If you’re not a seasoned traveler like me, you probably still hear about jet lag all the time , right? Our friends and family mention it anecdotally or some character in a movie or on television complains about it, but if you are travelling for the first time across multiple time zones, you have probably never experienced the full extent of the effects it can have.
Sure when daylight savings changes, we feel off. We have lost or gained an hour, so we might eat a little later than we normally do because our cues from sunlight have totally changed. Even if you have travelled from the West to East coast of the United States, you’ve felt off or maybe it was a little harder than normal to fall asleep.
These are definitely mild symptoms of jet lag. But what exactly is jet lag? It is a disruption of your circadian rhythm - or put even simpler, it is the disruption of your internal clock.
The first symptom we associate with jet lag is insomnia; however, that is just one of many possible side effects.
Here are some symptoms that you should look out for if you think you are suffering from jet lag.
- A Disruption to Your Normal Sleeping Habits
The disruption of your normal sleeping habits or patterns is probably the most widely known side effect of jet lag. It is certainly the one we hear about the most; however, it is not the only sleep related symptom you can have. You can also suffer from oversleeping or early waking. On top of that, you can feel tired and fatigued throughout the day.
- Difficulty Concentrating
At some point in your life, you have probably pulled an all-nighter. Whether it was from insomnia, an extra work shift or a final paper you waited until the last minute to finish, you have forgone sleep. And the next day you felt terrible. Your concentration was completely shot and even the simplest task became hard. This is similar to jet lag, in that the changes to your sleep schedule have made concentration that much harder.
Moodiness can often manifest due to the other symptoms of jet lag that you are experiencing. Lack of sleep, not being able to concentrate, or just not feeling well can easily give us a short fuse until we have rested and feel better. However, if you are prone to depression or have experienced depressive episodes in the past, the exhaustion and tiredness you are feeling because of jet lag can trigger another episode.
- Stomach Problems
A less discussed symptom of jet lag are stomach upsets. Unlike food poisoning, this symptom is not the result of mishandled food. Keep some anti-diarrheal medications or Pepto Bismol tablets on hand in case of an emergency.
The symptoms of jet lag are temporary and should clear up in a day or two; however, there are some steps you can take to help lessen the symptoms
Expect the Time Difference
Before you leave on your trip, try to expect the changes of hopping across time zones. Adjust your bedtime before you leave if possible. While on the plane, make sure you sync your phone or watch or another smart device to the time zone in which you will be arriving. This way the change won’t be so drastic, and you will not have to worry about converting the time in your head.
Bring Things to Make You Comfortable
It’s hard enough to sleep on a plane or in a different climate, environment, and bed - make sure you bring things from home to make you as comfortable as possible. This could include your favourite pyjamas, lotions, essential oils, sentimental child’s toy, or even things like noise-cancelling headphones, earplugs, a sleep mask, or a really good neck pillow, like these choices from the SleepAdvisor.
Watch What You Drink
While you should eat lighter foods when you’re travelling, it is more important to pay attention to what you are drinking. Although a pre-flight-pint may be tempting, avoid alcohol and caffeine. Both will cause problems sleeping restfully, or keep you up when you need to be sleeping.
Do drink plenty of water. It is easy to get dehydrated while travelling, and this can worsen some symptoms of jet lag.
Get a Comfortable Nights Sleep the Night Before
Making sure you have a comfortable nights sleep the night before you fly is a great way to help ward off any symptoms of jet lag after a long haul flight. Making the most of your home comforts such as your usual mattress, your comforter and your pillows (like these ones from Sleepedia) will also put you in a great mood before your flight. Learn more from Sleepedia here.
Land in the Morning
For best results, try to arrange for your flight to land in the morning so that you can sleep on the plane. This will, of course, depend on how long your flight is and when you are arriving. When you do get off your plane, try to get out in the sun as soon as you can. The sunlight will stimulate you and help keep you awake, and the extra vitamin D doesn’t hurt either. Staying awake if you arrive in the morning is crucial to getting your schedule back on track. Do not just go to the hotel and fall asleep.
While it is safe to use over-the-counter sleep aids, consider bringing melatonin instead. Over-the-counter sleep aids could leave you groggier than you want. Melatonin is naturally produced by the body and helps promote sleep.
The kind you get over-the-counter is a synthesized dietary supplement, but it works in the same way as the stuff you naturally produce, according to WebMd, and will help to promote sleep. Whichever you decide to take, please make sure to follow the dosage instructions. Even if you are suffering from insomnia, do not take more than instructed.
By following these simple tips you’ll make jet lag a thing of the past, and more travel a guarantee for the future!