There’s no telling where our travels may take us throughout our working careers. Some people stay close to home, while others end up globetrotting as a result of their jobs.
When you’re spending time going from place to place for your work, there’s one inevitable issue you’re sure to face at some point – jet lag.
If you want to Getaway Well, we’ve got some suggestions for how to cope with jet lag when traveling for work or for vacation.
Before we jump into our helpful tips, let’s talk about what jet lag is, and what causes jet lag symptoms.
Also known as jet lag disorder, jet lag is a temporary issue revolving around sleep, which tends to mainly affect people who are traveling across multiple time zones in a short period of time.
So, if you’ve ever been on a flight that took you to a different part of the world, and you had difficulty adjusting to the different time zone at your destination, jet lag is what you’ve had.
You may experience only a single symptom of jet lag, or you may experience several. It’s been shown that the more time zones that you pass through on your journey, the worse your jet lag symptoms can become.
This could include symptoms, such as:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Reduced motor function
- Daytime fatigue
- Insomnia or restless sleep
- General feeling of exhaustion or illness
- Mood swings or irritability
- Digestive issues (constipation or diarrhea)
Changes to your circadian rhythms are the most direct influences for what causes jet lag symptoms.
This is a fancy way of saying your internal clock (the one that our bodies use to tell us to be awake during the day and sleepy at night) is out of sync with the part of the world you’re visiting.
But what causes your circadian rhythm to fall out of touch with the area you’re visiting? Exposure to sunlight, mostly.
Light influences our bodies’ regulation of melatonin. This means when the volume of light we’re absorbing changes because of sudden shifts in our day/night routine, our hypothalamus (part of our brain that takes in light signals) doesn’t know when to tell our body to release melatonin for sleep.
Some studies have also shown that cabin pressure and atmospheric changes brought on by flights might also be a part of what causes jet lag symptoms.
Humidity levels are lower than normal in planes, so if you’re not hydrated, you could become dehydrated on your flight.
In some cases, dehydration may also be a contributing factor to what causes jet lag symptoms as well.
Now that you understand a bit about what jet lag is and what causes jet lag symptoms, here are some useful suggestions you can try to reduce your chances of experiencing jet lag on your next trip:
If you know that you’ve got a long day ahead of you upon arriving at your destination, consider trying to catch some winks on your flight to give your body a boost.
A few extra hours of sleep can make all the difference, if you’re going to try and adjust your sleeping habits quickly to fall in line with the local time zone.
Looking for a bit of extra help falling asleep? Try bringing a sleep mask with you to make it easier to rest on the plane.
Coffee and soda are good ideas to avoid because they’re both known to contain caffeine, which encourages temporary energy boosts, typically followed by a crash that could reduce energy levels even further.
Depending on the timing, anything with caffeine in it could also make it more difficult for you to fall asleep at normal times. This can cause issues for you once you’ve reached your destination, and you’re already struggling to adjust to the new time zone.
Alcohol on the other hand doesn’t contain caffeine, but it’s known to negatively impact sleep cycles. Even if you use alcohol to make yourself feel sleepy once you’re ready for bed, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself awake and feeling unrested in the middle of the night.
Plus, hangovers are definitely not something you’ll want to mix with jet lag. Trust us, it’s not a good combo.
If you can keep yourself busy during the first day or two at your destination, you’ll be more likely to force your body’s rhythms to fall in line with the local time zone.
It’s hard to focus on being tired when we’re busy, and as long as you don’t spend too much time sitting around thinking about how tired you feel, distractions can keep our minds off our symptoms until it’s time for bed.
When you’re traveling for work, you’ll have the added benefit of having responsibilities that you’ll be expected to perform, which can prove to be a perfect distraction to keep your body moving and mind active, while you adjust to your new schedule.
As we mentioned, staying hydrated is crucial for minimizing your jet lag symptoms.
Sometimes, we forget when traveling that we still have to make an effort to stay hydrated, the same way that we would when we’re at home in our comfort zones.
If nothing else, a few extra trips to the bathroom when you’re over hydrated can also be a good distraction to keep your mind off of your jet lag symptoms.
Working some physical activity into your trip is also a fantastic way to fight your jet lag symptoms.
Consider planning a 10-minute workout or some kind of hotel room workout once you’ve reached your destination.
The more you sit around, the worse your jet lag symptoms will feel, because you’re not giving your body anything else to focus on. Exercise also helps our brain release chemicals that will minimize some of your jet lag symptoms.
If you can walk to and from your nearby stops, instead of relying on public transit or taxis, make the extra effort. When you’re pushing your body to be physically active, your mind won’t have as much time to focus on how tired you’re feeling.
Whenever possible, try to schedule your flight to arrive at your destination early in the day.
Not only will this give your body the opportunity to absorb some sunlight (assuming the weather is good), but it will also allow you to roll right into your new schedule – instead of spending part of your arrival day laying around your hotel room feeling exhausted.
Even if you don’t have any work that you need to do right away, do some exploring. Get out and make use of the time you’ve got, because you’re not going to feel any better sitting around focusing on your jet lag symptoms.
This is probably the toughest piece of advice you’re going to hear, but it’s also one of the most important:
DO NOT TAKE A NAP WHEN YOU ARRIVE!
Taking a nap will satisfy your exhaustion in the short-term, but you’re also setting yourself up for a terrible night’s sleep ahead of you.
Your body needs you to push through, so that it can try to fall in line with the circadian rhythm of the area you’re visiting.
Allowing yourself the luxury of a nap may seem like a good idea, but it’s really not. You’ll be kicking yourself later for indulging, and it may take days longer for your jet lag symptoms to fade – especially if you start falling into an unhealthy nap routine that affects not just your sleep, but your whole trip agenda.
Making good dietary choices is important no matter where you’re traveling, but when you’re suffering from jet lag symptoms, it becomes even more valuable to your body.
Eating healthy foods that your body can use to quickly produce natural energy is a great way to boost your stamina, without the resulting crash that typically follows sugar-rush energy boosts.
Your body is a machine, and when you’ve got jet lag, it’s sputtering. Imagine your healthy diet as oil and fuel to help repair your body, as it struggles to adjust to your new surroundings.
Filling your body full of fatty, sugary, salty fast foods is equivalent to putting the wrong oil or fuel in a machine. It may function for a while, but it won’t work as well and could lead to more problems later.
If you’ve been trying to find the best supplements for long flights, there’s few more valuable for jet lag symptoms than melatonin.
Even if you’ve taken all the right precautions, you may be having some trouble falling asleep on the first night at your hotel. That’s where melatonin can be a lifesaver.
Take one dose 15-20 minutes before you’re trying to fall asleep, and the melatonin will not only make it easier for you to fall asleep, it will help encourage your body to stay asleep once you’re out.
Once you’ve had a good night’s sleep, adjusting to the local time zone will be much easier for your body. It can make the difference between having jet lag symptoms for a day or two, or spending half of your trip trying to adjust to the change.
Now that you know some tricks for how to cope with jet lag when traveling for work or pleasure, you’re ready to face any adventure – regardless where in the world your travel journeys may take you.
You can’t enjoy your time if you’re focused entirely on how tired you are. But once you’ve beaten back your jet lag using our helpful tip, you’ll be well on your way to Getaway Well anywhere.