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6 methods for overcoming jet lag

Depending on the direction of your travel, jet lag manifests differently. The following six suggestions can help you overcome it. 

Following several trying years of travel bans and lockdowns, people are slowly making their way around the world once more; families are getting back together, and sights are being seen. 

People flying by plane. Interior of airplane with passengers sleeping on seats. Tired woman napping on uncomfortable seat on airplane. Commercial transportation by planes.

But, the pleasures of foreign travel frequently come with a side of jet lag, which can make it difficult to enjoy a trip at first and to adjust after you return home. 

What causes jet lag in people? Do you have any ideas on how to mitigate its effects? 

What brings on jet lag? 

When a person travels swiftly between numerous timezones, they often have physical and cognitive symptoms that are referred to as “jet lag.” 

You synchronize to your local time before embarking on a vacation. The rhythms of your body no longer match the time on the wall as you cross into a different time zone. 

Jet lag symptoms start to appear at that time. When you want to be awake, you’re sleepy; when you want to be asleep, you’re wide awake. If you eat during the day, you could feel bloated or queasy in the middle of the night when you’re hungry. 

You experience both physical and mental disorientation until your body clock and all the rhythms it regulates adjust to the new local time. Not the best of holiday vibes! 

Nobody experiences jet lag the same way. 

It’s interesting to note that different people feel jet lag differently. We all follow our own internal rhythms, which explains why. 

The average person has a natural 24-hour cycle. Our sleep/wake cycle and other daily rhythms would therefore proceed at a rate of around 24.2 hours if we lived in a cave and were not exposed to light. This evolutionary trait, according to researchers, enables us to adapt to varying day durations throughout the year. 

However, some individuals have somewhat longer cycles than others, and this may influence how a person feels jet lag. 

According to research, if you have a longer cycle, you might acclimate to westward travel more quickly, such as when going from Australia to South Africa, but we don’t know if a shorter cycle helps when traveling in the opposite direction. 

The oldest among us may experience harsher jet lag symptoms because as we age, we also become a little less resilient. 

Which seat on a plane is the safest? We consulted an aviation specialist. 

Does the path you take matter? 

Traveling westward, where you “gain” time, is often easier for many individuals. 

Let’s say Sarah and Jasmine leave Adelaide at the same time. Perth is around 2.5 hours earlier in the day than when Jasmine lands there in the afternoon. At around 8.30 p.m. local time, after taking in a few sights, she quickly nods off. She then rises quite early to begin her day. 

Because Jasmine’s body clock automatically delays, moving a bit later in relation to the local time each day, she synchronizes completely after a few days. 

In the meantime, Sarah arrives in Auckland, around 2.5 hours later in the day. She stays up until two in the morning, taking advantage of the warm evening and some of the night. Because it is still 4.30 a.m. on her body clock when the alarm goes off at 7 a.m., she has difficulty getting out of bed. 

Jasmine probably won’t experience jet lag as severely as Sarah will, or for as long. Is jet lag merely “psychological”? 

Some folks may question whether jet lag is only in your head. Indeed, it kind of is because there is a discrepancy between the internal time of your body, which is established by your brain, and the local time. 

Yet that doesn’t imply that you can convince yourself to get over your jet lag. Instead of being a psychological state, it is best to think of it as a physiological one. 

Fortunately, there are a few easy methods to reduce jet lag symptoms and aid in body clock adjustment. This is crucial for elite athletes who travel far to compete. 

1. To begin, consider if it is worthwhile to attempt to adjust to the new time or not. Staying on your home time can make more sense if the trip is brief. If it takes more than three days, begin intentionally shifting your own rhythms—such as when you eat, sleep, exercise, and get sunlight—toward the new timezone. 

2. It’s a good idea to start adjusting your body clock on the plane if you’re trying to do so. Plan your activities accordingly and set your watch to the time zone of your location. 

3. Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine during the trip. This will help you sleep better, stay hydrated, and set your body clock to the new time zone. 

4. To get used to a new timezone, attempt to sleep during the local night and only take breaks when you need to. You may need a boost to get through your day and evening events, so take a quick nap. Target for 30 minutes or less, and stay away from afternoon naps as you get closer to your real planned bedtime. 

5. A sign of jet lag is gastrointestinal discomfort. Eat only modest meals and only when you’re hungry if you frequently or frequently encounter stomach problems when traveling. Your body will let you know when it’s time to eat. This also applies to Tip 3 about caffeine and alcohol. 

Go outdoors. Sunshine is essential for converting to a new time zone. Based on your time zone change, timing your outside activities will be helpful.

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