If you are a seasoned road warrior, you have undoubtedly been faced with jet lag at one time or another. Also called desynchronosis and flight fatigue, jet lag is a temporary disorder that causes fatigue and other symptoms as a result of air travel across time zones. It is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, which is a disruption of the internal body clock.
“Disruption is the keyword, here,” says Chantal Kliche, Retail Manager of Thompsons Travel, Cape Region. “Jet lag – depending on how severe your experience or how long your recovery time – can turn what should be a great business trip into an exhausting slog.”
What causes jet lag?
Our bodies work on a 24-hour internal clock and are naturally programmed to do a number of things throughout this period, like eating and sleeping. These inbuilt routines are circadian rhythms, and when we fly across time zones, they are thrown into disarray, causing jet lag.
Jet lag plays havoc with our bodies, resulting in anxiety, dehydration, headaches, irritation, nausea, indigestion, difficulty concentrating, sweating, coordination problems, dizziness, daytime sleepiness and even memory loss.
West is Best; East is a Beast?
The expression goes that crossing time zones to the “west is best” while going “east is a beast.” This is because your body copes better with a longer day than a shorter one.
So, how can you adjust to new time zones more efficiently and help your body cope with the effects of long-haul flights?
1. Stay Hydrated
Our bodies function best when they are hydrated. Offset the effects of jet lag by drinking lots of water and avoiding caffeine-heavy beverages as the artificial stimulants found in coffee and energy drinks will impair your ability to sleep and increase the time it takes to recover.
Additionally, as appealing as a pre-flight whiskey and soda might seem, the effects of alcohol at altitude increase fatigue and cause dehydration, making it even harder to beat jet lag.
2. Split the Trip
According to Priti Ramkissoon, Office Manager at Thompsons Travel, “building in a stopover gives your internal body clock more time to adapt to new time zones and changing routines.”
3. Adjust your Clock
“Live and breathe your destination before you get there,” says Kliche. “One of the simplest ways to do this is to set your watch to the time at your destination as soon as you board the plane.”
Not convinced that adjusting your watch while on the plane will do the trick? There’s an app for that. Entrain tells you when to sleep and for how long based on a mathematical algorithm that calculates how much sleep and exposure to daylight is necessary to acclimatise in just 48 hours.
4. Get Some Exercise Before You Land
While on the plane, do some exercise to boost your endorphins and stretch out the kinks which develop on long-haul flights. “Good circulation is key,” says Mary Shilleto, CEO of Thompsons Travel. “Move around regularly to keep the blood flowing.”
5. Arrive in Daylight
If possible, choose a flight that arrives in daylight. Not only will it make it easier for you to stay awake, but you will also be more tempted to explore your destination if the sun is shining and you have a full day ahead of you. “In fact, get as much daylight as you can,” says Shelley Fourie, Retail Manager of Thompsons Travel, Durban. “Daylight always makes you feel better.”
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