So, what is jet lag?
Jet lag is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder that results in excessive daytime sleepiness or the inability to sleep after traveling across two or more time zones.
Whether it’s for a dream holiday or a work trip, long-haul flights can be a great experience. Even the queue at airport security is thrilling when you’re on your way to the other side of the world. While travel is an incredible thing, what it does to your body clock is far from it. Jet lag is a short-term problem that can make you feel entirely out of sorts from the sudden change to your internal body clock.
Yes, jet lag is real, and we know the chaos it can put your body through from personal experience.
You’re on vacation and just landed at your destination. You should feel totally relaxed and ready to start your trip. Instead, you feel tired, moody, and have a headache. We’re familiar with the sudden wall of jet lag.
Jet lag, also known as jet lag disorder, is a temporary sleep problem. Traveling quickly across multiple time zones gives your internal body clock a bit of a shock. Your circadian rhythm signals your body to wake up and go to sleep. Usually, it ticks along in the background causing no fuss.
The problem occurs because your body is tuned into your original time zone, despite traveling multiple time zones. The more time zones you travel, the more likely you are to experience jet lag. Plane travel makes jet lag worse as you’re traveling faster than your body and brain can adjust to the changes.
Jet lag symptoms include:
Inability to concentrate
Symptoms can vary between travelers. Some have minor side effects, while others experience more severe jet lag. Typically, jet lag is worse traveling east than west because it’s easier to delay your body clock than press fast forward.
Not everyone who travels is going to experience severe jet lag. Other factors influence the chances of severe jet lag, such as:
Alcohol and caffeine use
History of jet lag
The condition can really throw off your sleep and create short-term sleep deprivation, which can impact alertness, health, and performance. In general, you are more likely to experience worse symptoms the further you travel. Your body has a bigger adjustment to make.
Unfortunately, there is no one miracle jet lag treatment. If it existed, we would have found it by now. But you can prepare for travel and hack your body in the best way possible to reduce jet lag symptoms and snap back to your old self more quickly.
Here are nine tips for how to get over jet lag like a pro.
Once you’re in your new time zone, try to adapt quickly. Set your watch and phone to your new time and stick to it while you’re still on the plane. If possible, try to stay awake until your new bedtime. By preparing your body for the changes, you can enjoy your trip with as little sleep disruption as possible.
It’s 2 PM in the afternoon on holiday, and you’re ready for bed after a long flight. We’ve all been there. The key to preventing and reducing symptoms of jet lag is trying to realign your body’s circadian rhythm as quickly as you can. That means sticking to your new local time and creating a regular sleep routine. If you can manage sleep time and synchronize to the new schedule, it will help you cope with jet lag.
Try the following to help you sleep in local time:
Avoid daytime naps
Limit alcohol and caffeine
Airplane cabins have low humidity levels because air is pulled from outside, and at high levels, there is little to no moisture. So, by the time you land, your nose, throat, and skin are usually dry. On top of that, a lot of people drink less, so they need fewer bathroom breaks. But staying hydrated can actually help combat fatigue and cope with jet lag symptoms.
Dehydration can make jet lag symptoms worse. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after traveling. Avoid caffeine and alcohol while traveling, as they can dehydrate you and disturb your sleep. Bring your refillable water bottle and top it up throughout the airport, or request water on your flight.
A simple way to minimize jet lag is bright light exposure. Get out in the morning in bright light. Absorb that sunlight for at least thirty minutes each day. Sunshine helps to regulate your circadian rhythm and tells your body when to increase and decrease melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps control your sleep cycle.
If you need to stay awake later, then light exposure later in the day can help you stay awake until your new bedtime. Another option is to use a special light box or lamp to expose yourself to light and ease the transition to your new time zone.
Coffee-lovers will be happy to hear that caffeine can be your travel companion. While your favorite matcha coffee won’t cure jet lag, it can be helpful to keep you awake until your new bedtime.
It’s a good idea to cut out caffeine in the afternoon or evening as it can disrupt your sleep when you consume it too late in the day. It can take up to ten hours for caffeine to completely leave your body. Keep in mind that some caffeine beverages contain sugar and other substances that may interfere with your sleep.
Create a comfortable sleeping space to encourage a good night’s sleep. Here are some tips:
Keep your room cool, quiet, and dark
Bring your favorite sleep accessories (pillows, white noise machine, blanket, eye mask)
Pack earplugs and noise-canceling headphones
Block out excessive light
Melatonin is a natural hormone your body produces to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. You can buy melatonin as a supplement to help manage your sleep cycle. Melatonin can help combat circadian clock disruption by aiding sleep at a time when you would normally be awake. Like any supplement, it’s important that you speak to your doctor before switching up your routine.
Tips for how to get rid of jet lag also include some medications. Typically, when talking about jet lag medications, it refers to sleep aids for insomnia from jet lag. Sleep aids are primarily for helping you get to sleep at night and don’t tend to help with the daytime symptoms of jet lag. There are side effects of using medications, so it’s best to speak to your doctor to find the safest solution for you.
We know that it’s hard to stick to your normal diet when traveling. The strange time and temptation of fast food at the airport is strong. But it’s important to maintain a nourishing and plant-rich diet while coping with jet lag. Eat water-rich foods like cucumber, celery, and watermelon to help you stay hydrated. By giving your body the fuel to thrive, you can get all the nutrients to be in the strongest position possible to endure jet lag.
A lack of sleep can have a surprisingly big impact on your gut health. Both short sleep and fragmented sleep are associated with an imbalance in gut bacteria. Ensuring you eat plenty of probiotics (like fermented dairy products, kombucha, fermented vegetables like kimchi or sauerkraut) can even improve sleep quality.
Planning ahead is often key to healthy eating while traveling. We don’t travel without Kencko’s smoothies, so we can eat the rainbow and stock up on all the nutrients we need while on the go. It’s super travel-friendly and the ideal pick-me-up mid-journey.
Kencko’s gumdrops are another good option for traveling with plenty of prebiotic fiber for a happy gut. They taste like candy but without refined sugar. While small, they pack a powerful punch with one of your five-a-day.
So, how long does jet lag last?
Jet lag symptoms can persist anywhere from a few days to weeks. Generally, symptoms last for about a day per time zone crossed. Other factors influence how long jet lag lasts, including your body’s unique patterns, health, and how long you travel.
Some people feel much better a few days after arriving at their destination. While others can take up to one week to get back to their usual self.
When searching for tips on how to avoid jet lag, planning is essential. Packing quick and healthy foods, staying hydrated, and adjusting to your timezone before landing help you prepare for the time change. Mastering jet lag is a bit of a fine art. Feeding your body nutrients, nourishing your gut, and getting out in the sunshine can help you get over it more quickly, so you can start enjoying your trip.