrease the symptoms of jet lag.
- Rest up. Make sure you get plenty of sleep in the days before your trip. With all of the advance planning and running around, many people tend to be not well rested before they leave, and this will increase jet lag effects.
- Eat healthy. Before you travel, eat a well balanced diet that will help strengthen your immune system and keep your body healthy. Dial back the alcohol, nicotine and caffeine as much as you can.
- Night flight. If possible, book a nighttime flight. This way, your meals will be at the normal times and you’ll get to sleep more easily than on a daytime flight. Plus, if you’re lucky enough to arrive at your destination during the day, it will be much easier to duplicate your regular schedule, and reset your body clock.
- Reset your watch. Change your watch when you get on the plane so that your brain and body clock get a head start on the new time zone.
- Hydrate. Drink lots of water on the flight and after you land as well. At high altitudes the humidity level in the cabin is very low. This makes the air extremely dry causing dehydration, which is a common source of jet lag. Avoid drinking alcohol since this will only increase dehydration levels.
- Move it. Try to move around as much as possible during the flight. To keep your blood circulating, walk the aisles and do some easy stretching exercises for your arms, hands and legs and feet. This will also decrease the possibility of getting a blood clot during the flight.
- Hang loose. Wear comfy clothes that hang loose and allow good circulation. Once you’re seated, trade your shoes for some socks or slippers. If your feet have a tendency to swell up on flights, wear shoes can slip on and off easily.
- Take some pills…not! Don’t take sleeping pills; they’ll make jet lag even worse.
- Anticipate your new location. If it’s going to be nighttime when you arrive at your destination, sleep during your flight. If necessary, use earplugs, eye masks, and cool your body temperature down with the overhead air conditioning valve (cooler temperatures create a more conducive sleeping environment). On the other hand, if you’re going to arrive during the day, try to keep yourself awake while on the plane. Once you’ve landed, get outside to expose yourself to the natural daylight.
- Napping is a no no. When you reach your destination, don’t give in to the temptation to take a nap. Taking a siesta will reinforce the previous ‘body clock’, instead of the new one. Try to stay up until 11 p..m. local time or your normal bedtime, regardless of what time your plane lands. This may prove challenging, but it’s the quickest way to get your sleeping pattern back to normal. If you give in to taking a nap at 4 p.m. don’t be surprised when you’re wide-awake at 4 a.m. in the morning!
- Rinse and repeat. In many cases, people don’t get jet lag while they’re on their trip; they only get it when they come home. If that’s the case, be sure to repeat all these same steps again.
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