According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics report for the 1st & 2nd quarter in 2021, 13.64 million passengers flew between the US & rest of the world. This number of course would be much bigger when we compound coast-to-coast US travel. Be it business executives traveling for important client meetings, athletes for sports competitions, or families on vacation, desynchronosis commonly known as “JET LAG” affects all flyers.
UNDERSTANDING JET LAG
This rather modern phenomenon was unheard of during the early 1900’s. The term “Jet Lag” was first used in a Los Angeles Times article published on February 13, 1966. By this time jet passenger service had been in business for 14 years. And in 1965, the very first studies on jet lag’s effect on human circadian rhythms came about.
In the past, when people traveled on foot, our biological clock did not need to adapt at the speed of a jet. With the advent of modern technology advancements in the form of jet airliners for travelling, our capacity for fast & long-distance travel surpassed our brain’s ability to adjust to the changes.
Jet lag, as defined by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, is a condition characterized by either excessive daytime sleepiness or an inability to sleep after flying through two or more time zones. Jet lag leads to derailing of the synchronicity between the body functions. It is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, that disrupts body’s natural sleep-wake pattern.
HOW JET LAG AFFECTS US?
We all might not understand how jet lag affects us. Unfortunately flight fatigue is much more than that “plain odd feeling” we encounter for a couple of days. In fact, whether you’re traveling for work, or “simply” going on vacation with your family, the effects are wide-ranging and can be quite considerable.
The intensity of jet lag is determined by the number of time zones crossed and the direction traveled. Flying east is frequently more harder to acclimate to than flying west. Flying from east to west basically means less flight fatigue. It is estimated that your body clock takes one day per time zone to properly adjust to the local time.
When traveling across three or more time zones, you are likely to encounter one or more situations from the following:
- In Business – Missed opportunities, poor decisions, and poor health.
- In Sports – Ineffective training, injury, and defeat are all common occurrences.
- During Holiday – A sluggish start to the vacation, missed sightseeing opportunities, and low productivity upon return.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE JET LAG?
Ask yourself these few questions to find out if you are suffering from flight fatigue:
- Do you have trouble sleeping or do you sleep a lot throughout the day?
- Do you encounter difficulties functioning normally, have a feeling of mild nausea, or gastrointestinal problems within one or two days of returning from your trip?
- Have you flown across at least two time zones?
If you answered with a YES to one or more of these questions, you are most likely suffering from jet lag.
In general you should be able to adjust your sleep schedule and overcome jet lag on your own. In case the symptoms seem severe and are keeping you from functioning normally, a visit to the sleep doctor might be necessary for remedy.
7 HACKS TO BEAT JET LAG NATURALLY
These 7 indispensable hacks include both pre-trip prevention and in-flight remedies. Embracing a few or all these hacks can expedite the recovery process.
- START GOING TO BED EARLY BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT – By tricking your body in to prepare for the change will give you a head start on jet lag. For example, India is nine and a half hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Start moving your bedtime and wake-up time earlier by one and a half hour per day for around four days before your trip. If your typical bedtime is midnight, go to bed at 10:30 p.m. and wake up an hour earlier four days before your flight. The next day, your bedtime should be at 9:30 p.m., and so on.
- SWITCH YOUR WATCH – Set your watch to the time zone you’ll be landing in as soon as you board the plane. It sends a mental message to your incredibly powerful brain to regulate & boost your circadian rhythm. Whenever you glance over to your watch to check the time during the flight, you’ll be resetting your body’s internal clock to the new time zone you’ll shortly land in.
- STAY HYDRATED AND EAT LIGHT – Try to limit your intake of caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee, as well as alcoholic drinks to as little as possible. Caffeine ingested too late in the day will make it hard to sleep. It can reduce your sleep quality and alter your light exposure. These beverages dehydrate you, interfering with your sleep patterns.
- Replace these beverages with plenty of water and light meals.
- This also means avoiding the sugary, convenience foods available in the airport lounge. As well as the processed foods available on the plane.
- Pre-packaged veggie snacks, nutritious trail mixes, fresh fruits, and plenty of bottled water are always the best options.
- You can also choose herbal teas such as chamomile or echinacea to improve your immune system. You can also use tea blends to help you maintain a state of tranquility, or a good night’s sleep.
- MELATONIN – Melatonin pills can assist your body in responding to jet lag by regulating your circadian cycles. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. This hormone is thought to signal when your body needs sleep. According to research, a dose as low as 0.5 mg is just as beneficial as a greater dose. Using melatonin at the wrong time can worsen the misalignment. Always consult with your sleep physician before taking melatonin while traveling.
- GET SOME SUNSHINE – If you are lucky enough to arrive during the day time, drop your bags at your destination & try getting under the sun – STAT! Soaking up as little as 15 minutes of sunshine zaps your body with some essential vitamin D. And it also helps your body re-program your circadian rhythm.
- GROUND YOURSELF WITH NATURE – Another thing to do while soaking the sun is to connect with the mother earth. Take off your shoes, they would be dying to get some fresh air after hours of wearing shoes. Wiggle those tried toes in some sand or grass. At the very least, find a park , lie down. Stop and listen to the wind blowing through the trees or enjoy the ducks waddling through the pond. After breathing the same recycled air during the long flight, some fresh oxygen can do wonders to your body.
- RESIST THE URGE TO SLEEP IN – If you have an evening arrival, set your alarm clock to get up at sunrise. You can also request the front desk for a wake up call (if you know you struggle with waking up after long flights). Go for a morning walk, a little walk or exercise works wonders. Once you return back home, you can use a sunrise alarm clock to gently nudge your body back to the correct time zone.
So next time before you decide to dive indoors as soon as you land, think again!
Are you a frequent flyer? What are some of the ways YOU beat jet lag? Do you have a handy tip we can use? Leave a comment below! It is super helpful for us and other readers.
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